The Pittsburgh Steelers will look to extend their three-game winning streak when they host the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on Thursday.
The Steelers (9-3) are currently tied for the lead in the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens, and are only two games ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals, but own the tie-breaker against Cincinnati. Though the Steelers have won eight out of their last nine games, four of those wins were by one score.
The Browns (4-8) won't be heading to the playoffs this season, but are just one win away from matching their best win total since they won 10 in 2007. They will be facing a tough challenge in the Steelers who have Super Bowl aspirations.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is having another strong season, as Pittsburgh is ranked ninth in passing yards per game (256.1). However, Roethlisberger will likely hand the ball off against Cleveland as the Browns are the best defensive passing team in the NFL (173.3 yards), and are the 31st in rushing yards allowed (151.3).
That means Rashard Mendenhall may have his best performance of the season, as the 24-year-old running back only has one game where he's rushed for over 100 yards this season. The Steelers may give the ball to Isaac Redman, as well, since Mendenhall is nursing a bad back.
Cleveland's offense has been miserable this season. The Browns rank 30th in the NFL in total yards per game (290.7) and are 28th in points per game (14.6.) They will be facing a Steelers defense that is ranked second in the NFL in passing yards allowed (176.8), and seventh in rushing yards allowed (96.9).
Suffice it to say quarterback Colt McCoy has a challenge ahead of him. The Browns will be fortunate to have running back Peyton Hillis, who is expected to start despite a bad hip. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley has been ruled out of the game.
The Steelers have beaten the Browns 19 times in their last 22 meetings.
LINE: The Steelers are favored by 14
OVER/UNDER: 40 points
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh are tough at home, and the Browns simply don't have the weapons to make this game competitive. Expect Pittsburgh to take a halftime thanks to their defense, which will pressure McCoy into mistakes on third down. The Steelers' running game should shine, as the offensive line creates holes for Mendenhall.
PREDICTED SCORE: Steelers 35, Browns 7.