I wanna push you around — Well I will, well I will
I wanna push you down — Well I will, well I will
I wanna take you for granted, I wanna take you for granted
Yeah, well I will
Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas and producer Matt Serletic wrote about an abusive relationship between a man and woman when they penned Push, although they could have been talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. For the last few decades, NFL teams [and even former owner Art Modell] lined up to push the Browns around and take them for granted. The Steelers were the Harvey Weinstein in that dynamic but Cleveland fights back now, these days.
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Head coach Hue Jackson fashioned a #MeToo movement of sorts. This season’s first encounter between the two former AFC Central stalwarts ended in the ultimate push, a tie. Cleveland remains in the AFC North cellar with a 2-4-1SU record. Pittsburgh still tops the division with a 3-2-1SU mark. Cincinnati and Modell’s remade Browns, the Baltimore Ravens wedge between at 4-3 SU. The four teams are reviving the AFC Central vibe from the 70s and 80s. Jackson’s group aren’t on the same level as the other three yet but they’re coming up hard. Opponents take them for granted at their peril.
The line doesn’t reflect that. Vegas and the online Brits have the Steelers giving eight points at Heinz Field despite the 21-21 Smoky Mountain standoff in Week 1. The total is 49. The first meeting squeaked the OVER by a point. Their other three divisional matchups combined all went Under. Further evidence that AFC Central ghosts are haunting the North.
The main reason for the high line and total is Cleveland’s injury situation. The receiving corps has been riddled. Three players are on injured reserve. Third wideout Rashard Higgins is doubtful with a bum knee. DeMari Scott is questionable with a shoulder injury. Starting center JC Tretter is questionable, too, with an ankle issue. Fewer targets and a gimpy snapper won’t help rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield move the ball.
On the defensive side, starting middle linebacker Joe Schobert is out with a hamstring. The secondary is as short-staffed as the receivers. Starting cornerback EJ Gaines isn’t expected to clear concussion protocol. Free safety DeMarious Randall is questionable despite groin and ankle problems. DB Terrance Mitchell is on IR, leaving the Browns with just TJ Carrie on the right corner. Guess where Ben Roethlisberger will be looking to pass on Pittsburgh’s early drives?
Steelers right guard Marcus Gilbert is questionable with a knee injury. Otherwise, Mike Tomlin’s first and second units are ready to go.
Coming off a bye week, the Browns are 0-4-1 AGAINST THE POINT SPREAD in their last five. The Steelers stand 0-5 ATS in the same situation, so the push theme continues. The UNDER is 5-1 in games following a SU Cleveland loss. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh knows how to keep their momentum rolling, hitting the OVER in the last five games following a performance that produced at least 350 total yards.
Head-to-head, the OVER is running 11-5-1 at Heinz Field but Cleveland is 3-0-1 ATS in their last four meetings overall. Injuries must be a concern but both the line and total seem high. Which is the better bet? If Cleveland is going to struggle to pass the ball, I’m inclined to go with the UNDER.
Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.