Browns vs Steelers Odds, Picks, and Predictions for MNF: Pickens Provides Offense

George Pickens went for just 36 yards in Week 1, but that came against one of the top defensive units in the NFL. He's up against the Browns in Week 2 and with Diontae Johnson out, our MNF betting picks expect the top wideout to deliver tonight.

Last Updated: Sep 18, 2023 6:29 PM ET Read Time: 4 min

The AFC North closes out the NFL Week 2 odds slate when the Cleveland Browns travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in the second of two contests on tonight's board.

Cleveland shook up the division pecking order with a one-sided win over the Bengals in the season opener while Pittsburgh was steamrolled by San Francisco. Those results have flipped the offseason NFL odds for this classic rivalry, with the Browns going from look-ahead underdogs to road chalk.

I run down the Monday Night Football odds, and give my best NFL picks, for Browns vs. Steelers on Monday, September 18.

In to my picks, also check out our Browns vs. Steelers prop picks and Kenny Pickett props spotlight.

Browns vs Steelers odds

Browns vs Steelers predictions

Week 1 was not the debut the Pittsburgh Steelers offense wanted. Especially after a preseason in which Pittsburgh’s first teamers were perfect on their limited possessions, finishing each of their exhibition drives with touchdowns.

Second-year QB Kenny Pickett saw two interceptions ruin what was a solid day against one of the top defenses in the NFL (considering the Steelers had to go pass-heavy after trailing quickly), completing better than 67% of his passes for 232 yards. 

His top target, WR George Pickens was held in check for the most part, catching five of seven balls his way for just 36 yards and a long of nine. That stayed well below his receiving yard prop of 45.5 yards Over/Under and has books slimming his yardage total for Week 2.

Pickens has a receiving total as low as 41.5 yards against the Cleveland Browns tonight. This number opened at 41.5 and was bet up as high as 45.5 yards before returning closer to its original post. Depending on where you bet, you could find Pickens’ O/U between 41.5 and 42.5 on Sunday morning.

That buyback on the Under for Pickens’ yardage came after he was limited with a hamstring injury in Saturday’s practice. However, while he was limited in the final practice, he did participate (not something you do if your hamstring is badly injured) and was not given an injury designation. He also has an extra day to rest due to the Monday kickoff. With this line dipping from a high 45.5 yards and WR2 Diontae Johnson out, I have faith that Pickens will play and play well.

Pickens finished the 2022 campaign with a 72-yard showing against the Browns, catching three of six passes, including a 31-yard touchdown strike. He and Pickett picked up where they left off in the preseason this summer, with Pickens catching just three total passes in three exhibition games but two of those receptions going for 33 and 35 yards.

His Week 2 player projections are calling for a bigger day from Pickett and Pickens against the Browns. My number comes out north of 58 receiving yards for the former Georgia star while some models call for 60+ on tonight.

Pittsburgh’s playcalling won’t be as forced as it was in Week 1, which should allow for more balance but also set up Pickens for deeper strikes against a stop unit not dropping everyone into coverage. The Steelers stumbled out the gate against San Francisco, trailing 20-0 less than seven minutes into the second quarter. 

That forced offensive coordinator Matt Canada to accelerate his team’s tempo and shorten the playbook in a game of catch-up while trying to jumpstart Pickett under center. Pittsburgh threw at the highest rate in Week 1, going to the air on 83.61% of snaps, telegraphing their tendencies to an already stingy San Francisco side.

While passing less seems detrimental to a receiver’s yardage total, a balanced offense will keep the defense guessing and open up opportunities for Pickett and Pickens to connect for bigger plays.

My best bet: George Pickens Over 42.5 receiving yards (-115)

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Browns vs Steelers same-game parlay

George Pickens Over 42.5 receiving yards 

George Pickens Over 3.5 receptions

Steelers +2.5

Pickens’ projections are calling for as many as 20 yards more than his modest receiving total in Week 2 and the play calling will better benefit the Steelers’ WR1.

All those yards have to come with catches, with models clear of four grabs, especially with Johnson out.

Pittsburgh’s defense will get the better of Watson & Co. The current spread is a 5-point swing from the look-ahead market and that’s just too much in an AFC North game based on Week 1 results.

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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Browns vs Steelers spread and Over/Under analysis

The look-ahead markets set back in the late spring has Pittsburgh as a 2.5-point home favorite for this Monday matchup, but after the events of Week 1 — Browns stomping the Bengals and the Steelers getting flattened by the 49ers — the market flipped.

Books opened Cleveland as a 2-point road favorite and that spread rose to as high as -3 before buyback on Pittsburgh pushed it back under a field goal. As of Sunday morning, you can find Browns -2 and Steelers +2.5.

According to BetMGM, 70% of ticket count and 77% of handle is riding on Cleveland. Our Covers Consensus is showing a less one-sided lean, with just 55% of picks on the visitor. My NFL power ratings produced a spread closer to Steelers -3 – more in line with the look-ahead markets and not the knee-jerk reaction in the official Week 2 opener.

While the Browns may be overvalued by an overzealous Week 2 opinion, we can’t cut Cleveland short for its efforts against Cincinnati, especially on defense. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has energized this stop unit with a more aggressive approach, which resulted in a very disruptive defense against Cincy in Week 1.

Cleveland finished No. 2 in EPA allowed per play and Defensive DVOA, checking the Bengals high-powered attack to just 142 yards and a field goal. The Browns' pass rush recorded two sacks and eight QB hits with a pressure rate of 29.4%, as Schwartz dialed up the blitz on more than 41% of Cincinnati’s dropbacks.

That blitz-heavy attack is different than what the Steelers faced in the season opener. San Francisco brought extra bodies on only 13.5% of Pittsburgh’s passing plays but still drummed up a pressure rate of 46% with just the front four. Quarterback Kenny Pickett was sacked five times and hurried into two interceptions.

Monday’s game may come down to which defense can be the most disruptive, with Pittsburgh predicted to field a Top 5 defense in the preseason. The defensive line lost Cam Heyward to an injury for the next few weeks, but this unit is headlined by linebacker T.J. Watt, who can instantly change a game with one big play. He’s worked the Browns over pretty well in the past, with 15 sacks in 10 career meetings with Cleveland.

The Browns offense wasn’t nearly as impressive as the defense in Week 1. Quarterback Deshaun Watson completed only 55% of his passes and finished with 154 yards, one touchdown and an interception while absorbing three sacks. Watson could be missing his top target in WR Amari Cooper, who is questionable after missing practice with a groin injury this week.

Given the quality of defense taking the field Monday night, this Over/Under total opened at 41 points and has been bet down to as low as 38 as of Sunday morning. BetMGM books are reporting 70% of bet count and 90% of the money banking on a low-scoring finish. 

Low totals are nothing new for this AFC North rivalry, with the Steelers and Browns playing Over closing totals of 38 and 40 points last season. Cleveland rolled out one of the slower pace ratings in Week 1, ranked 22nd in tempo, while Pittsburgh’s offense ran much quicker due to falling behind early on against the Niners. The Steelers were third in tempo in Week 1.

Browns vs Steelers betting trend to know

During his tenure in Pittsburgh, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is 16-0 SU and 10-5-1 ATS at home to the Browns in the regular season (since 2007). Find more NFL betting trends for Browns vs. Steelers.

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Browns vs Steelers game info

Location: Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Date: Monday, September 18, 2023
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET
Opening odds: Steelers -1, 42

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