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Steelers/Browns Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 12/09/2009

Line Movement



Pittsburgh opened as nine-point favorites and that quickly moved to -10 where it currently sits at all shops.



The Total opened between 37.5 and 38 and started to drop gradually. Once the weather forecast became widespread, the number plummeted and is now as low as 32.5 in some books.



Injuries



For the Steelers, safety Troy Polamalu is out while wide receiver Hines Ward is doubtful and more than likely is out.



The defense is hurting for Cleveland with tackle Shaun Rogers done for the year, defensive end Kenyon Coleman doubtful and cornerback Eric Wright doubtful as well. Offensively, running back Jamal Lewis is out for the season.



Weather



The weather is not going to be pretty as the latest National Weather Service forecast calls for it to be 18 degrees with a 54 percent chance of snow at 8 p.m., just before kickoff.



Winter Wonderland/b>



The weather will be the story on Thursday if forecasts hold their predictions. December in Cleveland can definitely be dicey and this game could see some horrible conditions. The outlook is for snow showers with a temperature in the low 20’s to mid-teens.



The snow is not really a huge issue but it is the winds that could cause havoc. They are calling for a very windy night with gusts expecting to be from 20-30 mph. This will really affect the passing and kicking games of both sides so the team that controls the line of scrimmage and succeeds at the running game will have a big edge.



The wild chill is expected to fall below zero and as far back as this series goes, this has the makings of being the coldest game ever in Cleveland for the rivalry.



Grim Playoff Picture



The Steelers are on a four-game losing skid and with a 6-6 record, this is a must win game to keep their playoff hopes alive. Nobody saw this one coming with games against Kansas City and Oakland but those resulted in late defeats and now it is desperation time.



A loss would force the Steelers to win their final three games and sweat out tie-breaker scenarios with Denver (8-4), Jacksonville (7-5), Miami (6-6), the Jets (6-6) and Baltimore (6-6). Presently, Pittsburgh's 4-5 record in AFC games is the worst among the wild-card contenders.



That said, a loss will knock Pittsburgh out of the postseason barring a miracle which would make it a second straight season that the AFC Champions will miss the playoffs the following season.



Series Domination



Pittsburgh has won 11 straight meetings in this series and the majority of these games have not been close. Eight of those games have been decided by double-digits and the last time the Browns won happened to be a primetime game as well when they won in Pittsburgh 33-13 behind quarterback Tim Couch.



Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has never lost to Cleveland, a string of 10 straight victories starting on October 10, 2004. He has posted a 97.1 passer rating in those 10 games, while throwing for 2,233 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His rating against Cleveland is his highest against any team that he has started at least four games against.



Putting it in perspective, the Steelers have won the Super Bowl twice over the 5 1/2 years since the last Browns win.



Bottom Line



Pittsburgh is 2-5 ATS as a double-digit favorite under head coach Mike Tomlin although it is 7-4 ATS in its next game coming off a loss as a favorite.



Cleveland is 7-13 ATS in home games in December since 2000 and just 2-7-1 ATS in its last 10 games at home overall.



The ‘Over’ is 19-7 in the Steelers last 26 conference games.



The ‘Under’ is 9-2-1 in the Browns last 12 December games.

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