Browns vs. Steelers Week 18 Best Bets: Pittsburgh to Beat Cleveland Again

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Najee Harris #22 and Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate after scoring a touchdown reception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joe Sargent/Getty Images/AFP

NFL Pick: Steelers -2.5 (-110) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Steelers -2.5 (-110)
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The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) can extend to a 19th straight season without a losing record by beating the Cleveland Browns (7-9) at home this Sunday. Pittsburgh has finished ahead of Cleveland in the AFC standings in every season since 1990, but that streak is also at stake here should the Browns complete the season sweep.

The Steelers are riding a three-game winning streak into this one after Kenny Pickett led a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes for the second week in a row. The Browns also had some pivotal second-half touchdowns in a 24-10 win over the Commanders.

Pittsburgh needs a win here and losses by both the Patriots and Dolphins to claim the AFC’s final playoff spot. The Steelers overcame longer odds in Week 18 last year to get into the tournament. Can history repeat itself?

The Steelers are a 2.5-point home favorite with a total of 39 points at the NFL odds boards. We have a few predictions for this AFC North rivalry.

If you’re a Pittsburgh local, make sure to check out our guide on the best Pennsylvania betting sites.

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, January 8, 2023 – 01:00 PM EST at Acrisure Stadium

Week 3 Recap: Browns 29, Steelers 17

When these teams met in Cleveland on a Thursday night in Week 3, the starting quarterbacks were Mitch Trubisky and Jacoby Brissett. Things have obviously changed since, with rookie Kenny Pickett and veteran Deshaun Watson taking over those jobs.

But in Week 3, Trubisky had one of his better starts to a game before fading after halftime. This was the night when rookie wide receiver George Pickens made a name for himself with a spectacular one-handed catch as good as any we watched this season.

The Steelers led 14-13 at halftime but would add just a field goal in the second half. Brissett had a good game with 220 yards, and Nick Chubb rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown.

The Browns added a cheap fumble return touchdown on the final snap of the game after the Steelers tried to lateral the ball deep in their own end. It was the only turnover of the game.

Will Touchdowns Be Limited Again?

These teams are not exactly scoring in bunches these days. Watson led the Browns to three offensive touchdown drives in his first 18 quarters with the team before finally getting the job done for three scores after halftime in Washington. The Commanders had some pretty terrible coverage of Amari Cooper, but Pittsburgh’s defense is going to have to do a better job against him this time too.

Meanwhile, the Steelers are basically getting one great game-winning touchdown drive per game out of Pickett and the offense over the last two weeks. But you tend to expect that in very cold weather against the Raiders and a typical Steelers-Ravens game.

The Offenses

With the Browns, there may be some more flexibility on offense, though these teams played games that ended 15-10 and 26-14 last season.

The Steelers also have T.J. Watt back on defense, and his absence in that Week 3 loss was significant. Watt was looking like his old self again against the Ravens in Baltimore last Sunday.

By switching from Trubisky to Pickett, the Steelers are getting fewer turnovers from the rookie since the bye week, and he is coming through in crunch time and on third downs for them. The defense is also vastly improved with Watt’s return, and you have to say the Browns are not getting better play in any way from Watson over Brissett.

The under looks like a good pick for this one, another AFC slugfest.

NFL Pick: Under 39 (-110) at Bovada

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Under 39 (-110)
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Diontae Johnson: Last Dance, Last Chance

While we really started to get to know rookie George Pickens against the Browns in Week 3, Diontae Johnson is still the No. 1 wide receiver in Pittsburgh. But he is down to one last game to avoid some dubious history for this 2022 season.

Johnson has still not caught a touchdown this season despite having the most targets, catches, and receiving yards on the roster. Only four of Pittsburgh’s 11 touchdown passes this season have gone to wide receivers, but Johnson is shockingly not one of them.

Beyond that, his scoreless season is in record territory for NFL history.

  • Target data has been available since 1992, and Johnson already has the most targets (137) without a touchdown catch of anyone in that time. The next closest season is 109 targets by Michael Timpson on the 1996 Bears.
  • Johnson’s 84 catches without a touchdown only trail James Wilder (85), a running back on the 1984 Buccaneers, for the most in a season in NFL history.
  • With 844 receiving yards, Johnson needs just 56 more yards to become the second receiver in NFL history to have 900 yards and zero touchdown catches in a season. Al Toon had 963 yards for the 1991 Jets.

It is not like Johnson has not had scoring opportunities this year. He arguably even dropped a touchdown already this year. But with the Steelers well aware of this fact, look for him to get a chance at a score here with Pickens starting to draw the attention in the red zone.

NFL Pick: Diontae Johnson Anytime Touchdown Scorer (+210) at Bovada

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Diontae Johnson Anytime Touchdown Scorer (+210)
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Browns-Steelers Best Bets and Prediction

The Steelers are not explosive enough on offense to run away with a game, so you automatically assume things will be close again. But with Watson’s struggles at quarterback and the way he takes bad sacks at times, this should be a good matchup for Watt and the Pittsburgh defense to hold another offense under 20 points.

Chubb is a great running back, but he has been held out of the end zone since Watson took over, and the Steelers have usually done a good job of containing him, especially in Pittsburgh where he’s never broken 80 yards on the ground.

If Pickett can continue avoiding the turnovers, then the Steelers should have enough to get by and cover this spread to complete another winning season for your NFL picks, doing the unthinkable after a 2-6 start. They even could have a shot at the playoffs for Mike Tomlin once again.

Score Prediction: Steelers 20 - Browns 17

NFL Pick: Steelers -2.5 (-110) at Bovada

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.