Browns vs. Steelers: Time, Live Streaming, How to Watch, Key Matchups, ‘Thursday Night Football’ Picks

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trubiskybengals Browns vs. Steelers: Time, Live Streaming, How to Watch, Key Matchups, 'Thursday Night Football' Picks

The Week 3 edition of “Thursday Night Football” features an old-school AFC North rivalry, with the Cleveland Browns playing host to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both these teams are coming off heavy losses after picking up wins a week ago. In the closing moments of the game in Week 1.

The Browns blew a double-digit lead in the final two minutes of the game against the Jets, while the Steelers didn’t move the ball all day against the Patriots. Each of these teams is looking to get back into the win column, at least, for a while, move into first place in the division and establish some sort of foundation for a run to the playoffs.

Which of them will return to winning ways? We will find out soon. Before breaking down the matchup, here’s how you can watch this evening’s matchup.

How to see

Date: Thursday, Sept. 22 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)
Stream: Amazon Prime Video
Follow: CBS Sports App
Contradictions: Browns -4.5, O/U 38.5

When the Steelers have the ball

Pittsburgh’s offense is in deep trouble. Through two games, the Steelers have just 510 yards, 30th in the NFL. On a per game basis, they actually rank 31st. They are 26th in points per drive, 29th in True Media’s EPA and 22nd in Football Outsiders’ Offensive TVOA.

Most of the problems start on the offensive line, where things are really bad. They can’t generate any momentum in the run game. They have one of the league’s highest first-down run rates (50 percent) and are averaging just 2.9 yards per rush on those plays. Despite facing eight-man boxes on 18 percent of the run, the Steelers averaged just 1.30 yards before contact per attempt. On plays where Najee Harris was the ball-carrier (as opposed to Mitchell Trubisky, Jaylen Warren or Chase Claypool), that number is even worse — just 0.44 per attempt.

But Harris, who dealt with a Lisfranc injury during training camp, re-injured his foot in Week 1 and was not healthy. Among the 44 players with at least 15 rushing attempts this season, he ranks 32nd in tackles missed and 31st in yards after contact per attempt. Last season, he finished seventh in tackles missed and 21st in yards after connecting with 53 players with 100 carries or more.

The Browns have given up just 3.77 yards per rush so far this season, and a ridiculous 0.33 before contact. The idea of ​​the Steelers finding quick success in this game is far-fetched, considering how things have gone so far this year. That puts the game in Trubisky’s hands, which is … not great.

Trubisky is 42 of 71 (59.2 percent) for 362 yards (5.2 per attempt), two touchdowns and an interception so far this season. That’s despite a below-average pressure rate (28 percent) and one of the lowest blitz rates in the league (20 percent). According to NFL.com’s Next Gen stats, he was thrown in a tight window on 22.5 percent of his passes, and according to True Media, he was off target 16.7 percent of the time when throwing. He failed to find contact with bomber George Pickens, who was on the field for 78 percent of the team’s offensive snaps and was targeted just five times. His numbers aren’t great with other pass-catchers: Claypool has eight receptions for just 44 yards on 12 targets. Deontay Johnson dropped 8.6 yards per reception. Pat Freiermuth’s catch rate dropped to 52.9 percent (from 75.9 a year ago).

It’s not an ideal situation for a crime, and there’s no reason to expect it to get better anytime soon. If Trubisky struggles it will be Pickett’s time early tonight. A mini-bye before the team’s Week 4 game against the Jets, there’s no better opportunity to make the switch.

If Trubisky (or Pickett) can find a way to push the ball down the field, they might actually have some chances. Despite playing against Baker Mayfield and Joe Flacco, Cleveland has allowed more completions on throws of 20-plus air yards than any team in the NFL except the Jaguars. Getting the ball downfield usually requires time in the pocket, and the more time in the pocket, the more opportunity the defense has to generate pressure. Cleveland ranks seventh in the NFL in pass rush rate so far this season, led by Myles Garrett. Trubisky is prone to long stretches of pressure and gets rid of the ball quickly and in short areas rather than getting his chances with rushers in his face. For those reasons, he’s more likely to target underneath throws and make few — if any — explosive plays.

When the Browns have the ball

Predictably, the Browns ran the ball early, often, and won big. The Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt duo is one of the NFL’s best and has held the Browns to 5.28 yards per carry despite facing the second-highest percentage of eight-man boxes in the NFL (33 percent of carries, True Media). They had an NFL-best 12 runs of 15 yards or more, good for a league-high 15.8 percent share of their total carries.

The ability to create explosives in the run game is especially important because the pass game is currently a possession-based, move-the-chain type unit, with Jacoby Brissett under center. Pittsburgh has done a strong job against the run so far this season, but has also played against two relatively weak offensive lines (Cincinnati, New England) compared to Thursday night’s matchup against Cleveland. Without TJ Watt, the Steelers may be more vulnerable on the ground offensively than they’ve ever been, and now it’s tasked with going up against one of the league’s best run-blocking units.

Of course, the Steelers have no slack up front — even sans Watt. They still bring Cameron Hayward, Tyson Alwalu, Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, Alex Highsmith and Malik Reid to the table. They can still get him on the ground after the quarterback or keep him in the pocket, where he’ll have to deal with heavy pressure.

The Browns will certainly try to move Jacoby Brissett with play-action and bootleg concepts, and the only big downfield perimeter they currently have is Amari Cooper. Tight end David Njoku, an elite athlete, has seen his snap rate rise after receiving a big contract this offseason, but has yet to be significantly involved in the passing game. It’s tempting to say this would be a good week to finally get him, but he’ll have to deal with Minkah Fitzpatrick’s attention for most of the evening. Fitzpatrick is off to an impressive start to the season with two interceptions in as many weeks, and he covers the back end of the field as well as any safety in football. If any Brisset is sent deep into the half of his field and misses the target in the distance, it is picked.

In the end, this game is likely to come down to a matter of confidence, with any amount of success moving the ball. Given the relative strength of Cleveland’s run game compared to any aspect of Pittsburgh’s offense, that’s the way we should lean.

Prediction: Browns 20, Steelers 13

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