It’s been more than three decades since the Cleveland Browns were a 10-point favorite in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But that’s where things stand today, in the wake of the news that Mason Rudolph will start for the Steelers instead of Ben Roethlisberger, the latter of whom has a career record of 11-2-1 in Cleveland and until very recently was the winningest QB in FirstEnergy Stadium history.
The last time the Browns were favored by 10 points over the Steelers came in Week 6 of the 1989 season at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Browns came into that game at 3-2 and the Steelers at 2-3, but the line was perfectly understandable in light of the fact that the Browns had defeated the Steelers 51-0 in the season opener just six weeks earlier. Oh, and in Week 2 of that season the Steelers lost to the Bengals, 41-10.
Nevertheless, on October 15, 1989, the Steelers departed Cleveland with a 17-7 victory, largely on the strength of a defense that forced Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar into four interceptions. The Steelers went on to win a Wild Card playoff game against the Houston Oilers later that season before falling to John Elway and the vaunted Denver Broncos in the divisional round.
Browns a 10-Point Favorite Over a Winning Team?
But it’s worth noting that the Browns haven’t been a double-digit favorite over a winning team in a lifetime—leastways not my lifetime.
According to Jake Trotter, who covers the Browns for ESPN, this hasn’t happened in 52 years.
With the Big Ben news, #Browns are up to a 10-point favorite over the Steelers at @WilliamHillUS. According to @ESPNStatsInfo, Cleveland has not been a double-digit favorite against a winning team in 52 years.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) December 29, 2020
Yet the outlook isn’t entirely positive for the Browns. On Tuesday, Cleveland added three players to its Reserve/COVID-19 list, namely safety Karl Joseph, tight end Harrison Bryant and safety Andrew Sendejo, the latter of whom has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Steelers (1 p.m. ET), according to Trotter.
Cleveland Has 10 Players on Its Reserve/COVID-19 List(s)
As such, the Browns now have a total of 10 players on their Reserve/COVID-19 lists, including two practice squad players, those being safety Elijah Benton and former Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer, who was signed to Cleveland’s practice squad on October 1st but has yet to appear in a game this season.
The Browns are hopeful that many of the players on their Reserve/COVID-19 lists will be back in time for the matchup against the Steelers, including the four wide receivers—Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones—who missed last week’s loss to the New York Jets (2-13).
On the other hand, additional cases of the virus could compromise Cleveland’s chances in what is a win-and-in scenario for the Browns. If Cleveland loses to Pittsburgh, the Browns could also get into the playoffs if Indianapolis loses to Jacksonville. But the Jags are 1-14 and haven’t won a game since beating the Colts in Week 1 of the regular season.
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