Cheat Sheet: Steelers vs. Browns

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

  • TV coverage: Broadcast nationally on CBS (KDKA-TV locally in Pittsburgh).
  • Steelers Radio Network - Game coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. ET; Pregame programming begins at 9:00 a.m.; Postgame coverage starts immediately following the game.
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INJURY UPDATE

The Steelers are back at home as they face the Browns at Acrisure Stadium.
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The Steelers prepare for the Week 18 matchup against the Cleveland Browns

SERIES HISTORY

This great series started in 1950. Pittsburgh leads this series 77-61-1 after losing in Cleveland in Week 3. The Steelers did sweep Cleveland last year. The Browns won the first eight meetings and 16 of the first 18 games these two teams played. In fact, of the first 41 games, the Browns won 32. But then the 1970s arrived and the tides drastically turned. There was a stretch from Dec., 1972 until Oct., 1983 that Pittsburgh was victorious in 18 of 22 games. Cleveland then won 10 of the next 12. During a 50-game period between Jan. 1994 to Oct. 2020, Pittsburgh had winning streaks of seven, six, 12, 4, 4 and 8 games. In those 50 games, Cleveland won just seven times and lost both playoff games. The Browns and Steelers have surprisingly only played three playoff games. Pittsburgh has won two of them. The Steelers lost the most recent matchup to finish their 2020 season. Kevin Stefanski is 3-3 against Pittsburgh, while Mike Tomlin is 24-7-1 against the Browns.

MATCHUP OVERVIEW

  • At 8-8, Pittsburgh is one game ahead of the Browns in the AFC North. The Steelers are 3-4 at home this year, while Cleveland is 3-5 on the road. Within the division, Pittsburgh is 2-3 compared to 3-2 for the Browns. Within the AFC, both teams are 4-7. The Browns have been outscored by six points this year while Pittsburgh is minus-52 in point differential. However, since their Week 9 bye, the Steelers have outscored their opponents by 25 points and are 6-2 over that stretch. Over the Browns' last eight games, their point differential is minus-7.
  • Pittsburgh's offense averages 4.9 yards per play. Cleveland averages 5.3, but just 4.5 over its past three games. The Browns defense gives up 5.4 yards per play compared to 5.5 by Pittsburgh, but the Steelers are yielding just 4.5 yards per play over their past three games.
  • When these teams met in Week 3, Pittsburgh possessed the ball for just 23:51. Last week, the Browns held the ball for just 26:28. For the season, the Steelers possess the ball for 31:19 on average. The Browns are one of the few teams better at 31:43. However, over the most recent three games, Cleveland has possessed the ball for 30:07, compared to 34:21 for the Steelers.
  • Last week, Kenny Pickett became the first rookie quarterback to throw a game-winning touchdown pass with less than one minute in the fourth quarter in back-to-back games. He has led four game winning drives since Week 10, the most of any NFL quarterback during that time.
  • The Steelers are now plus-3 in turnover differential, while Cleveland has given the ball away as many times as it has caused a turnover. The Browns' 19 takeaways are better than only nine teams. Cleveland's defense did intercept Carson Wentz three times last week, giving it 11 for the season. The Steelers' 18 interceptions lead the NFL. Pittsburgh has given the ball away 18 times compared to 19 by the Browns. Just six offenses have 17 or fewer giveaways.
  • In terms of penalty yards per game, Pittsburgh is 10th best at 43.2, while the Browns rank 22nd committing 50 yards of penalties per game on average.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing an average of just 16.9 points per game since the Week 9 bye.
  • In terms of yards per route run, Amari Cooper comes in at 2.11 and Donovan Peoples-Jones produces 1.5 yards every time he runs a route. Diontae Johnson comes in at 1.44 and George Pickens at 1.32. At tight end, Pat Freiermuth is at 1.76 and David Njoku at 1.61. Freiermuth and Njoku each align in the slot 35 percent of their snaps.
  • Over the last three seasons in games in which T.J. Watt has played at least 60 percent of the snaps, Pittsburgh's record is 28-7. The Steelers are 1-12-1 in the others.

WHEN PITTSBURGH HAS THE BALL

  • Since the Week 9 bye, Pittsburgh's offense is 7th in EPA just behind the Bengals and one spot ahead of Buffalo. During that timeframe, Pittsburgh is ninth in EPA per drop back and third in rushing EPA.
  • Cleveland's defense comes in at 22nd in EPA. The Browns are eighth in defensive EPA per drop back and dead last in EPA against the run.
  • Kenny Pickett hasn't thrown an interception in six of his last seven starts. Pickett has yet to throw an interception against an AFC North foe. Last week against the Ravens, Pickett attempted just four of his 27 passes in between the numbers. He did complete three of those four attempts for 42 yards.
  • Diontae Johnson caught eight passes for 84 yards against the Browns earlier in the year and was targeted 11 times in that game. For the year, Johnson has run a route on 97 percent of the Steelers' drop backs. He has a 27 percent target share.
  • Pickens has run a route on 91 percent of the Steelers' drop backs. His 729 receiving yards is fourth among NFL rookies.
  • Two tight ends in NFL history have 60 or more catches in each of their first two seasons in the league: Pat Freiermuth and Keith Jackson. Freiermuth has run a route on 88 percent and 93 percent of the Steelers' drop backs the past two weeks.
  • Myles Garrett's 15 sacks ranks fourth in the NFL. No other Browns player has more than three sacks. Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney played every third and fourth down snap last week. Garrett has a sack and a half or more in three of his most recent four games. He needs a sack in a half in this upcoming game to become the eighth player in history (including T.J. Watt) to have recorded 75 or more sacks in their first six seasons since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
  • The Browns defense sees the sixth-highest percentage of run plays.
  • The Steelers rushed for 198 yards in Baltimore last week. In the eight games leading up to that matchup, the Ravens had allowed a total of 577 yards on the ground, an average of just 72.1 per game.
  • Jaylen Warren got double-digit carries last week for the second time in three weeks. And in both of those games, Najee Harris had 20 or more carries. Since the Week 9 bye, Harris is average 87.5 total yards per game with six touchdowns. The Browns have surrendered 15 rushing touchdowns to running backs, which is the 29th-most in the league. Harris has a dozen targets over the past two games after getting just 40 targets in his first 14 games this year. He was targeted 94 times as a rookie. Harris also has 387 yards from scrimmage in his three career games against the Browns.
  • Harris needs 68 rushing yards to pass Le'Veon Bell for the most in team history in their first two seasons.
  • Cleveland's defense is surrendering 4.8 yards per rush attempt. Only six defenses are worse. The Steelers did average 4.7 yards per carry against Cleveland in their first meeting.
  • The Browns held Washington to just 3.8 yards per play. Washington had a 21-play drive ending in a Carson Wentz touchdown last week. Cleveland ran only 53 offensive plays in that game.
  • Over the past three weeks, Pittsburgh is running an average of 68 offensive plays per game. That is the fifth-most in the league during that timeframe. However, for the season, Cleveland's defense only faces 60.9 plays per game, the sixth-fewest in the league.
  • Pittsburgh is seventh-best in third down conversion rate and is best in the league over their past three games. Over the Browns' last three games, only six defenses in the league are worse on third downs.
  • Pittsburgh's offense has been converting touchdowns in the red zone over the most recent three games at a rate of 71.4 percent, seventh-best in the league during that stretch.
  • The Steelers have started the same five offensive linemen in every game this season.
  • The Browns had four defensive tackles play over 24 percent of the snaps last week, but no interior defensive linemen got 56 percent of the action. Similarly, Cleveland had four second-level defenders play between ween 34 and 78 percent of the defensive snaps, with Deion Jones playing 100 percent of the third- and fourth-down snaps. No other Browns linebacker was on the field for even 48 percent of the snaps on third and fourth down.
  • The Browns yield just 2.4 points in the first quarter of games this year. The Panthers and Ravens are the only teams better. But in the third quarter, Cleveland is giving up 5.3 points, which is 26th most. And in the fourth quarter, Cleveland surrenders 7.1 points per game. Only six teams are worse.

WHEN CLEVELAND HAS THE BALL

  • The Browns offense ranks 15th in EPA. It is 13th in EPA per drop back and fifth in rushing EPA. Deshaun Watson took over as Cleveland's starting quarterback in Week 13. From Week 13 to Week 17, the Browns offense is 25th in EPA per play, 27th per drop back and 16th in rushing EPA.
  • Watson ranks 37th in EPA among all quarterbacks who have played 150 snaps or more. He is just ahead of Zach Wilson and just behind Wentz.
  • Jacoby Brissett completed 64 percent of his passes, compared to 56.7 percent by Watson. On average, the ball comes out of Watson's hands in 3.2 seconds. That is the highest number among all qualifying quarterbacks. Last week, Watson was at 3.9 seconds-the longest of the season for him. But Watson has an average depth of target of just 7.1 yards downfield, which is tied for 24th. The Browns had nine net passing yards in the first half.
  • Cooper is responsible for 39.4 percent of all the Browns' air yards. Only five pass catchers in the league are responsible for a higher percentage of their team's air yards. Cooper is also responsible for 52.9 percent of the Browns' receiving touchdowns, the highest percentage in the league.
  • In Week 3, Njoku caught nine passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. But last week, Njoku caught just one pass on three targets. Njoku has just six catches for 63 yards over the past three weeks.
  • Pittsburgh's pass defense is third-best in the league in completion percentage.
  • Watson was sacked four times in Week 17. Only five defenses are blitzing at a higher rate than Pittsburgh.
  • Only seven offenses throw the ball at a lower percentage of their snaps than Cleveland.
  • Cleveland averages 4.6 yards per carry. Only 11 offenses are better. But the Steelers 4.1 yards per carry allowed is fourth-best in the league. Cleveland has 20 runs of 20 or more yards this year. That leads the league.
  • Chubb leads the Browns with 1,448 rushing yards. He is only behind Josh Jacobs. Chubb has 993 yards more than any other Browns player, despite Kareem Hunt playing in all 16 games. Chubb and Hunt have 194 and 195 receiving yards respectively. Chubb has just one touchdown since Week 10 but has 295 rushing yards over the past three games. Chubb did run for 113 yards when these teams met last. Chubb has played 57 and 53 percent of the total offensive snaps the past two weeks. Chubb now has 10 games this year with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, tied for third-most in the league. Chubb could become the first player in NFL history to have 100-plus carries and average at least five yards per carry in five-straight seasons.
  • Over the past three games, only three offenses have been worse in the red zone than Cleveland.
  • On average, Cleveland runs 66.1 plays per game. Only the Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers and Commanders snap the ball more often on a per game basis. However, Pittsburgh's defense faces just 60.4 plays per game, the fourth fewest in the league over the past three games, the Steelers defense has been playing just 48.3 snaps per contest, the lowest number during that timeframe.
  • T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith didn't miss a snap last week, while Cameron Heyward played 88.5 percent of the defensive snaps and didn't miss a play on third and fourth downs. Watt has a seven-game streak of recording at least half a sack against AFC North foes, while Highsmith has a two-game streak against Cleveland. Watt has 14.5 sacks in his nine career games against the Browns. Only Cameron Jordan (against Atlanta) has more sacks against a single opponent since Watt entered the league.
  • Robert Spillane also never left the field in Baltimore and Mark Robinson got a career-high 50-percent snap share.
  • The Browns average 6.8 points scored per fourth quarter. Only seven teams are better.
  • The Steelers have allowed 17 or fewer points in six-straight games and are averaging 14.7 points allowed since Week 12, which is third-best during that time. Since Week 10, the Steelers' 268.6 yards allowed per game is the lowest in the league.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • The Steelers special teams snap leaders this year are as follows: Derek Watt and Miles Killebrew 274 snaps each. Next in line are Connor Heyward and Benny Snell with 268 snaps apiece. Jamir Jones is fifth with 241 snaps, while Marcus Allen is right behind him at 229. Miles Boykin has also only appeared in 15 games, but he has contributed 194 of special teams snaps. James Pierre is eighth at 184, while Tre Norwood comes in at 156 despite missing a game. Arthur Maulet rounds out the leaders with 140 special teams snaps played.

Most Memorable Moment

January 5th, 2003: AFC Wild Card Game: Steelers 36, Browns 33

This certainly was a wild one in the Wild Card round. Late in the third quarter, Cleveland was winning this game 24-7. Kelly Holcomb finished the day with 429 passing yards, but the Browns could only muster up 38 rushing yards and a lack of a running game made it very difficult to put Pittsburgh away. Tommy Maddox led a furious late-game comeback and the Steelers scored 22 fourth quarter points to advance in the next round to take on the Titans in the divisional round, a game Pittsburgh lost in overtime. Meanwhile, the Browns couldn't find their way back into the playoffs after this loss until 2020.

THE ADVANCED SCOUT PODCAST

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FACTS FROM NFL RESEARCH

  • T.J. Watt has 5.0 sacks, 8 tackles for loss & 11 QB hits over 9 games in 2022 - 3.5 sacks & 7 QB hits over last 4 games (1.5 sacks & 4 QB hits over his first 5 games played in 2022)
  • Cameron Heyward has 8.5 sacks in 2022 (5th-most in NFL among DTs)
  • Alex Highsmith has a career-high 12.0 sacks in 2022 (T-8th in NFL) - 17 QB hits rank 2nd on team behind Heyward (18)
  • Kenny Pickett is the first rookie in NFL history to have a game-winning TD pass in the final minute of the 4th quarter in back-to-back games
  • Najee Harris leads the Steelers with 954 rush yards in 2022 & needs 46 for a second consecutive season w/ 1,000+ rush yards - Harris had a season-high 111 rush yards & scored GW rec TD in Week 17
  • Diontae Johnson leads the Steelers w/ 84 receptions & 844 rec yards in 2022 - Pat Freiermuth: 63 receptions & 732 rec yds (both 2nd on PIT) in 2022 - George Pickens: 49 receptions & 729 rec yds (both 3rd on PIT) in 2022

KEY MATCHUPS

  • Browns WR Amari Cooper vs. Steelers Cornerbacks - In the first meeting between these teams, Cooper went off to the tune of seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. Cooper was targeted 11 times in that game and was the focal point of the Browns' passing game. It has really slowed down of late, but Pittsburgh has given up a lot of production this year to the opponent's top wide receiver and Cooper went for over 100 yards last week as well.
  • Steelers LT Dan Moore vs. Browns DE Myles Garrett - Garrett is a rare player with extreme traits for the defensive end position. Few do it better than Garrett, and his game has been on the rise in 2022. Garrett had a sack and a half last week and has only five games this year without recording a sack, including the first meeting between these two teams this season. He has five sacks in his last four games. Garrett will be the focal point of Pittsburgh's pass protection scheme. The Browns had just one sack on 32 Mitch Trubisky drop backs in Week 3.
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