Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) at Cleveland Browns (2-8)
Charlie Batch will start this one for the Steelers. He should have started against the Ravens to begin with. He’s always been a solid backup quarterback who can win games when Ben Roethlisberger is hurt (5-2 SU and 5-2 ATS since joining the Steelers). I think he’s a better quarterback than Byron Leftwich. He’s also a better fit for Todd Haley’s quick throw, timing based offense.
He certainly should have come into the game when Byron Leftwich got hurt. Leftwich’s injury made him even more limited as a quarterback and as a result they lost. Batch probably would have been able to convert that 7-0 lead into a victory given how their defense was playing. Either way, the Steelers are definitely in better hands with Charlie Batch under center this week.
Even with Leftwich playing hurt, the Steelers almost knocked off the Ravens, only losing by 3. They outgained them by over 100 yards, but lost the turnover battle 2-0 and allowed a special teams touchdown. Even with the mere 3 point loss, the Steelers improved to 10-4 ATS without Ben Roethlisberger since he took over as the starter in week 3 of 2004.
This week, the Steelers get another familiar foe, the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are in a really bad spot this week after coming so close, but losing to the Cowboys in overtime last week. Excluding road dogs, teams are 18-46 ATS off a road overtime loss (6-14 ATS as home dogs) since 2002. They’ll be exhausted this week for a still tough Steeler team. Since the divisions realigned in 2002, the Browns have won 2 games against the Steelers (out of 21) and have only once been favored or dogs of 1 (they didn’t cover).
Even without Roethlisberger, the Steelers should be able to improve to 20-2 against the Browns as the Browns aren’t a noticeably improved team this year as opposed to the past decade and the Steelers always still play tough without Roethlisberger. Besides, Brandon Weeden will probably be a sitting duck this week against Dick LeBeau’s complex defensive scheme. Dick LeBeau is 17-1 all time against rookie starting quarterbacks, including a blowout victory this season over Robert Griffin III. Weeden is no RGIII.
The only reason this isn’t a bigger play on the Steelers is because this is a sandwich game for them. Teams are 58-81 ATS as favorites after a loss as dogs and before being dogs since 2008. The Steelers lost against Baltimore last week, now are favorites, and then go to Baltimore next week. When all 3 games are divisional, teams are 0-3 ATS in that time period (it doesn’t happen very often) and if we go back to 1989 to get a bigger sample size, the trend is 13-22 ATS.
The logic behind that is that the Steelers have just played a tough game, lost, and now have another tough game next week. They might overlook the lowly Browns and see this as an easy win to get themselves back on the right track before a tough game and get caught off guard. That being said, they are only 1 point favorites and it’s unlikely they overlook the Browns given that they are still playing without their starting quarterback. Besides, Mike Tomlin is 17-10 ATS off a loss, including 5-3 ATS as favorites off a loss as dogs, since taking over in 2007. It’s 3 units on the Steelers and it would have been 4 or 5 if they were dogs and they weren’t publicly backed (as I’ve mentioned, the odds makers have had a rough 3 week stretch and are due for a big week).
Public lean: Pittsburgh (70% range)
Sharps lean: PIT 6 CLE 5
Final update: No change.
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Cleveland Browns 13
Pick against spread: Pittsburgh -1 (-110) 3 units