The Cleveland Browns are still holding out hope of making a run at a postseason berth and they need look no further than their upcoming opponent to believe it is possible. The Pittsburgh Steelers shrugged off a 1-4 start to surge into playoff contention and will take a four-game winning streak into Thursday night's road matchup against the Browns.}
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The Steelers are currently holding down the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC despite losing starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1, but their defense has stepped up and scored in three of the past four games. "They are playing like the '85 (Chicago) Bears," backup quarterback Mason Rudolph said of his defense following Sunday's 17-12 win over the Los Angeles Rams. "It seems like, every week, forcing turnovers every other series, it seems like." Cleveland ended a four-game slide by beating Buffalo for its first home win of the season, but Thursday's matchup against a bitter AFC North rival is a must-win affair to keep its playoff hopes alive. "We needed to have that. Moving forward, we know that we can do that," quarterback Baker Mayfield said after tossing the winning touchdown pass with under two minutes remaining. "That goes a long way mentally for everybody in our locker room, but it's a singular focus. We're going to enjoy this win, but it's a short week. We're onto the Steelers."
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Browns -2.5 O/U: 40
ABOUT THE STEELERS (5-4): Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has made an enormous impact on Pittsburgh's defense since he was acquired from Miami in mid-September, returning a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown on Sunday and bringing back an interception 96 yards for a score in the previous week's two-point win over Indianapolis. "The ball seems to find him," Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said of Fitzpatrick, who is responsible for forcing eight of the team's 26 turnovers despite appearing in seven games. The Steelers are hoping for the return of running back James Conner, who missed the past two games (shoulder) but gouged Cleveland for 281 yards rushing and four touchdowns last season. His presence can only help Rudolph, who is averaging only 190 yards passing.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (3-6): One of the few constants for Cleveland has been the effectiveness of the running game behind Nick Chubb, who is third in the NFL with 919 yards rushing and eclipsed 100 yards for the fourth time in six games last week. Joining the backfield mix last Sunday after serving an eight-game suspension was former Kansas City star running back Kareem Hunt, a former 1,000-yard rusher who picked up 30 yards on the ground and added seven receptions for 44 yards in his season debut. Mayfield did not commit a turnover for the second straight week and had his first game with multiple scoring passes on Sunday, including one to Jarvis Landry, who had nine catches for 97 yards. The Browns are giving up an average of 134.9 yards rushing.
1. Chubb is seeking his ninth straight game with at least 90 yards from scrimmage.
2. Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster had five catches for 119 yards in his only game at Cleveland.
3. Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. has at least five catches in four straight games but has not scored since Week 2.
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