While this week’s AFC North matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns represents a matchup of the bottom-dwellers in the division, both teams are still alive in the AFC playoff hunt.
The Browns sit at 4-3 after losing two of their last three games and face a potential second consecutive week with their second-string quarterback at the helm. Despite having to rely on Case Keenum’s backup arm, the Browns were able to come out of last week’s Thursday night game against the Broncos with the win — in large part because of D’Ernest Johnson’s huge game.
The Steelers come off their bye week sitting at 3-3 and eyeing a potential playoff spot in a crowded AFC landscape. Ben Roethlisberger has yet to find the fountain of youth this season, but the Steelers have been able to rely on Najee Harris to carry the load.
Let’s take a look at how each team’s recent trajectory and injuries will play into this matchup in the NFL pick of the day series.
Please note that all odds and lines are current as of Friday, October 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Nick Raducanu’s 2021 NFL Team vs Team Betting Record: 6-1, + 5 Units
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Steelers vs Browns Prediction
Baker Mayfield is listed as questionable as of Friday, but Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski also hasn’t ruled out placing Mayfield on injured reserve, so it seems safe to say we’re likely looking at another week of Keenum at the helm for the Browns here, which is reflected in the NFL gameday odds.
While Keenum is one of the better backups in the league (low bar), he’s playing with a very limited set of pass catchers and will likely struggle to throw for much more than last week’s 199 passing yard total.
Cleveland will likely get Nick Chubb back this week, so we should see the Browns again rely on their rushing attack as they attempt to pull off back-to-back home wins. The Steelers have a strong run defense, but we should still see a healthy dose of Chubb and Johnson this week.
While Big Ben has only topped 300 yards once in six games this season, Harris has gone over 100 yards from scrimmage in three of his past four games. The rookie has served as a fantastic pass-catcher over his last few games and has been able to provide a safety valve for Roethlisberger’s…veteran…arm.
Roethlisberger remains without JuJu Smith-Schuster (out for season), but he still has Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth at his disposal. I don’t think we’ll see Big Ben slinging it all over the field, but I think he has enough weapons to take advantage of a Browns defense that is worse against the pass than they are the run.
As we do with most AFC North division battles, we’re likely to see another slug-fest this week. However, the Browns have a tall task with Keenum at the helm, and I think the Steelers take this one on the road.
Prediction: Steelers 23, Browns 13
Browns vs Steelers Bet Bets
Best Bet: Steelers +3.5 (-110) at Betway
Wager: 1 Unit
The Browns are at home, but they’ve also lost two of their last three and are facing a Steelers team that is on the upswing and coming off a bye week. Cleveland could pull this one out, but I don’t think it’s by more than a field goal if they do, so I think they’ll have tough time covering this spread.
The Steelers offense has started to look a lot better as Harris has gotten his feet wet over the last few weeks, and they should be able to, at the very least, keep things close against a stout Browns defense — if not pull off the outright win (more on that in a second).
Best Bet: Steelers Moneyline (+170) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
The Browns are getting four points at home, which more or less makes this a push. And with the odds we’re getting here, I think the Steelers provide solid value in regards to the likelihood that they pull off an “upset” against the Browns and their backup quarterback.
The Browns have a good defense, but they’re going to need to focus on stopping Harris, which should open things up for Big Ben and the Steelers receivers to do some damage.
Despite the return of Chubb this week and Jarvis Landry last week, Cleveland’s offense lacks the firepower to put up a high point total (more on that in a second) so there’s a good chance the Steelers put this one out of reach for Keenum and Co.
Best Bet: Under 42 Total Points (-110) at Betway
Wager: 1 Unit
Intra-divisional battles are always unpredictable, but AFC North battles have generally been low-scoring affairs of late. With both teams likely relying on the run quite a bit in this one (especially the Browns by necessity), we’re likely to see upwards of 30 rushing attempts by each team.
That type of game script is going to keep the clock running and will cut down on the amount of overall plays — not to mention limit big plays. While the Browns scored 42 points against the Chargers three weeks ago, they’ve had point totals of 14, 14, and 17 in the three of their other four previous games.
I have a hard time seeing how they score much more than that this week against a good Steelers defense, making this our NFL bet of the day.
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