Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Prediction, Best Bets, Odds, Depth Charts (9/18/23)

The Cleveland Browns travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday (9/18/23) in a matchup between division rivals. Get Browns vs. Steelers odds, predictions and best bets reasoning; our best bet is Browns -1.5 and moneyline.

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Prediction & Best Bet

Under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, this Browns defense is absolutely a Super Bowl caliber unit. Per PFF, Myles Garrett led all edge rushers (min. 200 snaps) with a 22.5 pass rush win percentage last season, while new addition Za’Darius Smith recorded the fifth highest mark at 19.2 percent. These two are game-wreckers that can get into the backfield with ease and place enormous pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Factor in Dalvin Tomlinson – who ranked eleventh among interior defensive linemen in pass rush win percentage – and the Browns can get to the quarterback while only rushing four defenders.

That’s bad news for a porous Pittsburgh’s offensive line that allowed 18 hurries in week one and ranked dead last in PFF’s pass blocking grade. It’s no surprise that Kenny Pickett faced the fourth most pressures of all quarterbacks. Now, they did battle a stacked 49ers defensive line, but the Browns are not any easier.

Pickett must navigate this constant pressure against a superb Browns secondary that just held Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd to three points. Cornerbacks Denzel Ward, MJ Emerson Jr, and Greg Newsome II form one of the best trios in the NFL, while Grant Delpit lurks on the back end. If that wasn’t challenging enough, Pickett will also be without top receiver Diontae Johnson due to a hamstring injury. This matchup is a nightmare for Pickett and company.

The biggest question for Cleveland revolves around quarterback Deshaun Watson. He still appeared rusty against the Bengals and far from his elite Texans days. The week one numbers were not kind, as he ranked nineteenth in on-target percentage and had the fourth highest bad throw percentage. However, the talent is there, and weapons are not lacking: Amari Cooper, Elijah Mitchell, Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Njoku. If the Browns’ passing offense struggles, they can always rely on Nick Chubb and their effective run-blocking line to churn out yards.
This Pittsburgh secondary is still finding its groove too with veteran Patrick Peterson and rookie Joey Porter Jr joining the fray; they were absolutely torched by San Francisco.

Overall, Cleveland’s nasty defense and running game should help them prevail, and key Steelers injuries will haunt Pittsburgh here. Plus, although Watson remains rusty, he’s still a more reliable option than second year quarterback Kenny Pickett. I would play this line up to -3 Browns before hesitation sets in.

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Prediction & Best Bet: Browns -1.5 and moneyline

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Betting Odds

The visiting Browns are a narrow favorite with a decent moneyline. It will be worth monitoring whether Steelers bettors can find a +3 line, which would give them a push should the Steelers lose by a field goal. Finally, the 39.5 over under is one of the lowest totals of the week. Given the struggles of both offenses in week one, it’s not a surprising line.

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Key Injuries

The most notable injuries are Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson, Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward, and Browns right tackle Jack Conklin.

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Key Matchups

Which teams will dominate the key matchups and improve their winning chances?

Pittsburgh Pass Rush vs. Cleveland Offensive Line

Both units already suffered significant injuries. Browns right tackle Jack Conklin is gone for the year with a torn ACL and MCL. He only allowed two sacks and thirteen pressures across fourteen games last season. On the other hand, Steelers edge rusher Cam Heyward is out for the next few weeks. Heyward notched 12 sacks last season and owned an impressive 15.5 pass rush win percentage – good for 24th in the NFL across defensive linemen (min. 200 snaps, per PFF).

The top player in either unit is former Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt, who tied an NFL record with 22.5 sacks during the 2021 season. He only managed ten games last season because of injuries, but the superstar pass rusher is back at full strength. Watt made his presence known against the 49ers through his three sacks.

If the Browns can somewhat contain Pittsburgh (mostly Watt), then they have an excellent chance of covering.


Although Kenny Pickett has his flaws, turnovers haven’t been one of them. Of the 31 quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks last season, Pickett recorded the seventh lowest Turnover Worthy Play percentage and twelfth fewest interceptions (per PFF). The 49ers snagged two interceptions against him on Sunday, but Pickett typically avoids these costly mistakes.

Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson has struggled with interceptions since returning from suspension. The Browns had Watson air it out on Sunday in order to alleviate pressure on the run game – he notched a 10.7 average depth of target per PFF, which would have ranked as the largest last season. If they continue with this game plan moving forward, then the Browns have to be ready for the risks of an inaccurate Watson throw.

If the Steelers are going to cover, then it’s essential that they win the turnover battle.

Cleveland Browns Depth Chart

QB: Deshaun Watson
RB1: Nick Chubb
RB2: Jerome Ford
LWR: Amari Cooper
RWR: Donovan Peoples-Jones
SWR: Elijah Moore
TE1: David Njoku

Pittsburgh Steelers Depth Chart

QB: Kenny Pickett
RB1: Najee Harris
RB2: Jaylen Warren
LWR: Calvin Austin III
RWR: George Pickens
SWR: Allen Robinson II
TE1: Pat Freiermuth

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Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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