Oct 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  The Pittsburgh Steelers take the field to play the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 38-7. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Browns Steelers Wild Card Pick

The Cleveland Browns are set to participate in their first playoff game since they lost a high-scoring thriller to these very Pittsburgh Steelers on Wild Card Weekend in 2002. The problem is, a huge number of their key players won’t actually participate.

The Browns have been crushed by a rash of injuries as well as a COVID-19 outbreak which has ruled out or cast doubt on offensive linemen Jack Conklin (knee), Wyatt Teller (ankle), J.C. Tretter (knee) and Joel Bitonio (out with COVID-19), defensive backs Denzel Ward (trying to get off the COVID-19 list) and Ronnie Harrison (out with COVID-19), wide receivers KhaDarel Hodge (out with COVID-19) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (concussion) as well as edge defender Olivier Vernon (out with a torn Achilles tendon).

They’ve also been working remotely as a result of the outbreak, and they won’t have head coach Kevin Stefanski on hand for Sunday night’s highly-anticipated meeting with the division-rival Steelers.

A Browns victory seems like a tall order right now, but they are getting six points.

Also check out Deeg’s Top 5 Steelers Browns Wild Card prop bets over here and enjoy some prop action in the Sunday Nighter.

Browns Steelers Wild Card Pick, Odds: Pittsburgh -6, Total 47.5 | Matchup Report 

WHY THE BROWNS WILL COVER THE SPREAD

In their last four meaningful games, the Steelers would be 0-4 if not for a sudden second-half comeback Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts, but that could have been an aberration.

Pittsburgh was a mediocre team down the stretch. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger struggled mightily, his receivers couldn’t catch anything and his usually-incredible defense became vulnerable without key players Devin Bush Jr.,  Bud Dupree and Robert Spillane.

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrown just one interception in his last nine games. If he can remain steady in his first playoff start, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt could do damage against that shorthanded D and the Browns could keep this close.

WHY THE STEELERS WILL COVER THE SPREAD

Again, the Browns might simply be too depleted and might be dealing with too much tumult to overcome a team that did show signs of life against the Colts and has a Super Bowl pedigree.

Watt and that fierce defensive front should have a field day with Mayfield, his gutted offensive line and rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. Pittsburgh is also getting healthier, with starters Spillane and Matt Feiler potentially set to return Sunday.

It’s just wrong place, wrong time for Cleveland.

BROWNS STEELERS WILD CARD PICK

Anything’s possible in a divisional game like this and the Steelers won’t benefit from a legitimate home-field advantage because of COVID-19 restrictions, but they should still be able to win this thing by a full touchdown, and probably more.

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. He was a lead contributor to an earlier incarnation of NationalFootballPost.com and was happy to return when new management revived the brand in 2020. Based in Toronto, he's covered the NFL since 2008 and has been a national NFL writer at Bleacher Report since 2012. He despises all 32 NFL teams equally but remains a fan of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Raptors. He can be reached at Brad@NationalFootballPost.com

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