Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Pick & Prediction JANUARY 8th 2023

Stadium: Heinz Field Pittsburgh
Logo Cleveland Browns
Logo Pittsburgh Steelers

41o -105
-2.5 -117



The Pittsburgh Steelers have been overcoming the opposition in each of the last three weeks in order to keep their flickering postseason aspirations alive.

On Sunday, the Steelers (8-8) will need to either defeat or tie the visiting Cleveland Browns (7-9) and receive a bit of help in the process in order to reach the playoffs for the third straight season.

In addition to a win, Pittsburgh also will need a loss or a tie by both the New England Patriots (to the Buffalo Bills) and the Miami Dolphins (to the New York Jets) to qualify for the postseason. Should the Steelers tie the Browns, they'd need losses by both the Patriots and Dolphins.

Pittsburgh's primary focus rests on defeating the Browns, and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett likely will need to step up in order to have a hand in that. Pickett has paid modest dividends since assuming the starter's role from Mitchell Trubisky.

"I think it's reasonable to expect a sharp, hardworking, talented guy to get better with each exposure," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "and particularly to do so rapidly at the initial stages of gaining experience."

Pickett tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris with 56 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to lift Pittsburgh to a 16-13 victory over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday. While unspectacular, Pickett has refrained from throwing an interception in six of his past seven starts.

"I want to be that guy that these guys can rely on and they know exactly what they're getting every day," Pickett said. "So, I'm going to continue to work on that."

Harris erupted for a season-high 123 scrimmage yards (111 rushing, 12 receiving) versus the Ravens. He has rushed for a touchdown in each of his three career games versus Cleveland.

Harris, however, did not participate in Wednesday's practice, albeit for non-injury/rest purposes. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson (hip), safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (ankle), defensive back Tre Norwood (hamstring), cornerback Arthur Maulet (illness), linebacker Myles Jack (groin) and offensive lineman Kevin Dotson (shoulder) also did not practice on Wednesday.

Like Pickett, Cleveland's Deshaun Watson was not under center for the teams' first encounter -- a 29-17 victory by the Browns on Sept. 22. While Pickett was being taken along slowly since being selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Watson was serving an 11-game NFL suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.

Watson has struggled to get back on track after a pronounced absence, guiding Cleveland's offense to just three total touchdowns in his first 18 quarters. In the second half on Sunday, however, Watson tossed a season-high three touchdown passes in a 24-10 win over the Washington Commanders.

"Each week has been an opportunity for me to build my confidence and get back in that rhythm," Watson said. "Each week has been a stepping-stone we've been -- I've been -- able to check off the box of what we want to improve and, you know, get ready for the next season."

Running back Nick Chubb rushed for 113 yards in the teams' first meeting. He sits 52 yards shy of joining Hall of Famer Jim Brown as the only players in franchise history with 1,500-plus rush yards in a single season.

Led by Chubb, Cleveland has rushed for 147.3 yards per game -- sixth-best in the NFL. Pittsburgh, however, sports the league's seventh-stingiest rush defense (106.5).

Amari Cooper had two touchdown receptions last week and also reeled in a scoring strike in the previous meeting with Pittsburgh.

Cooper, however, joined guard Joel Bitonio, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and defensive end Myles Garrett in sitting out Wednesday's practice due to rest purposes. Tackle Jack Conklin (ankle), running back D'Ernest Johnson (shoulder) and cornerback Denzel Ward (shoulder) also did not participate in practice.

--Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Recap JAN 8TH 2023

Najee Harris rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 28-14 home win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Because of the Miami Dolphins' win over the New York Jets, Pittsburgh (9-8) was still eliminated from playoff contention.

Kenny Pickett completed 13 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown for the Steelers, who won their final four games to avoid their first losing season under coach Mike Tomlin.

Deshaun Watson went 19-of-29 passing for 230 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Cleveland (7-10).

Pittsburgh drove 75 yards in 14 plays and took a 28-14 lead with 4:37 remaining following a 1-yard touchdown run by Derek Watt and a two-point conversion pass from Pickett to Diontae Johnson.

The game was scoreless until 6:27 remaining in the second quarter, when the Browns took a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Watson to David Njoku to cap off a 10-play, 71-yard drive.

Pittsburgh countered late in the second, tying the game at 7-7 with 1:47 before halftime on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to George Pickens.

Levi Wallace then intercepted Watson at the Pittsburgh 41-yard line, and the Steelers drove to set up a 49-yard field goal by Chris Boswell for a 10-7 lead with 38 seconds to go.

On the first drive of the second half, Pittsburgh drove the field and had a first down at the Cleveland 11-yard line, but the drive stalled. Boswell came on to hit a 34-yard field goal with 9:04 left in the third to give the Steelers a 13-7 lead.

Following an interception by Damontae Kazee that gave the Steelers the ball at the Cleveland 25-yard line, the Steelers took advantage of the good field position and took a 20-7 lead with 3:12 left in the third on a 4-yard touchdown run by Harris.

Cleveland cut Pittsburgh's lead to 20-14 with 10:20 left in the game on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Nick Chubb, which completed a 7-play, 77-yard drive.

--Field Level Media