The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) are headed to Cleveland in Week 11 for their second and final matchup against the Browns (6-3) in the 2023 season. Despite their first meeting of the season having taken place just months ago, both of these teams are in a very different position than they were back in Week 2 — which could mean fans are in for a very different experience this time around. What remains as true as ever, however, is the importance of this divisional matchup in an absurdly close AFC North division.
Week 11’s Steelers-Browns showdown marks the 145th meeting between these two franchises in their long and storied histories, with the Steelers holding a 19-game lead in their overall history at 81-62-1. Where the Browns have (unsurprisingly) held the advantage, of course, is in Cleveland, where they have an 11-game lead. In the Mike Tomlin era specifically, the Steelers have gone 9-6 on the road against this AFC North rival, having gone 1-3-1 in such games over the past six seasons. As such, this matchup is not a “gimme” for the Steelers, even despite the news that Browns starting quarterback Deshaun Watson will be out for the rest of the year with a season-ending shoulder injury.
Starting in his place for Week 11 will rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR), a fifth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, having played five seasons with the UCLA Bruins to wrack up plenty of game experience that could prove valuable to the Browns moving forward. DTR started one previous game this season, albeit unexpectedly back in Week 4, and by all accounts, it was a disaster.
In all fairness, though, that disaster came against the Baltimore Ravens, who are neck and neck with the Browns for the title of the league’s best defense. They lost that game, with DTR posting 121 passing yards, no touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He was notified just hours before the game that he’d be getting the start — a total surprise for the rookie, who had been under the assumption that Watson would be active despite dealing with a shoulder injury. Now, he’s had several weeks to study those mistakes, and HC Kevin Stefanski has spoken to an increased preparedness that should have Pittsburgh on their toes.
The theme with each of these teams this season has been “defense, defense, defense”. While the Steelers are generating more turnovers while losing the yardage battle, which has put the team in advantageous positions to capitalize on wins, the Browns have had a different approach. They’re not cut of the same “bend, don’t break” cloth as the Steelers; they’re “don’t bend, don’t break” style has been to suffocate opposing offense until the clock runs out, a huge factor in their 6-3 record to date.
Steelers vs. Browns, head-to-head stats 2023
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Heading into the weekend, Steelers are installed as 1.5-point road underdogs on DraftKings Sportsbook, with the line having moved two points in the Steelers’ favor since the news of Watson’s season-ending injury. The over/under has dropped to an astounding 33 points since the news broke, down from 38.5 points before the news.
On paper, it’s not difficult to see why. Whatever strengths the Steelers' defense has matched when fully healthy are matched just as evenly with the strengths of the Browns. Even with a newly ignited run game, the Steelers are going to have their hands full in this one, holding opponents to just 3.8 yards per rush attempt this season (8th lowest), while equally suffocating covering the pass. Expect this to be a defensive battle on both fronts while both teams look to accentuate their greatest strength. The Steelers may have the greater uphill battle there, too, however, with safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Keanu Neal both likely gametime decisions for Week 11.
With the presence of a rookie quarterback (and a mobile, athletic one, at that), look for the Browns to feature the run early and often. The Steelers, meanwhile, should look to do the same, having totaled 160+ rushing yards in each of the past two weeks, which has complemented the defense well thanks to the running back tandem of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.
56% of the point spread bets and 54% of the total money wagered on the point spread for Steelers-Browns has been placed on Pittsburgh. While 49% of bettors are wagering on the under, 69% of the total money wagered on the point total has been on the under, indicating there’s perhaps a bit of sharp money on the under to cash, even with the point total as low as it is.