The Cleveland Browns will have to overcome Covid-19 disarray entering their first playoff game in 18 years at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski, longest-serving player Joel Bitonio, Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson and KhaDarel Hodge will all be absent thanks to a Covid outbreak that prevented Cleveland from practicing until Friday.
Pittsburgh have a clear injury report, with only Joe Haden on Covid reserve.
While last week’s 24-22 Browns victory saw them secure a wildcard, Pittsburgh rested a number of starters including Ben Roethlisberger and T.J. Watt, both of whom will be back tonight.Embed from Getty Images
More indicative may be Pittsburgh’s 38-7 victory at Heinz Field in Week 6, although the Browns were missing Nick Chubb, and the Steelers were in the middle of an 11-game unbeaten run that eventually tailed off to leave them 12-4, only one game ahead of Cleveland.
Chubb will drive Cleveland’s third ranked rushing attack, but Mayfield, intercepted twice in the October loss and sacked eight times over the two meetings, will have to improve against the third best defence in the league.
The Steelers’ pass rush leads the league in sacks with 56, and features likely Defensive Player of the Year Watt who leads individually with 15.
Predicted Score – Cleveland 17-30 Pittsburgh
Click here to read Sam Carroll’s playoff predictions.
Subedited by Sam Carroll