Armed with arguably the best defense in the NFL this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers begin their playoff journey on Sunday evening. The Steelers will host the Cleveland Browns in a contest between long-time AFC North rivals. The Steelers and Browns split a pair of regular season meetings, with the Steelers winning the first battle and the Browns prevailing in Week 17. Pittsburgh finished the regular season at 12-4, with Cleveland at 11-5.
Kick-off is set for 8:15 p.m. ET. William Hill Sportsbook lists Pittsburgh as a 5.5-point home favorite, while the over-under sits at 48 in the latest Browns vs. Steelers odds. Before you make any Steelers vs. Browns picks and NFL predictions, see what SportsLine's advanced computer model has to say.
The model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times, is up almost $7,900 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception five-plus years ago. It is a sizzling 23-13 on top-rated NFL picks this season, returning well over $800. The model also enters the 2021 NFL Playoffs on an incredible 119-77 run on top-rated NFL picks that dates back to the 2017 season.
The model ranked in the Top 10 on NFLPickWatch three of the past four years on straight-up NFL picks and beat more than 95 percent of CBS Sports office pool players three times during that span. Anyone who has followed it is way up.
- Browns vs. Steelers spread: Steelers -5.5
- Browns vs. Steelers over-under: 48 points
- Browns vs. Steelers money line: Steelers -260, Browns +220
- CLE: Browns are 3-5 against the spread in road games
- PIT: Steelers are 5-3 against the spread in home games
Why the Browns can cover
The Browns have some advantages in this matchup on the defensive side, particularly with Pittsburgh's recent struggles to move the ball offensively. However, Cleveland also has real talent offensively, and the Browns have the ability to generate efficient offense against the stout Pittsburgh defense.
The Browns were a top-five rushing team in the league this season, averaging 148.4 yards per game with 21 rushing touchdowns, and Nick Chubb finished in the top seven of the league in rushing yards (1,067), rushing yards per game (88.9), yards per carry (5.6) and rushing touchdowns (12).
Cleveland also has an elite complementary back in Kareem Hunt, with 841 rushing yards and six touchdowns in his own right. Through the air, Baker Mayfield took care of the ball at a solid level this season, and Jarvis Landry is a proven pass catcher, leading the team with 72 catches for 840 yards in limited deployment.
Why the Steelers can cover
Defense and special teams often come to the forefront in the NFL, and Pittsburgh is excellent in both areas. The Steelers led the league in sacks (56), passer rating allowed (76.7), interceptions (18) and completion percentage allowed (56.7 percent) this season, and their success went beyond that. The Steelers were also a top-five unit in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense, yards per pass attempt allowed and passing touchdowns allowed.
Pittsburgh is adept at getting off the field on third down, allowing opponents to convert just 37.4 percent of the time, and when they do, Pittsburgh's special teams take care of business. Ray-Ray McCloud is a top-10 player in both punt and kick return yardage, finishing fourth in the regular season with 944 total return yards. Chris Boswell is also a tremendous kicker, making 95 percent of his field goals this season.
How to make Browns vs. Steelers picks
SportsLine's model is leaning Under on the total, with the Steelers projected to rush for fewer than 100 yards and the Browns projected to throw nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns. The model also says one side of the spread hits in well over 50 percent of simulations. You can only see who to back here.
So who wins Steelers vs. Browns in the NFL Playoffs 2021? And which side of the spread hits in well over 50 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to find out which side of the Steelers vs. Browns spread you need to jump on Sunday, all from the model that's 119-77 on NFL picks, and find out.