Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Sunday, January 2, 2011, 1:00 pm EST, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Steelers -6
Current Line: Steelers -5.5
Opening Total: 38
Current Total: 37
Money Line: Steelers -480 / Browns +380
The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) have some work to do in the final week of the regular season when they visit the Cleveland Browns (5-10) on Sunday with the AFC North title on the line. The Steelers (-5.5) must either win this game or have Baltimore lose at home to Cincinnati in order to capture the division along with a first-round bye as the #2 overall seed in the AFC.
If the Steelers lose to the Browns and the Ravens win, Pittsburgh will have to play the following week as the #6 seed without rest. That could be very critical to the team’s postseason success, especially considering All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu is still recovering from an Achilles’ injury.
Polamalu has missed the last two games, including a 27-3 home win against Carolina last Thursday night. The extra rest should benefit him, although a break here against Cleveland followed by another week off during the bye week would be ideal for a team that has aspirations of winning the Super Bowl for the third time in six years. The Steelers won Super Bowl XL as the #6 seed but would prefer not to have to duplicate that feat of winning three straight road games.
Pittsburgh will not be taking Cleveland lightly after losing to the Browns last season on the road, 13-6. That was Cleveland’s only win of the season and completed a five-game losing streak for the Steelers that prevented them from making it to the postseason.
The Browns are a much better team this year with quality wins at New Orleans and at home against New England, which is the last loss the Patriots suffered. However, they have still lost 13 of the last 14 meetings with Pittsburgh despite last year’s victory, going 4-2 against the spread in the past four games between the teams.
Cleveland rookie quarterback Colt McCoy made his first NFL start at Pittsburgh in Week 6, throwing for 281 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in a 28-10 loss. McCoy had tossed only one pick since then before throwing three in a 20-10 home loss to Baltimore last week. He figures to be the starting signal caller next year and was on the field in the team’s biggest wins of the year against the Saints and Pats.
The Steelers are one of three teams in the league with a 6-1 road record, going 4-3 ATS in those games. They have definitely tightened the screws defensively down the stretch, holding their last seven opponents to an average of less than nine points per game with the UNDER cashing six times.
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