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2023 Week 2 Betting Preview: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

Browns (1-0) at Steelers (0-1)

Spread: Steelers +2.5

Total: 39

Weather: No current concerns

Line Report

The spread for this matchup opened at Pittsburgh Steelers +1.5 or +2. The current consensus on this line is Steelers +2.5.

The total for this contest opened as high as 42.5 points. That total has steadily fallen to as low as 38.5, currently sitting at 39 points.

Steelers Offense vs. Browns Defense

Pittsburgh was dismantled by the 49ers’ defense on opening day. San Francisco’s pass rush dominated this game, and its secondary forced Kenny Pickett to throw through tight windows. Based on the performance of Cleveland's defense against the Bengals, the Steelers’ offense faces a similar challenge this week.

Pittsburgh will be without its most reliable wide receiver, Diontae Johnson. Second-year receiver George Pickens is now thrust into the top spot in the Steelers’ passing attack. Pickens is a talented, big-bodied receiver who has shown flashes but hasn’t yet been consistent. Veteran Allen Robinson led Pittsburgh with eight targets last week, while Pickens had seven. Second-year wide receiver Calvin Austin is an explosive player who finished with six targets last week. Pat Freiermuth is currently on the injury report, and his status for Week 2 is in doubt. This is an uphill battle for all of Pittsburgh’s pass catchers.

The Steelers fell behind early last week, so they only had nine total running back carries. Najee Harris had 31 rushing yards on six carries, while Jaylen Warren had six yards on three carries. Warren had six targets, while Harris had two. Remember that most of Warren’s targets came when the game was already out of hand. The Cleveland Browns have a better front this season, but they gave up the fifth-most rushing yards to running backs last year.

Browns Offense vs. Steelers Defense

Browns RT Jack Conklin will miss this contest, while LT Jedrick Wills Jr. is currently listed as questionable. On the other side, Steelers DT Cameron Heyward will also miss this contest. At full strength, this would be a matchup between two top-five lines. As things stand now, these are both still quality lines that now have injury-related vulnerabilities.

Deshaun Watson did not play well on opening day. He badly missed wide-open receivers multiple times while only throwing for 154 yards. Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore had three catches each on seven targets. No other Browns’ wide receiver or tight end had more than two targets.

Nick Chubb had 106 rushing yards on 18 carries and caught all four of his targets for 21 yards. The Steelers typically have a stiff run defense, but the absence of Heyward will reduce their capability in that phase. Jerome Ford had 15 carries for 36 yards, with much of that workload coming when the game was in hand.

What To Bet On

The Steelers are down their best wide receiver and the second-best player on their defensive interior. They were dominated by the 49ers' elite front and now play another high-caliber pass rush.

If you’re betting on the Steelers, you’re betting on them finding a way to mitigate Cleveland’s front. Pittsburgh wide receivers will also have to create opportunities against a Browns’ secondary that shut down Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins last week. These are two very tall orders. That means a bet on Pittsburgh is primarily on its defense against Watson.

If the Browns win this contest, their defense will drive that effort. We saw last week that their pass rush and secondary can shut down an elite offense. We already know they have enough talent to shut down the Steelers, but the question in Cleveland is consistency.

Watson is the wild card for the Browns. If he plays like last week, the Steelers can win this game. If he limits his erratic throws and plays a relatively clean game, Pittsburgh has an uphill battle on Monday night.

Score Prediction: Browns 17, Steelers 13

Ryan’s Recent Betting Record

ATS 2021: 49-31

ATS 2022: 48-32

ATS 2023: 2-3

Props 2022: 60-40

Props 2023: 2-1

Ryan is the associate director of fantasy and betting at The 33rd Team. He has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2014. Ryan has been covering NFL betting markets for five years. Follow Ryan @RyanReynoldsNFL on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook