Steelers, Browns renew heated rivalry with both in thick of division race, playoff picture
Thu, Nov 16, 2023
NFL News (AP)
PITTSBURGH (6-3) at CLEVELAND (6-3)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, CBS.
OPENING LINE: Browns by 4, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Steelers 6-3; Browns 6-3.
SERIES RECORD: Steelers lead 79-61-1.
LAST MEETING: Steelers beat Browns 26-22 on Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh.
LAST WEEK: Steelers beat Packers 23-19; Browns beat Ravens 33-31.
STEELERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (28), RUSH (20), PASS (29), SCORING (26).
STEELERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (28), RUSH (25), PASS (27), SCORING (11).
BROWNS OFFENSE: OVERALL (17), RUSH (2T), PASS (25), SCORING (6).
BROWNS DEFENSE: OVERALL (1), RUSH (7), PASS (1), SCORING (6).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Steelers plus-10; Browns minus-4.
STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Jaylen Warren. The second-year pro - an undrafted rookie free agent - has morphed from a feel-good story to a full-on NFL difference-maker. Warren ran for a career-high 105 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over Green Bay. His quickness through the hole and ability to make plays in the passing game gives the Steelers a potent one-two punch at running back next to Najee Harris.
BROWNS PLAYER TO WATCH: Rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Starting quarterback Deshaun Watson's season-ending shoulder injury has launched Thompson-Robinson up the depth chart and into the middle of a playoff chase. With a week of practice, the fifth-round pick from UCLA should be better prepared than in his NFL debut on Oct. 1, when he threw three interceptions in a 28-3 loss to Baltimore.
KEY MATCHUP: Cleveland's offensive tackles vs. Pittsburgh edge rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Protecting Thompson-Robinson will be paramount against a Steelers defense known for making life miserable for young QBs. Both Highsmith (interception return) and Watt (fumble return) scored in the Week 2 matchup.
KEY INJURIES: Watson fractured his throwing shoulder last week while rallying the Browns from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to stun the Ravens. He's scheduled to undergo surgery next week. ... Browns rookie RT Dawand Jones (knee) could miss his second straight game. ... Browns G Wyatt Teller (ankle) and S Juan Thornhill (calf) missed practice time this week. ... Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth is expected to return from a right hamstring injury that's kept him out since Oct. 1. ... Pittsburgh All-Pro FS Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) could miss his third straight game. SS Keanu Neal (rib) is also hurting. ... The Steelers placed LB Kwon Alexander (Achilles) on IR, leaving them with three healthy inside linebackers on the active roster. ... DT Montravius Adams (ankle) could miss his second straight game.
SERIES NOTES: The latest matchup in one of the NFL's best rivalries has some added juice with both teams in playoff contention. ... Pittsburgh has dominated since Cleveland's expansion return in 1999, but the Browns have made things less lopsided in recent years with four wins, including one in the playoffs, since 2019. ... Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is 26-6-1 against Cleveland.
STATS AND STUFF: The Steelers are the only team in NFL history to be outgained in each of their first nine games and have a winning record. ... Pittsburgh's success in one-score games has played a major factor in keeping the club in the mix in the highly competitive AFC North. The Steelers have won each of their past nine games decided by eight points or fewer, including six this season. ... The game features two of the league's best pass rushers in Pittsburgh's Watt and Cleveland DE Myles Garrett. Watt has thrived against the Browns, racking up 16 sacks, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown in 11 games. ... Garrett has seven sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 games vs. the Steelers. ... The Steelers are 7-1-1 against the Browns when both Garrett and Watt play. ... Pittsburgh is 13-5 over its past 18 games going back to last season, the sixth-best record in the league over that span. ... The Steelers have four wins this season when they trailed going into the fourth quarter, including their victory over Cleveland in Week 2. ... Pittsburgh's running game is starting to come together, much as it did at the same time in 2022. The Steelers have run for 371 yards over the past two weeks, taking some of the heat off a passing attack that ranks near the bottom of the league in every major statistical category. ... Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett is not lighting up scoreboards but he is limiting mistakes. Pickett's four interceptions are tied for second fewest in the NFL among QBs who have started at least eight games. ... The Steelers have dominated rookie quarterbacks through the years. Pittsburgh is 49-14 against rookie starters since 1970, including a 1-1 mark this season. .... Watson's injury has the potential of wrecking a promising season for the Browns, who are 6-3 for just the third time since 1999. ... Cleveland has leaned on its aggressive defense and a running game that has managed to stay productive despite losing star RB Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury in the first meeting with Pittsburgh. ... The Browns are giving up just 242.7 yards per game, the fewest allowed through 10 games since the 2008 Steelers (240.3). ... Cleveland has been particularly tough on third down, letting teams move the chains just 25.9% of the time. ... The Browns have rushed for more than 150 yards in four of the past five games, picking up 178 in last week's comeback. ... Cleveland has been especially tough at home, going 4-1 and outscoring its opponents 97-23 in the four wins. ... Garrett's 11 sacks are tied for the league high and he is one of just seven players to have double-digit sacks in six straight seasons. ... Browns K Dustin Hopkins, who only arrived at the end of the exhibition season, leads the league with 24 field goals.
FANTASY TIP: Browns RB Jerome Ford rushed for 106 yards and a TD in the first meeting with Pittsburgh. He could have an even larger role in the game plan this time as Cleveland may want to keep things simple for Thompson-Robinson.
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