Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns: Big Ben's boys to make flying start

Big Ben's arm strength can power the Steelers home
Big Ben's arm strength can power the Steelers home

Pittsburgh are one of this year's most fancied sides. Cleveland were last season's whipping boys. Neil Harvey looks at whether the Browns can pull off a surprise win...

"Offense hasn't been a problem for the Steelers, but it certainly helps when you get a receiver like Martavis Bryant back"

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
Start-time: Sunday 10 September, 18:00 BST
TV: Live on Sky Sports

Steelers are for real

Pittsburgh have an excellent offense. But their defensive frailties have often proved their undoing. Consequently, they've often flattered to deceive - shaping like potential champions, only to disappoint. Last season was a classic example, as the Steelers won six straight going into the postseason, only to lose tamely to New England. This time though, there's reason to believe Mike Tomlin's men could go all the way.

Their fragile defense has been bolstered by the signing of 28 year old Joe Haden, one of the best cornerbacks in the league while in a frightful Cleveland side. The veteran's arrival automatically strengthens one of Pittsburgh's weakest areas, and guarantees a tough time for whoever might be the opposing team's top receiver. TJ Watt, younger brother of prolific JJ, has also been drafted to add cover at outside linebacker.

Offense hasn't been a problem for the Steelers, but it certainly helps when you get a receiver like Martavis Bryant back. Suspended for an entire season, the speedster has averaged seven touchdowns in two seasons and poses a major deep ball threat. His presence also stretches the defense, creating space for LeVeon Bell to exploit. One of the league's best running backs, Bell was badly missed while suspended early last season, but is good to go this time round.

Ben Roethlisberger was reported to be seriously considered retirement during the offseason, suggesting this could now be his final year. So expect a fully committed Big Ben to put his body on the line in pursuit of a third Super Bowl ring. Throw in a veteran coach in the form of Mike Tomlin and Pittsburgh look to have all the ingredients needed to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy for what would be a NFL record seventh time.

Browns to struggle again

By contrast, Cleveland are a team that's been in disarray for what feels like forever. Last season's 1-15 record was the worst in the NFL. Little can be expected of DeShone Kizer, who'll be making his NFL debut at quarterback. Cleveland's passing game is further hindered by the loss of receiver Terrelle Pryor to Washington. So expecting the Browns to produce much through the air is unrealistic. They could find offensive solace though in the hands of Isaiah Crowell. The running back should benefit from an offensive line that was already one the best in the league, and which has been bolstered in all the right places during the offseason.

Cleveland should be able to ground and pound their way to a few wins this season. But their defense will likely still be their undoing. The secondary remains fragile, more so after the loss of Haden, and looks ripe for the picking by the likes of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.

Game Picks

Pittsburgh like to hit teams hard and early, especially those who look vulnerable in the deep. So I can see Roethlisberger looking for a home run to either of his wideouts right out of the gate, making Pittsburgh to win the first quarter an attractive proposition.

The Browns might stick to their ground game and try to control the game clock, in a bid to keep the potent Pittsburgh offense of the field. Hence I also like the look of going under the points total of 47.

Recommended Bets:

3pts Pittsburgh to win 1st quarter @ 1.664/6 or better
3pts Total points to be Under 47 @ 1.9310/11

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