Steelers vs Browns Thursday Night Football Picks and Predictions: Steel Curtain Yanked Down

Both teams come into Week 3 with identical 1-1 records, but for much different reasons. Cleveland had the mother of all heartbreaks while the Steelers' offense is lifeless. Our NFL betting picks highlight why you should back the Browns in the first half.

Last Updated: Sep 22, 2022 4:57 PM ET Read Time: 4 min

The AFC North takes center stage in Week 3 with the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the Cleveland Browns on September 22 for Thursday Night Football — and we're breaking down the spread, total, and giving our best NFL betting picks and predictions.

Pittsburgh stands at 1-1 but is coming off an ugly outing at New England in Week 2, in which the offense struggled for gains and has the Black and Yellow faithful calling for a change at quarterback. Starting QB Mitchell Trubisky can’t push the ball down the field, kicking up rumors of a move to rookie Kenny Pickett.

Cleveland doesn’t have to wait long to exorcise the ghosts of a historic collapse to the New York Jets on Sunday. The Browns botched a 30-17 lead with less than two minutes remaining, but that hasn’t swayed early action from climbing on Cleveland’s spread.

Steelers vs Browns best odds

Steelers vs Browns picks and predictions

Cleveland wants to shake off the stink of Week 2’s epic collapse as quickly as possible and has a good chance to come out swinging against a Pittsburgh defense already running on fumes to start 2022.

The Steelers stop unit has been on the field more than 77 minutes in the opening two games, and now plays on a short week against a very physical Browns rushing attack. Cleveland hands off on almost 55% of snaps and has a relentless ground-and-pound powered by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who have this run game ranking No. 4 in EPA per handoff after two weeks. 

The Browns not only dominate time of possession (No. 3 in TOP) by moving the chains on 29% of first downs, but their tempo has put teams on their heels in the opening 30 minutes — running the eighth fastest pace in terms of seconds per game in the first half (27.38). That early urgency in and out of the huddle could break the Steel Curtain before halftime.

Cleveland is No. 2 in 1H Offense DVOA at Football Outsiders, and while the Steelers rank out No. 3 in terms of 1H Defensive DVOA, Pittsburgh is in a tougher spot given the defense's workload, playing on the road on a short week, and a complementary offense that ranks second worst in first downs. The Steelers own a success rate of just 38.7% through two weeks, including a 37.9% rate in the opening half.

With the spread climbing, perhaps last Sunday’s shenanigans scare away Browns bettors on the full-game spread, but I’m comfortable laying Cleveland -3 at home in the opening 30 minutes.

My best bet: Browns first half -3 (-110 at bet365)

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Steelers vs Browns betting preview

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Spread analysis Over/Under analysis Trend to know Game info Injuries Weather

Spread analysis

The lookahead line for this classic rivalry was set at Cleveland -4 after news of Deshaun Watson’s suspension in the summer. The spread re-opened as low as Browns -3.5 on Sunday night in the wake of Cleveland’s collapse to the Jets.

Cleveland had that game in hand, but a late score from Nick Chubb — instead of taking a knee and running out the clock — left the window open for New York. The Jets would score and recover an onside kick before the go-ahead touchdown with 22 seconds remaining. It was a miracle finish that doesn’t reflect how dominant the Browns were in the other 58 minutes of play.

Cleveland has also received better than expected QB play from veteran Jacoby Brissett, who finished Week 2 with 229 yards on 22 of 27 passing — an average of 8.5 yards per attempt. That’s far better than what we’ve seen from Trubisky, who’s picking up just over five yards per pass to start 2022.

That opinion has fueled early action on this game and pro betting groups grabbed the shorter spread Monday — bumping Cleveland from -3.5 to as high as -5.5 in the first 48 hours of action. There are some injuries to the Browns' defensive line, which is keeping some markets as low as -4.5 and -5.

This line move goes against what some sportsbook operators are reporting in terms of splits. DraftKings has taken 73% of bets and 72% of its early money on Pittsburgh as a road underdog — as it seems the public has soured on the Browns — but sharp players are giving Cleveland the benefit of the doubt.

Over/Under analysis

The Over/Under total opened around 40 to 40.5 points and early play pounded the Under, driving this number down to as low as 38 points at some shops.

Both offenses are run centric, with the Browns handing off on almost 55% of snaps to start the year and the Steelers not only seeing poor passing production, but putting a lackluster offensive line up against a Cleveland pass rush that can get sacks without bringing extra blitzers.

Pittsburgh’s defense — despite being down All-Pro T.J. Watt — is still a force. The Steelers have allowed just 37 points in regulation through two games and sits No. 6 in EPA allowed per play while also tallying six takeaways (5 INT, 1 FFR).

In two meetings in 2021, with Ben Roethlisberger and Baker Mayfield under center (arguably better QBs), the Browns and Steelers faced closing totals of 43 and 43.5 points. The Under produced winners in each of those meetings, combining for just 25 and 40 points.

Steelers vs Browns betting trend to know

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is 9-5-1 SU at Cleveland during his tenure in the Steel City (since 2007), with those games finishing 5-10 Over/Under (66.7% Unders). Find more NFL betting trends for Steelers vs. Browns.

Steelers vs Browns game info

Location: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Date: Thursday, September 22, 2022
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: Amazon Prime Video

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Steelers vs Browns weather

Monitor gametime conditions with our live NFL weather info and learn how weather impacts NFL betting.

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