Browns vs. Steelers: Time, live streaming, how to watch, key matchups, ‘Thursday Night Football’ pick – CBS Sports

Browns vs.  Steelers: Time, live streaming, how to watch, key matchups, 'Thursday Night Football' pick - CBS Sports

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

The Browns blew a double-digit lead in the last two minutes of their game against the Jetswhile the Steelers barely moved the ball all day against the Patriots. Each of these teams is looking to get back into the win column and jump, at least, momentarily, into first place in the division, and hopefully establish some kind of foundation on which to make a run to the playoffs.

Which one of them will return to their winning ways? We’ll find out soon enough. Before we break down the matchup, here’s how you can watch tonight’s contest.

How to look

Date: Thursday, September 22 | Time: 8:20 pm ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)
Stream: Amazon Prime Video
Follow: CBS Sports App
Probability: Browns -4.5, O/U 38.5

When the Steelers have the ball

Pittsburgh’s offense is in serious trouble. Through two games, the Steelers managed only 510 yards, 30th in the NFL. On a per-game basis, they actually rank 31st. They are 26th in points per drive, 29th in Tru Media’s EPA per game, and 22nd in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA.

Most of the issues start along the offensive line, where things are pretty dire. They just can’t generate any push in the roll game. They have one of the league’s highest first-down rushing percentages (50 percent), and on those plays averaged just 2.9 yards per rush. Despite facing eight-man boxes on just 18 percent of runs, the Steelers averaged just 1.30 yards before contact per attempt. In plays where Najee Harris was the ball carrier (as opposed to Mitchell Trubisky, Jaylen Warren or Chase Claypool), that figure is even worse – just 0.44 per attempt.

But Harris, who dealt with a Lisfranc injury during training camp and hurt his foot again in Week 1, just doesn’t look healthy. Among the 44 players with at least 15 rushing attempts this season, he ranks 32nd in tackles avoided and 31st in yards after contact per attempt. Last season, he ranked seventh in tackles avoided and 21st in yards after contact among the 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 that the Steelers will find quick success in this game, considering how things have gone so far this year, seems pretty far-fetched. And 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 one interception so far this season. That’s despite a below-average pressure percentage (28 percent) and one of the lowest blitz rates in the league (20 percent). He’s thrown into a tight window on 22.5 percent of his passes, according to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, and has been off target with his throws 16.7 percent of the time, according to Tru Media. He didn’t find a connection with explosive rookie George Pickens, who was on the field for 78 percent of the team’s offensive snaps but was targeted just five times. His numbers with the other pass catchers aren’t much better: Claypool has eight receptions for just 44 yards on 12 targets. Diontae Johnson is dropping a career-low 8.6 yards per reception. Pat Freiermuth’s catch rate drops to 52.9 percent (from 75.9 a year ago).

This is not a tenable situation for an offense to be in, and there is no reason to expect it to improve any time soon. The time is coming for Pike, possibly as soon as tonight if Trubisky struggles. With a mini-bye before the team’s Week 4 game against the Jets, there probably isn’t a better opportunity to make the switch.

If Trubisky (or Pickett) can figure out a way to try to push the ball down the field, there might actually be some opportunities available. Cleveland has allowed more completions on punts of 20-plus yards than any team in the NFL except the Jaguars, despite playing against Baker Mayfield and Joe Flacco. Getting the ball downfield usually requires time in the pocket, however, and the more time in the pocket, the more opportunity for the defense to generate pressure. Cleveland is seventh in the NFL in pressure so far this season, with Myles Garrett leading the way. Trubisky has long been wildly susceptible to pressure, and would much rather get rid of the ball quickly and in short spots than take his chances with rushers in his face. For those reasons, he seems much more likely to continue to target under throws, and thus create few — if any — explosive plays.

When the Browns have the ball

Predictably, the Browns ran the ball early and often, and with great success. The Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt duo is one of the NFL’s best, and has powered the Browns to 5.28 yards per carry despite facing eight-man boxes with the second-highest rate in the NFL (33 percent of carries, per Tru Media). They have 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 generate explosives in the run game is especially important, as the pass game is more of a possession-based, move-the-chains type of unit these days, 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 the one it will face against Cleveland on Thursday night. Without TJ Watt, the Steelers could be more susceptible to the ground attack than it has been thus far, now that it’s tasked with going up against one of the league’s best run-blocking units.

Of course, the Steelers are no slouch up front — even without Watt. They continue to bring Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, Alex Highsmith, and even Malik Reed to the table. They can still chase the quarterback and get him to the ground or just keep him boxed in the pocket where he will have to deal with heavy pressure.

The Browns will certainly try to move Jacoby Brissett through play-action and counter-attacking concepts, with the only significant downfield perimeter they have currently being Amari Cooper. Tight end David Njoku, an elite athlete, saw his rushing rate rise after getting a big contract this offseason, but still hasn’t gotten significantly more involved in the passing game. It’s tempting to say this would be a good week to finally get him going, but he may have to deal with Minkah Fitzpatrick’s focus for much of the evening. Fitzpatrick is off to a great start to the season with two interceptions in as many weeks, and he covers as much of the backfield as any safety in football. Any Brissett pass to his deep half of the field can be picked off if it is far off target.

In the end, this game seems likely to come down to a question of confidence in which offense can have 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 how we have to lean.

Prediction: Browns 20, Steelers 13

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