By Conor Perrett

For this week’s Thursday Night Football, we’re back without another division rival match-up as the Steelers and Browns meet to continue their AFC rivalry. 

When it comes to the AFC North these fixtures seem to hit differently when meeting each-other. These are meaner, ruthless, more violent games that just make you want to rip the quarterback’s helmet off and hit him with it and yes, Mason Rudolph and Myles Garrett are both playing this game.

Both teams enter this contest starting the season with one win and one loss and have had their struggles on the offensive side of the ball. However, we can be sure for both sides to step it up for a nationally-televised match and there could be fireworks in cold Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns

Defense-adjusted Value Over Average takes into account the quality of offensive opponents.

The Cleveland Browns are in a weird spot to start this season. They made the decision to move on from former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield, when they traded the house for Deshawn Watson.

On a talent basis that is an upgrade at the position, but when they made the move, knowing there would likely be a suspension hanging over his head, it begs the question on why the Browns were so quick to burn the bridge with Baker.

Now lucky for the Browns that suspension ended up only being 11 games, but it does mean journeyman Jacoby Brissett will lead the team during that span. Now Brissett is capable of showing flashes of magic at times, but his inconsistency is a prime reason for the Browns slow start on offence.

Browns Injury Report

Their doubleheader beast running-backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt still look as good as ever, and as they get offensive lineman Jack Conklin back from injury, there will be hope their influence grows. New receiver Amari Cooper will be looking to put another game together like he did against the Jets last Sunday where he had nine receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. It won’t be as easy against a good Steelers’ defence.

It was easy to predict the Browns offensive struggle with the current predicament at quarterback, but it was strange to see their defence start that way as well. Granted edge-rusher Clowney is down with an ankle injury, but there are still stars at all three levels, and if there’s no obvious improvement against a Mitch Trubisky led offence, it might be time to start panicking.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Defense-adjusted Value Over Average takes into account the quality of offensive opponents.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been consistently good in recent years. They are rarely bad, and rarely great, but they are always good. In my early days of watching football, I was always harsh on Mike Tomlin, as I saw the trio he had on offence,  Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell, and was disappointed they never put together the Super Bowl run I expected. Especially when he was facing the Patriots dynasty.

Those three men have all since left, yet they still put together the +0.500 record and playoff appearance every year. Credit to Tomlin to show that consistency, especially now when they lack the talent they once had. But it does ask the question, can they get to those heights again.

A reason for that consistency is the Steelers defence. Cameron Hayward and TJ Watt have been the pillars for years on the D-Line, and the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick a couple of years ago only added more talent. The loss of Watt to a pectoral injury for the season is the worst news Steelers fans could have heard, but as they enter a transition period on offence, it might allow them to take a year off with less pressure or expectation to their name.

Steelers Injury Report

They look to have their running back sorted with Najee Harris, and have some nice young pieces in the receiving room. But their question marks remain upfront on the offensive line and who first round pick Kenny Pickett could end up being. 

Currently Mitch Trubisky is the man at the helm of this offence. Trubisky never lived up to his draft pick expectations, and in a way is lucky to be starting in the league again. Which leads to the question, why is Pickett riding the bench and  watching on? 

Now this could be Tomlin playing the long game, allowing his rookie QB to gain experience and be comfortable for when he finally takes the field. We’ve seen this work perfectly for Mahomes and Lamar Jackson in their rookie seasons.

This probably is the reason and we will most likely see the rookie later rather than sooner. Pickett’s ceiling was always brought into question during the draft process, and if he can’t make the step up after this year, the Steelers could be looking once again to look for Big Ben’s replacement.

Previous Match-Ups in 2021

Week 8 – Steelers @ Browns – 15-10 Steelers win

Week 17 – Browns @ Steelers – 14-26 Steelers win

The Steelers had the Browns number last year winning both matches against their division rival. But in a new season, both teams now have new quarterbacks in the huddle, so could we be in for a different outcome?


Now I’m expecting a tight affair between the two sides as on paper both sides match up fairly evenly.

We’ve spoken about the quarterback mess for both sides, and it will hamper both at attempting to establish anything in the passing game. Something that does set them apart is the running game. The Browns have been much more dominant when it comes down to the ground, and getting a healthy Jack Conklin back will further help that cause. 

This Steelers defence is their strength and I expect them to give Brissett a hard time, and not allow him to continue that chemistry he and Cooper were finding last week. I worry how their offensive-line is going to be more efficient, especially in the red-zone.

I’m taking a gamble on this Browns defence to step up and figure things out. If the Steelers side can start fast and put a touchdown or two up in the first quarter, then we could be looking at a different game to what I predict.

I stand with this defence though and expect Myles Garrett to set the tone in this prime time event, with Chubb and Hunt tagging along with both finding the endzone.

Steelers 16, Browns 17

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