Free Picks Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns

Steelers vs Browns NFL Wild Card
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns, NFL, Heinz Field

The Cleveland Browns (11-5) finally have their first taste of playoff action since 2002, but they immediately face adversity in the form of some positive COVID-19 test results and the fact they’ll face a bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4). Without Ben Roethlisberger last week, Pittsburgh almost kept Cleveland out of the playoffs — and now they can dispose of the Browns from the friendly confines of Heinz Field.

Rematch of Browns vs. Steelers will be nothing like last week

A few short days ago, Cleveland Browns fans were celebrating an ugly — albeit, important — win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, which granted Cleveland its first playoff berth since Nelly ruled the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Now, there already feels like much less for the Browns and their backers to celebrate, as Cleveland has learned of some positive COVID-19 tests in its midst — including for head coach Kevin Stefanski and Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, both of whom cannot be present for Sunday’s game.

As such, the Steelers are 6-point favorites (-111 at 888Sport) on various betting sites. Pittsburgh has some COVID-19 question marks of its own, namely with tight end Eric Ebron and cornerback Joe Haden (both of whom missed last week’s game), but these new results for Cleveland are a serious concern.

Stefanski, who handled play-calling duties for the Browns this season and led them to the No. 3 rushing offense in the NFL, will still be around the team in a virtual capacity throughout the week. How that impacts Cleveland’s preparation is yet to be seen.

Another question mark for Cleveland is the status of cornerback Denzel Ward, who missed last week’s game while on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Pittsburgh really picked on his replacement, Robert Jackson, and would likely do so again if Ward isn’t cleared to play.

A lot of question marks regarding personnel availability, I know. If you’ve bet on pro sports at all since mid-March, you know that comes with the territory.

Where there’s less of a question is with the head-to-head results of these teams. Pittsburgh has covered in four of the past five meetings, with straight-up wins in four of the past six.

Last week’s matchup, with Pittsburgh resting some starters and likely not showing all its cards from the playbook, it difficult to put much stock in. But back in October, when the game mattered equally for both teams, Pittsburgh won 38-7 as 3-point home favorites. If that version of the Steelers shows up, a six-point spread will look like nothing.

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  • Pittsburgh is 5-5 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in five of the Steelers’ past nine games
  • Cleveland is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in five of the Browns’ past nine games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University).