After losing four of their first five games, the Pittsburgh Steelers have saved their season by putting together a four-game winning streak. There’s a very good chance the team will keep rolling when they visit the Cleveland Browns in Week 11.
The AFC North rivals will kick off the upcoming NFL schedule when they meet on “Thursday Night Football.” Pittsburgh is still alive in the divisional race, trailing the first-place Baltimore Ravens by two games. Cleveland is a long shot to compete for a playoff spot, let alone make a run at the AFC North title.
Despite their losing record, the Browns are favored in Week 11. The Steelers are getting 2.5 points on the road, according to the early betting line at OddsShark. The over/under is 40.
Cleveland narrowly beat the Buffalo Bills 19-16 Sunday to improved their record to 3-6. The point spread indicates that the Browns are virtually as good as the Steelers, who are two games ahead of Cleveland in the standings.
Pittsburgh also escaped Week 10 with a narrow win at home. The Steelers held off the Los Angeles Rams 17-12 behind another terrific performance from their defense.
It’s a defense that is undoubtedly one of the NFL’s best. The Steelers rank sixth in opponents’ yards per play and 10th in scoring defense. Pittsburgh has given up an average of 15.5 points in regulation over its last six games.
The Steelers are second in the league with 26 takeaways. Minkah Fitzpatrick sealed Sunday’s victory with his fifth interception of the season, continuing to play like an All-Pro. Pittsburgh had a defensive touchdown for the third time in four games.
Mason Rudolph went 22-38 for 242 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. He hasn’t thrown for more than 251 yards in any start. The Steelers are winning games as he avoids making too many mistakes. That should continue to be the case against bad teams.
Even while beating a wild-card team, the Browns weren’t impressive. Cleveland tried to give Sunday’s game away, needing a late touchdown drive to avoid their seventh loss of the season.
The Browns have scored fewer than 20 points six times in 2019 and in four of their last five games. The Steelers have given up 24 points or fewer in regulation in seven straight games.
MVP candidate Lamar Jackson had his worst game of the season against Pittsburgh, throwing for 161 yards and three interceptions. Baker Mayfield’s turnover issues could be a problem, especially considering the Pittsburgh defensive line might largely dominate a mediocre Cleveland offensive line. The Steelers are second in the NFL with 33 sacks and opposing quarterbacks have an 82.8 passer rating.
Kareem Hunt is now playing for the Browns, giving Cleveland one of the best backfields in football. Hunt and Nick Chubb ran the ball 24 times for 146 yards Sunday. Pittsburgh ranks seventh, allowing 3.9 yards per rush.
Running back James Conner is expected to return from an injury Thursday night after missing two games.
Freddie Kitchens hasn’t proven to be a good head coach, and that is putting it kindly. Mike Tomlin gives Pittsburgh a clear coaching edge.
That could be a major factor in what’s likely to be a close, low-scoring affair.
Prediction: Pittsburgh over Cleveland, 20-17