‘Thursday Night Football’ Has the Steelers as Underdogs Against the Browns

Posted on: September 22, 2022, 07:21h. 

Last updated on: September 22, 2022, 11:11h.

Week 3 of the NFL kicks off Thursday night with the Pittsburgh Steelers hitting the road to face the Cleveland Browns. Despite leading the AFC North, the Black and Gold are underdogs in this divisional contest.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns QB Jacoby Brissett gets ready to throw the ball after faking a handoff during the team’s upset loss to the New York Jets in NFL Week 2. The Browns face the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight. (Image: Associated Press)

The game could define the division’s future as the Steelers (1-1), and the Browns (1-1) prepare to meet tonight. After the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, football fans expected the Steelers to enter a reconstruction period of at least three or four years. However, Mitch Trubisky won the starting job and appears to be coming into his own.

But the Steelers won’t have it easy. Although they lead their division, they do so only by point difference. They share their 1-1 record with the Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. Only the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals aren’t in contention in the division. They have yet to win a game.

Pittsburgh managed just one touchdown in a 17-14 Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots. The Steelers are the fifth-lowest team in passing yards this season, putting up just 172 through two games. Head coach Mike Tomlin says that’s no reason to raise alarms.

Tight Battle for the Lead

If there is one aspect that Pittsburgh can highlight, it is its defense. Linebacker Alex Highsmith is tied for the league’s sack lead with three takedowns in two games. On a collective level, the team has seven sacks. At the same time, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has two interceptions.

On the other hand, Cleveland has one of the best running backs in the league Nick Chubb, who has  228 rushing yards so far this season. Because of him, the Browns are the best team in rushing yards per game, averaging 200 in the first two games. Defensively, Myles Garrett has three sacks as the Browns continue to impress.

The Browns called up a former cornerback to be on the roster today, but only for the game. Joe Haden signed a one-day contract to retire with the Cleveland Browns franchise, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The defensive back will end his 12-year career in style, wrapping things up where he began. He started with the Browns, then moved to the Steelers, and is now back home.

The Steelers have a slight advantage in the 141 times the two teams have met, including three playoff games. They’ve taken 79 games while suffering 61 losses and a tie.

Pittsburgh won the last two meetings, most recently a 26-14 victory on January 3. Both teams are coming off Week 2 losses.

Steelers Will Miss Watt

The Steelers took a hit when they faced the Patriots last week. It was an ugly, but not a totally unexpected, loss. The team’s transition from Roethlisberger to Trubisky is underway, and adjustments are needed.

What’s hurting them more is not having linebacker T.J. Watt. He’s out due to an injury, and his absence was felt last week.

That, plus a Browns offense with a superior running game, is part of why the Steelers are +160 underdogs on DraftKings and +168 on FanDuel. Cleveland’s getting -190 and -200 with the sportsbooks.

Both teams are coming off a short week, which leads to expectations that this will be a low-scoring contest. The over/under is 38.5 across the board, but that may be too optimistic, as energy will be a factor.

The under is 7-2 for the Steelers playing Cleveland on the road, but 2-5 in the last seven road games overall. Likewise, the Browns have seen the under hit in five of their last seven against the Steelers. At home against them, the under is seven of nine.

The Browns are getting 4.5 points. Although Pittsburgh’s struggling to find its rhythm, it can still cover. Fans can expect a tight match with a lot of hard-hitting action, as both teams fight for position and respect.