- The host Pittsburgh Steelers are six-point favorites over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night in their AFC wild card round playoff game at Heinz Field
- John Perrotto Betting Record: 10-7-2 (2.3 units won)
- The odds, lines and spreads for Steelers-Browns can be found below with game analysis
The Cleveland Browns have had distractions while preparing for their first playoff game since 2002 when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC wild card round at 8:15 p.m. ET Sunday at Heinz Field.
The Browns practiced only once this week and will be without rookie Kevin Stefanski this week because of COVID-19 protocols. That has put a bit of a damper on Cleveland finishing the regular season with six wins in eight games for an 11-5 record.
The Steelers lost four of their last five games following an 11-0 start, but their 12-4 record was good enough to win the AFC North and be favored against the Browns.
The Steelers were 10-6 against the spread in the regular season and the Browns went 6-10.
Browns vs Steelers
|Cleveland Browns||+205||+6 (-110)||Over 47.5 (-106)|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||-250||-6 (-110)||Under 47.5 (-114)|
Odds taken Jan. 9 from FanDuel
Special teams coach Mike Priefer will serve as the acting head coach while Stefanski will be stuck in the basement of his Cleveland-area home watching on TV. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will take over play-calling duties.
Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio is one of four players on the COVID-19 list along with cornerback Denzel Ward, safety Ronnie Harrison and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge. While Ward might be able to play Sunday, the other three will miss the game.
#Browns LG Joel Bitonio is a three-time Pro Bowler who has spent his entire seven-year career in Cleveland, playing for five different head coaches and enduring six losing seasons (including 1-15 and 0-16). They finally make the playoffs … and Bitonio is out with COVID. Brutal.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 5, 2021
Because of injuries, the Browns will be down to fourth-stringer Michael Dunn to start in Bitonio’s place. It also must be a major disappointment to Bitonio to sit out as he is the longest-tenured Browns player at seven seasons.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden will also miss the game because of the coronavirus. He will be replaced by the versatile Cam Sutton, who has an interception and three fumble recoveries this season.
— Steelers Depot 🎄 (@Steelersdepot) January 2, 2021
House of Horrors
The Browns are 1-20 at Heinz Field and have lost in each of their last 17 yearly visits to the banks of the Allegheny River.
Cleveland also lost a playoff game there in 2003, 36-33, after blowing a big lead. It remains the franchise’s lone postseason game since being rebooted in 1999.
Classic rock band Styx had a hand in that game.
This day in #PGHistory: With the Steelers down 17 to the Browns in the AFC Wildcard game, 'Renegade' is played at Heinz Field for the very first time.
The team (and crowd) came alive and Pittsburgh put together an epic comeback, winning the game 36-33. (2003) pic.twitter.com/RQk8fk51Kw
— Pittsburgh Clothing Co. (@PGHClothingCo) January 5, 2021
The Browns were smashed 38-7 in Week 6 in their latest bus trip across the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes to Pittsburgh.
James Conner rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown for the Steelers, who were three-point favorites. Ben Roethlisberger had 162 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Stefanski benched Baker Mayfield after he threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.
The Browns beat the short-handed Steelers 24-22 last week at Cleveland in the regular-season finale. Among the Pittsburgh standouts who did not make the trip were Roethlisberger, defensive end Cam Heyward and linebacker T.J. Watt.
It was just the Browns’ second win in the last 12 games of the series as Mayfield threw for 196 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. Nick Chubb rushed for 108 yards and a TD.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 7, 2021
Running Game Disparity
While the Steelers ran for a combined 224 yards in the two regular-season games against the Browns, they finished last in the league in rushing with an average of just 84.4 yards a game. The Browns were ninth in run defense at 110.8 yards a game.
Meanwhile, the Browns were third in the league in rushing offense with a 148.4 average. The Steelers run defense ranked 11th at 111.4.
Hunt also became a folk hero last week for the block he threw to help spring Mayfield for the game-sealing – and playoff-clinching – first down.
Can we talk about Kareem Hunt's block on Baker's game-clinching run? pic.twitter.com/dxfOuU1a5m
— Dan Labbe (@dan_labbe) January 4, 2021
Though weather shouldn’t be a factor as the temperature is expected to be 26 degrees at kickoff with no wind, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Browns try to establish its two-pronged running game in this matchup.
Will History Prevail?
History says the Steelers do not lose to the Browns at Heinz Field. However, the Steelers haven’t played well since November and playing in Pittsburgh isn’t as daunting with coronavirus restrictions keeping the crowd down to a few thousand.
Pick: Browns +6 (-110)
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