Note: If you’re looking for
the 2013 Week 17 matchup between these teams, please go here: Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Pick.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6, 4-7 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (1-11, 5-6 ATS), NFL Week 14,
Cleveland Browns Stadium Cleveland, O.H., Thursday December 10th, 8:20PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
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Point Spread: Pittsburgh -9.5
The Pittsburgh Steelers were suppose to better their position in the playoff picture with a soft ball pitch from the Raiders that I believe most had marked down for a win. However, the Steelers defense had no answer for Bruce Gradkowski as they allowed him over 300 yards passing and 21 points in the 4th quarter to fall to Oakland 27-24. The Steelers now sit at the .500 mark on the season and on the outside looking in for the playoff picture.
Pittsburgh gets the chance to get back over the .500 mark this Thursday night when they travel to take on AFC North Division foe in the Cleveland Browns. Likely this would be expected to be another easy win for the Steelers, but again that was the assumption a week ago.
The Browns continued their struggles last week falling to 1-11 to the Chargers. However, there was a glimmer of hope as Cleveland rallied back after trailing 27-7 to score 16 points in the 4th quarter. Perhaps those late possessions will be some momentum to build off of heading into Thursday night’s home stand to the Steelers. However, Cleveland has been dominated in this division rivalry losing the last 12 straight to Pittsburgh with their last victory head to head dating back to the 2003 season. In fact, the Browns have scored just 20 points combined in their last 3 battles with Pittsburgh and they will have to find a way to topple the Steelers defense perhaps the same way Oakland did last week.
The Steelers definitely have had some pass defense concerns this year allowing 213 yards per game. The 213 yards allowed is not a bad number for most teams, but from a defense like Pittsburgh that allowed just 237 yards total in 2008 you can see why it is starting to raise eye brows. Cleveland QB Brady Quinn has actually played pretty decent in recent weeks throwing 7 touchdowns without a single pick over the last 3 games and he will be the guy to try to attack the questionable Pittsburgh secondary. Quinn completed 25 of 45 passing against the Chargers for 271 yards and 3 scores last week.
Considering how horrible the run game has been for the Browns this season, it would make more since for Quinn to come out and attempt another 50 passes. The problem is locating the go to guy on offense. Rookie Mohamed Massaquoi leads the team with a miserable 485 yards receiving and the offense got some help from another rookie in Brian Robiskie last week who caught 4 passes for 69 yards. Robiskie had just 1 catch all season prior and if the offense can get some more help from their young guys they will only get better. Expect the Browns to keep the ball in the air as Jamal Lewis has been shut down which would likely be the same scenario against the Pittsburgh defensive front.
Unfortunately for the Browns, they will be trying to stop a pretty solid passing attack as well. QB Ben Roethlisberger is completing 69% this season and racked up 2,867 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 picks. Roethlisberger was solid last week in the first game back following his concussion completing 18 of 24 with 278 yards, 2 scores, and 1 interception. The Steelers have not been able to rack up as many points in recent weeks as they did earlier in the year which may be a contributor to the 4 straight losses, but the defense needs to play better as stated earlier.
However, perhaps the biggest problem may be the lack of running game. The Steelers have not controlled the clock near as much as normal this season and that is because the running game has been pretty bad. Rashard Mendenhall has given hope at times with 734 yards on the season, but still not provided the consistency the Steelers need. However against the Browns weak defense, I expect the Steelers to have more success running the football. Cleveland is allowing nearly 400 yards of offense with 160 of those coming from the ground. Pittsburgh will let Mendenhall set the pace early while Roethlisberger should be able to hook up with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes to put it away in the 2nd half.
Jay’s Pick - Bad spot for the Brownies to be playingm Pittsburgh off a bad loss. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers at -9.5.