#319 Cleveland Brownsvs.#320 Pittsburgh Steelers
Written by Ricky Dimon
Cleveland Browns (1-14 SU, 3-12 ATS, 7-8 O/U) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5 SU, 9-6 ATS, 5-10 O/U)
NFL: Sunday, January 1, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST
The Line: Pittsburgh Steelers -7. Total: 44.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have clinched the AFC North as they head into a home date with the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. Pittsburgh locked up the division with a comeback victory over Baltimore on Christmas Day. The Browns avoided going 0-16–or even 0-15–by securing their first win of the season with a defeat of San Diego last weekend.
Cleveland is in the midst of a one-game winning streak for the first time this entire season. That’s right–the Browns won a game last week. They knocked off the Chargers 20-17 after San Diego kicker Josh Lambo missed two potential tying field goals in the final four minutes (one was blocked). Cleveland rushed for 124 yards as a team and running back Isaiah Crowell scored both of the team’s touchdowns.
“I cried like a baby with him to be very honest with you,” head coach Hue Jackson said on Monday. “That was probably one of the moments that I will always remember in my coaching career watching a future Hall of Famer overcome with emotion because he knows how hard he has worked to help this young team and these players get this victory.”
“You can just tell what type of players we have on our team and the type of fight we have,” linebacker Christian Kirksey added. “I am definitely excited to get into this week. Pittsburgh week is a big week. I just know the guys will be ready to play.”
The Steelers have won six games in a row and their Week 16 come-from-behind victory over Baltimore allowed them to clinch the AFC North with one week to spare. They are also locked into the No. 3 seed, so they cannot improve to getting a first-round bye. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed a game earlier in the season after having meniscus surgery, while running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown have had recent seasons end prematurely. Those three offensive stars are logical candidates to take a seat for this contest and rest up for the playoffs. From the sound of things, that is the way Roethlisberger would have it.
“If we’ve got a spot and the three (seed) clinched up, (so) I think a lot of guys should get healthy,” Roethlisberger commented.
The Cleveland Browns are:
The Pittsburgh Steelers are:
The Steelers have nothing to play for. But now that the Browns suddenly have a win under the belts, they also have next to nothing at stake. Cleveland has avoided going winless, so where s the motivation? In fact, it would behoove Jackson’s team to lose in hopes of securing the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Even if Pittsburgh’s stars do not play, its backups may have more than enough to get past this particular opponent. The Browns are 6-20 ATS in their last 26 overall, 1-4 ATS in their last five on the road, and 1-10 ATS in their last 11 against winning opponents. Pittsburgh is 5-1 ATS in its last six overall, 4-1 ATS in its last five against the AFC, and 4-1 ATS in it last five following a win. Look for those trends to continue.
Roethlisberger sounds like has no desire to play this one and he could be joined on the sidelines by Bell and Brown. As for the Browns, Robert Griffin III led them–sort of–to a win but got banged up in the process. The under is 6-1 in the Browns’ last seven overall, 4-1 in their last five against the AFC, and 5-0 in their last five Week 17 outings. It is also 14-5 in the Steelers’ last 19 overall, 20-7-1 in their last 28 against the AFC, and 20-6 in their last 26 against losing opponents. Additionally, the under is 4-0 in the last four meetings between the two teams and 4-1 in Cleveland’s last five trips to Pittsburgh. Expect this one to stay under the total.
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A 2006 graduate of Davidson College, Ricky is a freelance sports writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has previously worked with various websites in the sports handicapping industry and is generally a fan of going with the hot hand while in most cases showing a willingness to take favorites and give the points. Beyond the four major sports, Ricky is an avid tennis fan—and writer—and covers the ATP Tour on a daily basis.