Browns jump to 10-point favorite against Pittsburgh Steelers after Mason Rudolph was named starter

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Vegas initially thought the Browns should be at home in Week 17 at 6.5 points in favor of the newly crowned AFC North Steelers. Mike Tomlin has not yet said whether he has started yet, but it seems like a fair line.

Tuesday afternoon everything changed. Tomlin has announced that second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph will start, giving 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger his first full rest week since August. That change moved the Browns from 6.5-point favorites to 10.

Remember, the Steelers have not had a full week all season. Pittsburgh’s original farewell was Week 8. But when the Titans had their COVID-19 outbreak, it forced the league to move Tennessee’s Week 4 game against the Steelers to Week 8.

On paper, it sounds simple. But in reality, it was a worst-case scenario for a veteran team in Pittsburgh. Think about it. The Steelers trained all week in preparation for the Titans, just a few days before the game was postponed.

In fact, their bee week lasted two days instead of one week. Pittsburgh’s list includes ten players over the age of 30. Three attacking lineouts (Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey), cornerback Joe Haden and defensive linebacker Cam Heyward can all use rest like the Big Ben, but it sounds like they will play.

However, I would not be surprised if this changes. Tomlin said, for example, “If we get the chance to send a player or two to the post-season, we’ll do it.”

He only mentioned Roethlisberger and added that most beginners will play. Notice that lets wrap. TJ Watt, who plays a full game, for example, would not surprise me. He is 26 and in a race against Aaron Donald for the Defensive Player of the Year.

But it makes sense to put some older linemen in place. We will probably only know Tomlin’s full plan on Sunday. It’s also unclear what the Steelers’ offense with Rudolph in the gun will look like.

Roethlisberger leads the league in pass attempts with 608. That averages about 40 throws per game. Is it a good idea for Tomlin to give Myles Garrett 40 chances to fire Rudolph? Probably not. However, the last full game Rudolph started, he threw 44 times, in a 21-7 loss at FirstEnergy Stadium. He completed 53 percent of his passes and was intercepted four times.

Handing over the ball to James Conner is probably not the solution either. Despite Conner’s career-long success against Cleveland (including a Week 6 performance at 100 yards), the Steelers are last in running yards per game (84.3) and 28th in rushing attempts per game (23).

Pittsburgh is so bad at racing that the 31st and 30th rankings (Texans and Lions) are on average seven yards more per game.

How will the Steelers ‘offense try to improve the Browns’ defense? It is unclear. But given the history between these two teams and the fact that it’s the National Football League, a Browns victory will not be easy.

Be careful of browns. It is also not easy to cover a 10-point spread.

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