With the Pittsburgh Steelers win over the Packers last week, there is still a glimmer of hope that they can sneak into the playoffs. They’ll need to beat the Browns today and then hope for some hope from a few other teams. A 0-4 start for the Steelers seemed to spell doom, and even a few weeks ago they looked dead in the water, but a win today and losses by the Dolphins, Ravens, and Chargers would push them into a matchup with the Bengals. It is a long shot that all three will lose, but crazier things have happened before in the NFL. All the Steelers can control at this point is beating the Cleveland Browns. Even if all of the three above mentioned teams lose and the Steelers lose, they still won’t clinch a spot. Pittsburgh got to this point by beating the Packers by the narrowest of margins. It was a late defensive effort deep in Steeler territory that managed to shut the door on the Packers comeback bid in the 4th. Healthier than ever this season, the Steelers will have a glorious opportunity here to win at home and give themselves a chance.
It couldn’t get much better last week, finishing a perfect 4-0 on the NFL card. Needless to say that is what you want heading into the final week of the regular season. I have made profits in the playoffs the last three seasons straight, so I am looking to duplicate that again in the new year. Before we get to the playoffs, though, let’s finish up the regular season on a winning page, looking to build on a 41-20-1 season for myself.
Browns vs. Steelers Betting Odds:
Cleveland Browns +7(-110)
@Pittsburgh Steelers -7(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Browns vs. Steelers Pick:
As I mentioned the Steelers are getting healthier. Unfortunately for them they haven’t been healthy for the majority of the season, which if they were, I imagine I would be writing about them preparing for the playoffs right now. Most notably, offensive guard David DeCastro, defensive end Brett Keisel, and tight end Heath Miller will be in the lineup. This Steelers team really doesn’t have much of an image to me, funny considering that not that long ago I think the Pittsburgh identity was the most well-known in the NFL. This season it’s been anyones guess if the production is going to come from the offense or the defense, or maybe a little of both. I think the little of both formula has worked best for the Steelers. Making a couple crucial defensive stops last week and letting the offensive go to work worked for the Steelers last week. The defense is getting older, and for some of these guys like Troy Polamalu, this may be his last shot at a chance at the Lombardi trophy. The Steelers are still in the top-half of the NFL, 14th in yards allowed. So there is a perception that they have dropped off completely, but not so. Yes they have slipped quite a bit, but you need to remember this is a defense that was consistently the best or 2nd best defense in the NFL, so an average defense isn’t what we are used to. Nevertheless, they can still get it done on any given day.
If you want to try and find an identity for the Steelers, it maybe is perhaps the passing game with Ben Roethlisberger. Given their lack of a running game, it has been Roethlisberger that has had to shoulder the load. The Steelers’ air-game is ranked 11th in the NFL, passing for 256 yards per game. The offensive line has been a question mark all season, the clear headache of the offense. But with David DeCastro back, the Pittsburgh running game, and line in general looked much better. Running back Le’Veon Bell bulled his way for 124 yards a touchdown, the best performance from a Steelers’ running back this season. Overall the offense is 16th in the NFL averaging 24 points a game. With that said, average defense, average offense here. But I will give them this, they do make plays on offense when they have to. They won’t pile on the yardage, but Roethlisberger is great at getting into rhythm on critical drives.
The Browns wish they had an average offense, if you look at yards per game it isn’t too bad at 20th in the NFL. However, they are only averaging 20 points a game, which is definitely not good enough to win ballgames with. It has been a carrousel of quarterbacks for the Browns this season, with the most recent being Jason Campbell. Campbell has been around the block a few times in this league, most notably as a starter in Washington. The Browns have lost six-straight games, so his contributions really haven’t been felt in Cleveland. His latest loss coming against the lowly Jets, 24-13. The Browns’ defense used to be their staple, it kept them in games. But lately they have not been good at all, in fact, they have been below average. During this six-game skid, the Browns have allowed 41, 27, 32, 27, 38, and 24 points. With that 32 coming against the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
I like the Steelers to do what they did in their last meeting with the Browns, which is beat them easily. In their first matchup the Steelers cruised to a 27-11 win. Today this is a much better Steeler team than what we seen then even, so it is tough to make any argument for the Browns in this matchup. Getting only 7 points at home looks good to me, as the defense should be able to contain Campbell in a must win scenario. Look for the Steelers to keep their playoff hopes alive in what should be about a 14-point victory.
PICK: Steelers -7(-110)