Monday Night Football Preview and Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

Ben Roethlisberger may be making his final start at Heinz Field, but the division-rival Browns are well-positioned to ruin any celebration. NFL expert Ben Gretch is here breaking down this AFC North clash on Monday night.
Ben Gretch |
Sun, January 2, 11:30 AM EST | 8 min read
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Monday Night Football Preview and Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Monday, January 3, 2021

Game Time: 8:15 pm ET

Where to Watch: ESPN

  • Key Stat: Pittsburgh has ranked 31st in success rate against the run over the past six weeks, and has multiple defensive starters on the first two levels of their defense on the reserve/COVID-19 list who may not be ready for Monday night.

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns Prediction

Monday night brings us a matchup of two division opponents whose playoff hopes may hinge on winning out. Cleveland heads to Pittsburgh to take on the short-handed Steelers, as Pittsburgh’s already struggling defense has been hit hard by COVID-19. While Devin Bush has yet to be activated since landing on the list on December 22, two other starters — Chris Wormley and Joe Schobert — landed on the list this week, and are said to be unlikely to be ready by Monday night. 

That’s a significant issue for a Pittsburgh defense that has ranked 31st in success rate against the run over the past six weeks, and 25th for the season. The Steelers have given up 100 or more rushing yards in eight straight games, with three of those going over 200 yards and a fourth hitting 198. Interestingly, the last team the Steelers held under 100 yards was these Browns back in Week 8, though they totaled 96 in a 15-10 Steelers win. 

The Browns have been getting healthier since their own issues with COVID-19 hit earlier in December, though they do have a lengthy injury list this week. Among the names, Kareem Hunt is questionable to return and provide support to Nick Chubb on the ground, while center J.C. Tretter carries no injury designation after missing Week 16. The Browns are an offense that likes to run the ball effectively and use play-action off of that, and this game sets up well to allow them to do just that. 

Pittsburgh should have the majority of their offense in place, including rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth, who looks set to return after missing Week 16 with a concussion. But their offense has sputtered this season, with Ben Roethlisberger looking his age. In what might be his final start at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger will surely want to go out on a high note, but narratives can only carry you so far. Cleveland has been fifth in the NFL in success rate against the pass over the past six weeks, and sixth for the season, and their strong pass rush looks well-positioned to overpower the subpar Steelers’ offensive line here. 

I like this to be a low-scoring game, but the over/under doesn’t offer much value at 41. I’m laying the points with Cleveland on the road, as the matchups and health situations fit their play style, where they should be able to find success on the ground to take some pressure off Baker Mayfield in the passing game.

Steelers vs. Browns Pick

Browns -3.5 (-105)

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns Line Movement

Ben Gretch
@YardsPerGretch

Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.

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