Here are two pertinent stats ahead of Sunday’s Steelers-Browns matchup at FirstEngery Stadium in Cleveland: The Browns are 1-31 in the Hue Jackson era and are currently on a 17-game losing streak. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who grew up in Ohio and was passed over by the Browns in the 2004 NFL Draft, is 22-2 against them all time, and 11-2 when playing in Cleveland.
It gets more depressing: The Steelers’ 2017 season-opening win over the Browns gave Roethlisberger more wins in Cleveland than any Browns quarterback since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. Derek Anderson, who played for the Browns from 2005-09 and was the last quarterback to lead the team to a winning record (10-6 in 2007) trails Big Ben with 10 wins in Cleveland.
But the past is just that and if “Hard Knocks” has taught us anything, it’s that the Browns aren’t focused on what has been but what could be. The offense now features quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, tight end David Njoku, and running backs Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb. And for as talented as that unit is, the defense might be even better. It starts with 2017 first-round pick Myles Garrett and includes first-rounders Jabrill Peppers and Denzel Ward, and play-making linebackers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey. All that’s left to do is start winning football games.
How to watch, stream
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS (Check local listings)
Streaming: CBS All Access (Try for free), fuboTV (Try for free)
CBS All Access offers streaming on the following connected devices: Apple TV, Android, iPad, Roku, Google Chromecast, Playstation 4, Xbox, Windows 10 and Amazon Fire TV. You can also download the CBS app to use All Access, or watch the games on CBS.com in more than 150 markets across the U.S.
Who will win?
History screams PITTSBURGH STEELERS but here’s something to keep in mind: What looks like a blowout on paper may be something else entirely on Sunday afternoon. In the last four years, the Steelers and Browns have played twice in Week 1; both times — in 2014 and 2018 — the Steelers were heavily favored (by seven and 10 points), and both times eked out a three-point win. In the ’14 game, they needed overtime and in ’17 they started strong before letting then-rookie DeShone Kizer lead Cleveland on a late rally.
Pittsburgh should win but If nothing else, be wary of the 4.5-point spread. Then again, these are the Browns. And while “Hard Knocks” was the perfect month-long pep rally for a downtrodden fanbase, this is still Hue Jackson’s team, the very same one whose last victory came on Dec. 24, 2016.
The Steelers are coming off a 13-3 mark that included a division title, and their biggest questions concern running back Le’Veon Bell’s whereabouts, and how this revamped defense will respond without linebacker Ryan Shazier.
CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco likes the Steelers, but just barely:
The Browns will be improved this season, but this is a tough way to start. They will be better on defense, which will show up against a good Steelers offense. That will keep this game close.
Pick: Pittsburgh 23, Cleveland 20
All told, six of eight CBSSports.com experts have the Steelers winning while seven of the eight expect the Browns to cover the 4.5-point spread.