Thursday Night Football Preview: Steelers vs. Browns
Thursday Night Football Preview
Line: Cleveland Browns (-4.5) | O/U 38.5
An incredible week of football is in the books and now it’s time to focus on Week 3. In the past two Thursday games, we’ve been blessed with stellar matchups on paper. First was the debut game between the Bills and the Rams. Then in Week 2, it was a divisional battle between the Chargers and the Chiefs.
For this week, we have another divisional struggle, just one with much less anticipation and grandeur. The first matchup of Week 3 is between two bitter division rivals that are each in a state of flux. Those two rivals are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns of the AFC North.
The expectation for this game is that it becomes a defensive battle based on the over/under of 38.5. Each of these teams boasts defenses that are usually effective (aside from the final 90 seconds of Jets vs. Browns from Week 2) and offenses that have tendencies to struggle at times. The last time these two teams faced off was last season in Week 17 where Pittsburgh won 26-14. The game itself was sluggish but each team looked a little different than they do now as the Browns were led by Baker Mayfield while the Steelers were led by Ben Roethlisberger in his final season.
The Steelers have started off their first season without Big Ben at 1-1. After winning a close game in Week 1 against the Bengals, Pittsburgh fell flat against New England in a 17-14 loss where their offense amassed under 250 yards.
On the defensive side, Pittsburgh has been struggling a bit. They’re ranked near the bottom of the league in yards allowed per game (404 yards) and they’re currently without Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt, due to his partially torn left pec. However, they are still fueled by a solid defensive core of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cameron Hayward, Devin Bush, Myles Jack, and other formidable players to hold opposing offenses at bay.
On offense, they’ve been struggling. Led by quarterback Mitch Turbisky, the Steelers have only managed to score two offensive touchdowns in their first two games. The popular belief surrounding this new iteration of the Steelers’ offense was that it couldn’t get any worse than last season when they were quarterbacked by a decrepit Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in the 1st quarter since the Lions tie.— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) September 20, 2022
That’s 11 games in a row.
And consider this: Youre starting with scripted plays. Theoretically the plays Canada likes the best for their opponent that week.
Unfortunately, it seems like it has. So far this season, Pittsburgh ranks 30th in total offense while ranking in the bottom 10 for passing and rushing. If the Steelers want to make anything of this season, they’re going to have to grind their way to some wins with how this offense has performed so far.
It will be interesting to see how they fare against a Browns team that just allowed a miraculous comeback to the Jets.
The Browns are entering Week 3 with the same record as the Steelers at 1-1 but they should easily be 2-0. After being up 30-17 with just over 90 seconds to play, the Browns gave up 14 points after a long touchdown to Corey Davis, a Jets onside recovery, and a touchdown to Garrett Wilson. It was a confusing loss that was essentially a comedy of errors on the Browns' part. Despite that collapse though, this Cleveland team still has some potential.
On defense, the Browns were expected to be a breakout unit to start the year. They’ve been fine, but certainly not a breakout as they rank 15th on total defense while their run defense (4th) has significantly outperformed their pass defense (25th).
The Browns have a great group of defensive players headlined by Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Anthony Walker Jr. It just seems like the unit as a whole still needs to put it all together and the players-only meeting they recently held might be able to help that.
On the offensive side, this unit has been surprisingly effective for the first two weeks with their franchise quarterback, Deshaun Watson, being suspended. The passing offense has been holding it together with Jacoby Brissett at the helm, but where this offense really stands out is their run game.
Behind a stellar offensive line, Cleveland’s two star running backs, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, have been able to run wild through the first two weeks. The Browns' run game is currently first in the league at 200.5 yards per game.
Heading into a matchup against Pittsburgh, a run defense that ranks in the bottom half of the league (22nd), Cleveland’s two sports cars in the backfield could have a field day.
Steelers vs. Browns Prediction
I think the Browns regroup after that embarrassing meltdown versus the Jets and defeat the Steelers on Thursday Night Football. Cleveland looks better in nearly every aspect of the game while being led by their backup quarterback and Pittsburgh hasn’t given fans any reason to believe that they can pull off this win.
The game will most likely be pretty boring and ugly based on the makeup of each team. But I see the Browns flashing the greatness of their run game once again as they take advantage of a Steelers team that hasn’t been able to stop much in that department dating back to last season.
A primetime matchup between Jacoby Brissett and Mitch Trubisky is not a game that most want to watch, but we have to crown a winner and it’s looking like the Browns at the moment.
The Pick: Browns -4.5
NFL DFS Showdown Flex Targets
WR - Chase Claypool ($6,200)
This is a game that offers very little upside for most offensive playmakers. However, I do see some upside with Claypool due to the likelihood that Pittsburgh is playing from behind in this one. If that happens to be the case, then Chase Claypool could come up with some solid numbers as he always has big play upside. The only real question is if Mitch Trubisky can get it his way.
RB - Kareem Hunt ($7,600)
While I favor Nick Chubb as a pure runner, Kareem Hunt is the cheaper option in this slate and offers some solid upside at his $7,600 price tag. The Steelers struggle against the run so both backs could be in line for big days. Cleveland is probably going to run the ball a lot, and with Hunt taking a little under 50 percent of the backfield split, he could be in line for some solid numbers.
K - Cade York ($4,200)
This is how you know this matchup is ugly. There really aren’t too many great upside plays in this matchup so I’m stuck with suggesting a kicker here. Cade York is a rookie kicker that has been proving his worth through the first two weeks as he’s made all five of his field goal attempts. He also made a booming 58-yard game-winning kick in Week 1. York offers a solid floor for lineups on Thursday and he should be able to see some attempts with the Browns being favored.
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Jack Camenzind is a writer for FantasyData as well as RotoBaller but he spent time previously as a writer for 5th Down Fantasy. He is a recent graduate of Butler University who is currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri. His deep sports knowledge is primarily tied to the NFL but he’s still a massive fan of the MLB and NBA. He is also a huge St. Louis sports fan but his NFL loyalty is tied to the Denver Broncos, and not just because the Rams moved to Los Angeles. Outside of sports, Jack is a crime drama fan, a frequent runner, and an occasional gamer.