Steelers overwhelmingly favored by experts against Browns in playoffs

Chase Claypool #11 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Chase Claypool #11 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Steelers get a rematch against the Browns this week. Here’s why experts are jumping on the Pittsburgh bandwagon this week.

It doesn’t seem to happen often that the team you play in the final week of the season also happens to be your first opponent in the playoffs just one week later. The Browns were at the mercy of the Steelers in Week 17, as they required a win to enter the tournament. Apparently, this didn’t bother Pittsburgh very much. Clearly, it was more important for them to rest a handful of their most important players rather than stick it to Cleveland and avoid getting matched up against them in round one.

Surprisingly, Mike Tomlin’s team came remarkably close to securing a win last week, despite being without Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden, and Terrell Edmunds. Mason Rudolph performed quite well in Ben’s absence against an underwhelming Browns defense.

Now nearly at full strength, the Pittsburgh Steelers clearly hold the upper hand in this home postseason contest, and the experts know that. According to NFL Pickwatch, 86 percent of experts around the football world believe Tomlin’s team will prevail in the Wild Card round this week.

Why the Steelers are easy favorites

Despite finishing as two-score underdogs in Week 17, oddsmakers made an abrupt shift earlier this week. Clearly, the Steelers didn’t have much to play for in the final game of the season, and the fact that Pittsburgh was willingly resting so many players was reason enough to make the Browns heavy favorites. This week, however, the opposite has happened. Though Pittsburgh opened the week as just 3.5-point favorites, courtesy of The Action Network, that line has since shifted to 6 points as of Friday afternoon.

When you really think about it, it’s not that hard to see why an overwhelming number of experts are believing in the Steelers this week. Despite a defense that was without their best player as well as a handful of other Pro Bowl-caliber players, the Browns managed to put up just 24 points in Clevland last week. While we can’t expect Pittsburgh to hold their opponent under 24 points every week, there is reason to believe they could very well do so this week with their best players returning to the field.

Offensively, Rudolph played arguably the best contest of his career. However, a playoff Ben Roethlisberger is still more trustworthy against a lackluster defense, and I expect that he should be able to muster up more than just 22 points like they saw a week ago.

Perhaps the biggest reason why experts are taking the Steelers, however, is because they will be without numerous players and personnel this week due to positive COVID-19 tests. Their biggest loss has to be not having head coach, Kevin Stefanski, on the sidelines this week in a crucial playoff contest.

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The Steelers have been here many times before and both Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin are very familiar with the playoff stage. Though they haven’t had things all together in 2020 (particularly on offense), it would be unwise to bet against Pittsburgh against the Browns this week.