We close Week 2 with Browns vs. Steelers odds in the second game of a Monday Night Football doubleheader.
In the second AFC North matchup of Week 2, the Browns (1-0) travel to the Steel City to take on the Steelers (0-1). These teams could not have looked more different in Week 1. The Steelers got smacked at home by the 49ers in a game that was never competitive.
Meanwhile, the Browns handled the Bengals with ease and are potentially in a great spot to start their season 2-0. Pittsburgh will be without defensive defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and wide receiver Diontae Johnson, which could spell trouble for Mike Tomlin’s squad.
Let’s preview this rivalry game and make Browns vs. Steelers picks and predictions.
Browns vs. Steelers
First off, I loved what the Browns did over the offseason, which is one of the reasons why I backed them to win the AFC North at +400. They added speed at receiver, bulk along the defensive front to fix a leaky run defense and safety Juan Thornhill for stability on the back end.
Additionally, the most important offseason change might have been the hire of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. On a very basic level, just fixing some of the communication issues that plagued the defensive backfield throughout 2022 should lead to an easy jump in efficiency.
A renewed sense of aggression should also benefit this unit, which we saw in Week 1 with a significant increase in Blitz Rate. I’m very high on Cleveland’s defense, to put it lightly.
One would also assume better production from Deshaun Watson, who returned last season with an abundance of rust after a 700-day hiatus. Plus, Watson still has one of the better offensive lines and rushing attacks in the league to lean on — although we will see how the Browns handle the injury to starting right tackle Jack Conklin.
Rookie Dawand Jones will need to step up in Conklin’s absence, especially against T.J. Watt and the Steelers’ unrelenting pass rush.
Nick Chubb could have a monster day at the office on Monday night with Cam Heyward out with an injury. The drop-off in Pittsburgh’s run defense without him in the lineup has been astronomical.
Over the last two seasons, Pittsburgh allowed -0.014 EPA per rush with Heyward on the field (a little over 700 snaps) compared to +0.05 EPA per rush without him (a little over 200 snaps). When he’s on the sidelines, the Steelers’ yards per attempt allowed also jump by a half-yard.
Conversely, I wasn’t as high as others were on the Steelers coming into the season. I’m still not sold on Kenny Pickett at quarterback, or the offensive line.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada continues to run a very underwhelming scheme for today’s NFL. The defense obviously has a lot of talent up front and will terrorize its fair share of opposing quarterbacks, but the secondary is shaky at best outside of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The betting tools used by the pros
Best bets & signals for every game
Projections from proven pros
Profitable betting system picks
The Browns certainly aren’t as good as they looked last week, as they benefited from some weather and a rusty Joe Burrow coming off an injury. Meanwhile, the Steelers aren’t as bad as they looked against a 49ers team that smacked them in the mouth early and never let up.
Therefore, on the surface, this is a great buy-low, sell-high spot on Pittsburgh. It’s also a classic “rah-rah” spot for Mike Tomlin, who is one of the best motivators in these situations in NFL history. To wit, he’s a ludicrous 32-15-1 ATS (68.1%) as an underdog against teams with a winning record, covering by over 2.5 points per game.
That makes him the most profitable coach in that scenario out of 142 coaches in our Action Labs database since 2005.
I could go on and on with other trends, but I’ll spare you the reading time. Just know they all support Tomlin in this “us against the world” spot.
Browns vs. Steelers
Betting Picks & Predictions
So, I am betting the Steelers, right? Not necessarily.
If the line gets to +3, I will certainly bite, so I’m monitoring the market. However, I’m worried about the matchup with Chubb and some of the other injuries Pittsburgh is dealing with, primarily wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
The Browns should also generate pressure on Pickett, forcing him into a potential key mistake or two, which could swing what should be a low-scoring rock fight.
I will say the Steelers are an ideal teaser piece since you can tease them through three and seven in a game with a total under 40, which makes crossing those key numbers even more valuable. The total has come down a substantial amount, but I’d still look at the under or nothing.
From a props perspective, I’d target Chubb — based on the matchup without Heyward — and Pat Freiermuth overs.
How would you rate this article?
This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.