Under coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are 24-6-1 straight up against the Cleveland Browns, tied for the third-most wins in any NFL matchup since 2007. Of course, most of that success in the series came with future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback -- the Browns only beat Roethlisberger twice. It will be Mitchell Trubisky under center Thursday night in Cleveland, though, and Pittsburgh is +4.5 at Caesars Sportsbook but taking heavy action both against the spread and on the moneyline.
As of this writing, 83% of money and 71% of the tickets are on Pittsburgh ATS, and 53% of tickets and 51% of the money are on the Steelers moneyline (currently +175). The total dropped from an open of 40.5 points to a minuscule 38.5, and that's notable because in the past three seasons there have been seven games with a total of 38.5 points or fewer and the Under hit in all. Interestingly, there's a dead split on the total at Caesars with 62% of the tickets on the Over and 62% of the money on the Under.
Of course, the Steelers are without reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, and the team is 0-5 all-time without him after losing last week to New England. Pittsburgh swept the Browns series last year, and in those games he totaled 5.5 sacks, 10 pressures, 11 tackles, two batted passes and a fumble recovery. Besides the absence of Watt, the Steelers are relatively healthy.
Cleveland will be without edge rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Chase Winovich. The worrisome news early this week was that Myles Garrett, the +450 favorite to lead the NFL in sacks, was in some jeopardy of missing the game, but he will play. So will Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jack Conklin in his season debut after tearing his patellar tendon in Week 12 last year.
There is some scuttlebutt that the Steelers could turn to rookie QB Kenny Pickett in Week 4 should Trubisky struggle again Thursday. Trubisky's average of 5.1 yards per attempt is the second-worst in the league, but he's also not allowed (yet) to change plays at the line of scrimmage. This will be his fifth career start against the AFC North, having totaled five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) with no interceptions in his previous four – three with Chicago and Week 1 this year vs. Cincinnati. Trubisky won and covered in all four.
Cleveland is coming off one of the most unlikely regular-season losses in franchise history at home to the Jets. The team is 11-3 straight up after a loss under Kevin Stefanski, the third-best record in the NFL after a defeat. The Browns are 1-11 ATS in AFC North games under Stefanski, the worst divisional ATS record in the NFL in that span and 5-14 ATS overall as a favorite under him.
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