Pittsburgh Steelers over Cleveland Browns
There are four rules to live by when playing our NFL Survivor Game. The first is bet on a team playing at home. Secondly, check the point spread before making the pick and make sure that you are betting on a team that is one of the biggest favorites of the week. Third, don’t save a great team for a better opportunity; injuries and circumstances happen throughout the course of a season, and once-great options can be marginalized quickly. Lastly, don’t bet against a team, but rather, bet on a team.
Pittsburgh is the play that fits these criteria best. The Steelers aren’t playing at home, but they are the second-biggest favorite of the week and one of the best teams in the NFL.
As for playing in Cleveland, that’s been a second home to Pittsburgh ever since the Browns rejoined the league. The two cities are just 133 miles apart, and whenever these two franchises face off in Cleveland, the stadium has at least 20,000 Steelers fans there.
Pittsburgh is 14-4 in Cleveland since 1999, and Ben Roethlisberger has won 10 road games against the Browns. With a win against Cleveland in this game, he will have more wins in Cleveland than any Browns quarterback since the franchise returned.
Pittsburgh has a plethora of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Injuries typically derail this team as the season wears on, but in the first week of the season, everyone is healthy.
Le’Veon Bell is back from an offseason holdout and will have fresh legs to run on. He has already stated that the reason for his extensive holdout was in order to save himself for the regular season and that he didn’t want to injure himself in a contract year. He is one of the top running backs in the NFL, and Cleveland’s front seven will have a hard time stopping him in both the running and the passing game.
Roethlisberger has the best receiver in the NFL to throw to in Antonio Brown, who has put up gaudy numbers in each of the past three seasons and is as reliable as they come. He could put up even bigger stats this year if Martavis Bryant stays on the field, as the Steelers have lacked a true No. 2 receiver.
The defense got better for Pittsburgh, too. The Steelers finally have the lockdown cornerback they have wanted ever since Rod Woodson left in Joe Haden, who was a cap casualty for the Browns. Cleveland cited his injury history on the way out, but there’s no denying his talent. When healthy, he was one of the best five or six cornerbacks in the NFL, and he knows all the Browns receiver’s routes.
The Steelers also have a solid up and coming young cornerback in Artie Burns, who had a good rookie season in 2016 and should be even better in 2017. He was expected to fill the No. 1 role before Haden came in, so he will be great as the No. 2 corner.
Cleveland is all set to start a rookie quarterback against Pittsburgh in the first week of the season. When the team cut Brock Osweiler, it was clear that DeShone Kizer would get his chance sooner rather than later. Kizer was a second-round pick in this year’s draft and put up solid numbers at Notre Dame.
However, Kizer doesn’t have much around him. Isaiah Crowell is a bit underrated, but isn’t great, and the receiver duo of Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt isn’t scaring anyone.
The middle of the Browns defense is very weak, too. Tackles Trevon Coley and Jamie Meder are mediocre at best, and they will be backed up by two rookies. There are whispers that Danny Shelton will return form injury in time for the game, but if he does, he won’t be anything close to 100 percent.
At the next level, middle linebacker Joe Schobert is the starter. He was mostly used as a special teams ace last season, and this will be his first game as a middle linebacker.
Cleveland is switching over from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and just doesn’t have the personnel to properly run that type of scheme yet. Pittsburgh will be able to tear them apart on Sunday.
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Past NFL Survivor Picks
Week 1: Steelers over Browns