Steelers vs. Browns odds: Pittsburgh isn’t favored by nearly enough in Wild Card game

Joel Bitonio #75 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Joel Bitonio #75 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Pittsburgh nearly beat the Browns last week without some of their best players. Here’s why the Steelers should be bigger favorites for this playoff rematch.

There weren’t a lot of high expectations for the Steelers in their Week 17 matchup against the Browns. Though Cleveland was without a few players due to positive COVID-19 tests, Pittsburgh intentionally rested many of their best players, including Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, and Cameron Heyward.

But despite Mason Rudolph taking the reigns in the final game of the season, the Steelers nearly came away with the win – something they likely would have done had it not been for a second-half interception by Rudolph. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, they get a shot at redemption against the Browns this week in the Wild Card round of the playoffs – this time on their own turf. We would expect the Steelers to be heavy favorites after nearly upsetting the Browns on the road last week, but that is not the case at all.

Despite their best players returning to the lineup, the Steelers opened as just 3.5-point favorites against Cleveland this week, courtesy of The Action Network. This is much closer than I would have anticipated. Unsurprisingly, that line has since shifted to 6 points as of Tuesday afternoon.

Steelers should be much bigger favorites

While Vegas has the Steelers winning in the first round of the playoffs, it’s almost insulting that they were only initially favored by just over a field goal. Though Pittsburgh hasn’t exactly played perfect football as of late, they owned Cleveland the first time around – embarrassing the Browns in a 38-7 blowout. In addition, Ben Roethlisberger strung together arguably his best second-half of the season in Week 16 against the Colts as he finished the game with 341 yards and 3 touchdowns in the comeback win.

However, the biggest reason why the Steelers should be favorited in this game is because of the difference in talent level that will be on the field on Sunday night. While the Steelers have since lost Devin Bush and Bud Dupree for the season prior their last contest, the Browns have a laundry list of players and personnel who have been placed on the Reserve/Covid list, including head coach, Kevin Stefanski.

This list got even larger when it was reported on Tuesday that 3-time Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio will miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19. To make matters worse, it has been confirmed that former Pro Bowl edge defender, Olivier Vernon, suffered a ruptured Achilles in Cleveland’s win over the Steelers last week.

On the other sidelines, while Joe Haden is expected to miss Sunday’s playoff contest, Roethlisberger, Heyward, Watt, and Maurkice Pouncey are all set to return this week after some much-needed time off.

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Assuming this game goes on as scheduled, the Steelers should realistically be two-score favorites over Cleveland when it’s all said and done. However, we just need to hope that they come away with the win and stay healthy for the second round of the playoffs.