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Matchups Week 3: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

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

Spread: Browns -3.5

Game Total: 40.5

Team Totals: Browns (22), Steelers (18.5)

Weather: Outdoors, wind expected to be in the 15+ mph range

The Line Report

  • This line opened as Browns -3.5.
  • This line moved to Browns -4.5 as of late Tuesday and back to Browns -3.5 as of Wednesday morning.
  • DraftKings Pick’Em has the Browns -4.5.
  • Circa Sports Millions Pro Football Contest has the Browns -4.
  • This total opened between 40.5 and 39.5 points.
  • This total has moved down to 38.5 points as of Wednesday morning. While this game is expected to be a low-scoring affair in general, some of that downward movement can be attributed to the wind situation expected in Cleveland.

Notable Injuries

Browns: Jadeveon Clowney (Out), Chase Winovich (IR), OG Joe Bitonio (Questionable), RT Jack Conklin (Questionable), DE Myles Garrett (Questionable).

Steelers: OLB T.J. Watt (IR).

Browns Offense vs. Steelers Defense

Even with reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt sidelined, the Steelers still have a top-10 caliber defensive front. With Browns left guard Joel Bitonio and right tackle Jack Conklin expected to play, Cleveland’s top-shelf offensive line is good-to-go for Thursday night. Consider this a strength vs. strength matchup where neither side has a trench edge.

Notes and Observations

  • The Browns are 1-1 against the spread this season.
  • The Browns are 2-0 on overs this season.
  • Per The Edge, the Steelers have surprisingly given up the eighth most rushing yards and the fifth most yards receiving to opposing running backs through the first two games.
  • Per TruMedia, through two games, Nick Chubb is first in DraftKings points while teammate Kareem Hunt is 10th.
  • Chubb is currently second in the league in rushing yards (228), fourth in carries (39), second in red zone carries (8), and first in rushing touchdowns (3), with a 7% target share.
  • Hunt is fourth in the league in red zone carries (6) and has an end zone target.
  • The Browns’ red zone offense runs through their running backs.
  • Chubb has seen 33.33% of his carries against eight-man boxes, and Hunt has seen 62.5% of his carries against eight-man boxes.
  • Chubb and Hunt are a more talented version of the Patriots’ running back duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Harris and Stevenson combined for 118 yards on the ground against the Steelers last week.
  • Per The Edge, the Steelers have also (surprisingly) allowed the second most yards receiving on the second most receptions to opposing wide receivers through the first two games.
  • Pittsburgh has allowed the fourth most PPR points to perimeter receivers and the sixth most to slot receivers through the first two games.
  • Amari Cooper is Cleveland’s biggest threat at wide receiver, with a team-leading 28.1% target share and an eye-popping 48.2% share of the Browns’ air yards. That air yards figure is good for third in the league among wide receivers.
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones followed up his unexpected Week 1 usage spike with a quiet Week 2. Overall, he has a 21.1% target share with a 7.8 ADOT.
  • Cleveland tight ends David Njoku (128 snaps, 10.5% target share, 2.8 ADOT) and Harrison Bryant (81 snaps, 14% target share, 8.9 ADOT) are both seeing significant playing time.
  • So far, the Steelers have shut down opposing tight ends, allowing the ninth-fewest yards on the eighth-fewest receptions. 

Steelers Offense vs. Browns Defense

The absence of Browns’ edge rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Chase Winovich reduces Cleveland’s trench advantage against Pittsburgh’s below-average offensive line. However, with Myles Garrett expected to play, the Steelers have a massive challenge in that individual matchup.

Notes and Observations

  • The Steelers are 1-0-1 against the spread this season.
  • The Steelers are 0-2 on overs this season.
  • Per The Edge, Cleveland has allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards and the 17th most yards receiving to opposing running backs.
  • Per TruMedia, through two games, Steelers running back Najee Harris is 34th in the league in rushing yards with an 11.4% target share on 34 routes run. Harris has run a route on fewer than half of the Steelers’ dropbacks in the first two games.
  • Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson is seventh in the league in target share (31.4%) while seeing 96% of his snaps on the perimeter. He also has the largest share of air yards (38.5%) on the Steelers.
  • Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool has a 17.1% target share and a 6.2 ADOT while seeing 83.5% of his snaps in the slot.
  • Steelers rookie wide receiver George Pickens’ 71 routes run is close to both Johnson and Claypool. Pickens only has an 8.6% target share but an 18.4 ADOT through the first two games.
  • Per The Edge, the Browns have allowed the sixth most yards receiving on the 10th fewest receptions to enemy wide receivers.
  • Last week, Joe Flacco hung 307 yards and 4 touchdowns on Cleveland while Jets rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson eviscerated the Browns for an 8-102-2 line on 14 targets.
  • Steelers’ second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth is currently second on the Steelers in target share (24.3%).
  • Cleveland has allowed the 14th most yards receiving on the 13th most receptions to tight ends this season.

What You’re Betting On

A bet on the Browns is a bet on Cleveland’s top-tier running game and offensive line holding up against the Steelers’ familiar, high-end defense. It’s also a bet on Jacoby Brissett, limiting his mistakes against a formidable, physical divisional opponent. A bet on Cleveland can also be a bet against Steelers’ unreliable quarterback Mitch Trubisky playing behind Pittsburgh’s below-average offensive line. If you’re betting on Cleveland, keep in mind they have some key players on the injury report, with a few defenders already being ruled out. Additionally, the Browns are more banged up than the Steelers as of Wednesday afternoon.

A bet on the Steelers is a bet on a high-quality, physical defense that is getting four-and-a-half points on the road against a divisional opponent quarterbacked by Brissett. It’s also a bet on an underachieving offense with an uncharacteristically below-average offensive line and inconsistent Trubisky at quarterback. That said, Pittsburgh’s offense has more ceiling than its shown through the first two weeks, as they have one of the better skill groups in the league. Your most significant concerns with betting on Pittsburgh are its ability to manage the Browns’ elite running game and mitigate Garrett’s pass rush.

Including the playoffs, the Steelers are 3-2 against the Browns throughout the past two seasons. Pittsburgh beat Cleveland both times they played last season. Per TruMedia, during the last 148 games played on Thursday Night Football, home teams are 78-66-4 ATS during that span.

On average, home teams have covered by just shy of one point while outright winning by a margin just shy of six points during this sample. Those trends shouldn’t over influence your process here, as a Thursday night game from three years ago between the Jets and Titans has very little to do with the Browns and Steelers here. That said, home teams have a bit of an edge on the short week.

Pool Picks

Awards Market Ramifications: If Myles Garrett can go here, he’s in a great spot to make an impact in the Defensive Player of the Year race against a vulnerable Steelers offensive line.

Winner/ Confidence Pool: I’m going to wait until injury reports are finalized before making any decisions. In large field winner pools with weekly payouts, I’m going to take a little of both teams in different pools. Whichever side I go with will be towards the bottom of my confidence pool rankings.

Spread Pool: I’ll wait until the injury report is finalized, but I’ll either play the Steelers side or pass here.

Survivor: This game should be avoided in survivor pools.

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