Steelers vs. Browns Thursday Night Showdown

Steelers vs. Browns Thursday Night Football

This game isn’t one to get excited about. A divisional primetime game with only a 38-point projected total isn’t good for fantasy. But, it makes for an easy spot to find leverage in this showdown contest. With Steelers vs. Browns projected to be low scoring, we can identify kickers and defenses as important parts of building a lineup.

The NFL has had 648 games with under a 40-point total since 2015. In these games, 22% featured a kicker and defense from the same team in the top five fantasy scorers.

Vegas Line: Browns -4.5

Over-Under: 38

Notable Injuries:

Steelers: Nobody

Browns: DE Jadeveon Clowney (Out)

Steelers vs. Browns: Data to Know

Steelers Offense vs. Browns Defense

  • Mitchell Trubisky is averaging 4.7 yards per attempt, but that number jumps to seven against zone coverage.
  • The Browns have run a high rate of zone coverage so far this year, and I expect them to continue that in this one.
  • Pat Freiermuth leads the team with a 42% target share vs. zone coverage, and Diontae Johnson ranks second at a 31% target share.
  • With Johnson lining up wide on 94% of plays, he will likely have Denzel Ward on his side of the field most of the game.
  • Chase Claypool has taken 83% of his snaps in the slot and will draw the matchup with Greg Newsome.
  • George Pickens has run a route on 71 plays but only has 6 targets, and that’s likely because 51% of his routes are fly routes.
  • Pickens will match up with Martin Emerson, who defended him at Mississippi State in a game where Pickens was very productive in 2020.
  • On go-routes, Pickens will be in a man-to-man situation with Emerson in Cover 3 coverage, and that is a spot I will attack this slate.
  • Najee Harris will dominate the backfield touches, and he returned to action as a pass catcher with 5 receptions for 40 yards vs. New England.
  • Harris is hard to trust because of the efficiency, but with the Browns’ injuries, there’s a chance he can be more productive in this matchup.

Browns Offense vs. Steelers Defense

  • Steelers have utilized man coverage at a much higher rate than normal in the NFL.
  • In the last two seasons, Jacoby Brissett has combined to average 5.3 yards per attempt, which is at 4.8 yards per attempt this year.
  • Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones have been his go-to targets this season, with Harrison Bryant, David Njoku and Kareem Hunt as the only other players with a more than 10% target share.
  • Nick Chubb has averaged 5.8 yards per carry this year, while Hunt is averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
  • Chubb has eight red zone attempts, with Hunt has six.
  • This backfield is a split, and both are viable in this showdown slate.

2021 Data Provided by SIS

After 4 Weeks of data for 2022, I will update this as 2022 data. For now, I will highlight the differences in the Data to Know Section.

Offensive Statistics and Tendencies

Statistic Steelers Browns
YPA vs. Zone 6.3 7.6
YPA vs. Man 7.0 5.7
YPA vs. Blitz 6.7 6.7
% TGT to Wide 39% 26%
% TGT to Slot 32% 41%
% TGT to RB 17% 21%
% TGT to TE 19% 29%
YPC 3.9 5.1
Gap Run % 28.0% 48.0%
Zone Run % 68.0% 49.0%
Red Zone Pass Rate 72.0% 46.0%
Red Zone Rush Rate 28.0% 54.0%

Defensive Statistics and Tendencies

Statistic Steelers Browns
Zone Coverage % 57.0% 58.0%
Man Coverage % 26.0% 25.0%
Primary Coverage Cover 3 Cover 3
Secondary Coverage Cover 1 Cover 4
Blitz % 14.0% 12.0%
Stacked Box % 18.0% 18.0%
YPC 4.99 4.25

Steelers vs. Browns: Multiplier Pool

  • Nick Chubb
    • The offensive line is all playing this week, and Chubb will look to continue is high efficiency.
  • Kareem Hunt
    • Hunt is getting plenty of meaningful touches in the red zone and has multiple touchdown upside.
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones
    • Brissett doesn’t have the arm talent to feature multiple wide receivers, and between the group, I am willing to bet on Peoples-Jones over Cooper because of the big play upside. Peoples-Jones had a touchdown called back this weekend.
  • George Pickens
    • This is my favorite player in Thursday’s game, and I have liked some builds with him at the multiplier position. I expect his matchup to be a mismatch, and his rostership to be low with the lack of usage so far this season.

Steelers vs. Browns: FLEX Pool

  • Najee Harris
    • Harris will always be a product of volume and someone Pittsburgh uses in the goal-to-go area. Harris would make it into the multiplier pool if some of the Browns’ defensive front misses the game with injuries. 
  • Mitchell Trubisky
    • Trubisky has been underwhelming but has been effective against zone coverage, and this will be a good matchup for him.
  • Diontae Johnson
    • Johnson has a massive target share throughout the first few weeks, but I expect him to see a lot of Denzel Ward on his side of the field.
  • Pat Freiermuth
    • Freiermuth has been a go-to against zone coverage, and the middle of the field will be an area to work against this Browns’ cover-4 scheme.
  • Chase Claypool
    • Claypool gets schemed-up touches and with that, has a lot of upside in a matchup where they will need to find ways to move the ball down the field. He’s also less popular than Johnson and Freiermuth.
  • Steelers D/ST
    • If the Browns’ are playing with their B-team offensive line, this will be a really good spot for Pittsburgh’s defense.
  • Cade York
    • Kickers are great plays in low-scoring games, and York has been an impressive rookie kicker so far.
  • Chris Boswell
    • Kickers are great pieces to have in low-scoring games, and Boswell has been depended on for the Steelers for years.
  • Browns D/ST
    • As four-point favorites, the price on DraftKings will lead them to be extremely popular, so I will avoid them with my own picks.

WATCH MORE: Jordan Vanek Goes Deep Into Thursday’s Matchup

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