The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost four of their last five games, and their most recent defeat was at the hands of the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 of the regular season. However, the 24-22 loss certainly should be taken with a grain of salt.
The Steelers, who had locked up everything but their playoff seed before the game in Cleveland, rested four captains in Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt and Maurkice Pouncey. With these players back in the lineup for the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs, will it make a difference in the outcome?
Some might say no, but you have to wonder if the Browns’ COVID-19 situation might play an impact. Head coach, and play caller, Kevin Stefanski won’t be on the sideline due to the virus, and the Browns will be without several players as the virus continues to run through their locker room.
This game is a tough one to pick, so it is that time of the week where we take a look at NFL experts and who they like in this specific contest. Let’s take a look...
Some experts provide more than just a pick, and Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports gives his pick not just straight up, but also vs. the spread. Take a look:
The Browns lost to the Steelers by 31 points in Week 6 earlier this season, and then defeated Pittsburgh’s backups this past weekend by just two points despite being 10-point favorites. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers may not appear to be the Super Bowl favorites we once thought they were, but they can handle Baker Mayfield and the Browns. Another reason I’m leaning towards Pittsburgh is because Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, two other coaches and offensive guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. It’s wild, even when the Browns make the playoffs, they have to undergo a coaching change.
Projected score: Steelers 35-25
The pick: Steelers -6
Dajani’s colleague, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, also provides weekly picks with some background information on the selection. See who Prisco likes this weekend at Heinz Field:
The Browns beat the Steelers last week to get into the playoffs, but it was a Steelers team that rested a lot of players, including Ben Roethlisberger. This will be much more of a challenge, especially without Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, who is out with COVID-19. The Browns’ plan will still be to pound the football at the Steelers to control the clock and let Baker Mayfield make plays on the move. But the Steelers defense will respond to that and play well here. Roethlisberger came alive in the second half of his last game against the Colts and I think that will carry over against the Browns. The Steelers own the Browns in Pittsburgh and that will continue.
Pick: Steelers 27, Browns 17
With the playoffs here, even the haters here at SB Nation gave some more insight than just a pick. See what they have to think about the game:
I don’t even know what to say about this one. Nobody was better than Pittsburgh for the vast majority of the NFL season, then they fell off a cliff. Cleveland are in the playoffs in the first place because they beat the Steelers in Week 17, and it would make for one hell of a story to see Pittsburgh allow their division rivals in, then lose to them when it mattered.
This game is complicated vastly by a Covid outbreak in the Browns’ facility, which led to shutting down practice this week. We’ll need to see if that has an impact.
There are still those sites, like SB Nation and ESPN, who just submit picks through a panel of experts. Of the 10 at ESPN who pick weekly, only two think the Browns have a chance at upsetting the Steelers at home. Here at SB Nation there is a trio of experts who like the Browns in this AFC North grudge match.
But these are just a handful of sites who submit weekly picks. What about all those other sites who submit picks for every game about to be played? This is where our friends at NFL Pick Watch come in to play. NFL Pick Watch takes all expert picks and puts them into an easy-to-read graph for fans to enjoy.
According to NFL Pick Watch, 80% of the experts across the world wide web like the Steelers to advance to the Divisional round of the AFC Playoffs. Will that come to fruition? Only time will tell, but the experts are certainly leaning towards the Steelers this Sunday night at Heinz Field.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for their first postseason game since 2017.