Browns vs Steelers Preview & Free Pick [January 8th 2023]

Cleveland (7-9) at Pittsburgh (8-8)
When: Sunday, January 8th 2023
Where: Acrisure Stadium,
Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 1:00 ET | TV: CBS
Opening Odds: Pittsburgh -1.5/42

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Bitter rivals square-off on Sunday afternoon, as the Cleveland Browns visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in hopes of knocking them out of the postseason discussion. It’s been a lost season for Cleveland but they can end on a high-note by sweeping the season series. Pittsburgh entered their bye week with a 2-6 record, but are now 8-8 with flickering playoff hopes. The Steelers need to win and have both New England and Miami both lose or tie in order to reach the postseason for the third straight year. The Browns held Pittsburgh to just three second-half points in the first meeting way back in September. Cleveland went on to win 29-17 at home with the help of 171 team rushing yards. The starting quarterbacks that day were Mitchell Trubisky and Jacoby Brissett – neither is starting Sunday. Pittsburgh is a small 2.5-point favorite at home in this one with a total of 40.5.

The Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive last week with a Kenny Pickett 10-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris with 56 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to lift Pittsburgh to a 16-13 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Pickett has not turned the ball over in six of his past seven starts. Meanwhile, Cleveland is coming off a 24-10 road win at Washington in Week 17 behind three second-half touchdown passes from Deshaun Watson. After serving an 11-game suspension, Watson had looked very rusty until the second half last week. The Browns are 4-1 ATS in their last five games against the AFC North, while Pittsburgh is 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.


It’s been a predictably slow start for Watson after missing so much team dealing with legal issues and a suspension. On the season, Watson has thrown for 872 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions in five appearances. With the Browns already being eliminated from the playoffs, this could be the final game for head coach Kevin Stefanski, who is on the hot-seat. Stefanski’s offense has produced over 13 points twice in the five games with Watson under center. Running back Nick Chubb rushed for 113 yards against Pittsburgh back in September and sits 52 yards shy of joining Hall of Famer Jim Brown as the only players in franchise history with 1,500-plus rush yards in a single season. Cleveland is sixth in the league with 147.3 yards per game rushing. Guard Joel Bitonio, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and defensive end Myles Garrett missed practice this week.

The only game Pittsburgh has lost in their last six was to the Ravens when they lost Pickett early on in the game and Trubisky tossed multiple interceptions. Pickett isn’t posting video game numbers, but he’s come up big the last two weeks with game-winning touchdown drives. Last week, Pickett finished with 168 passing yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions on 15-of-27 completions in the 16-13 win over Baltimore on the road. Running back Najee Harris rushed for 111 yards on 22 carries. He has rushed for a touchdown in each of his three career games versus Cleveland. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson (hip), safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (ankle), defensive back Tre Norwood (hamstring), cornerback Arthur Maulet (illness), linebacker Myles Jack (groin) and offensive lineman Kevin Dotson (shoulder) all missed practice time this week.

Pittsburgh comes in with a lot of momentum and a stingy defense. Watson has been really rusty and this isn’t a game I expect him to break out. The Steelers are still alive and will be treating this like a playoff game. I’ll lay the points.

Week 18 NFL Staff Selections

Pick: Steelers -2.5