Steelers’ Defense Could Punish Baker Mayfield and the Browns

The New York Times Sports 1 month ago

The rest of Week 11’s matchups will be published on Friday.

Steelers at Browns, 8:20 p.m., Fox & NFL Network

Line: Browns -3 | Total: 40

On Oct. 6, Pittsburgh dropped to 1-4, with the team’s lone win at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are now 0-9. Ben Roethlisberger was already declared out for the year, Mason Rudolph had sustained a scary concussion in a loss to Baltimore and the Steelers were in the mix for a top-five draft pick.

Since then, the team is 4-0.

In that stretch, Pittsburgh’s defense, led by Minkah Fitzpatrick, generated 14 turnovers; it is second in the N.F.L. with 26 for the season. That allowed the Steelers to win a game in which the largely unknown Devlin Hodges started at quarterback in place of Rudolph, and two others in which James Conner was unable to suit up at running back. The remarkable turnaround has led to Pittsburgh’s being currently in line to be the A.F.C.’s second wild-card team.

The Browns (3-6) have not had nearly as inspiring a story. They ended a four-game losing streak last week with a 19-16 win over the Bills at home. But even that required some luck, as Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka missed a potential game-tying field goal in the final minute.

Make no mistake, the tools are still there for Cleveland. Baker Mayfield, who was a second-half star last year, has a pair of terrific wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb is among the game’s most productive running backs. They added depth last week when Kareem Hunt, a talented runner formerly of the Chiefs, came back from an eight-game suspension for a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.

Mayfield’s problems with turnovers, however, are a potential disaster against a team that specializes in generating them. Pick: Steelers +3

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