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NFL Wild Card Playoffs: How to watch Browns-Steelers, preview, schedule

Arun Srinivasan
·Writer
·5-min read

The NFL’s decision to expand its playoff format ahead of the 2020 season has paid dividends for the league, both in terms of revenue and quality of play. The disparity between the league’s elite teams and bottom-feeders has never been wider, and although numerous COVID-19 cases threatened to uproot the season, the NFL trudged through the pandemic into a new and improved 14-team playoff format.

[Watch the NFL Playoffs on DAZN: Get DAZN free for 30 days and stream the game live]

The juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs emerged as the AFC’s top seed, with Patrick Mahomes engineering a star-studded offense that seemingly scores at will, while Aaron Rodgers submitted an MVP-caliber season to lead the Green Bay Packers to the NFC’s No. 1 position. There are now six games in the wild-card round as a result of the expanded playoffs and four games in the divisional round, before the AFC and NFC championships decide which teams will play for Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Cleveland Browns, a hotly contested divisional rivalry with bad blood brewing between the current versions of each roster. Cleveland defeated Pittsburgh on the final day of the regular season to punch its first playoff ticket since 2002, while the Steelers, who jumped out to a 11-0 start, have gone ice-cold at the worst possible time. An ugly 2019 incident between Browns star edge rusher Myles Garrett and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph still lives in the minds of both teams and fan bases, and expect this match-up to be a cold-blooded battle between two rivals, on two different trajectories.

Wild Card Preview: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) talks with Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) following the game at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph talks with Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett following Sunday's Week 17 matchup. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Date: January 10 at 8:15 p.m. ET
How to watch: Live on DAZN

It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Steelers, bursting out of the gate with 11 consecutive wins to start the season, before dropping four of their last 5 games. Rising second-year star Devin Bush and Bud Dupree suffered season-ending injuries, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steelers’ receivers haven’t been able to gain separation, while concerns about Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder run rampant, as the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback has seemingly lost all of his velocity.

The Steelers’ offense has dried up and become unimaginative at the worst possible time, and they will need to desperately assess what worked so well for them through the first 11 games — notably, a diverse, vertical passing game.

Cleveland’s improbable inflection point occurred when Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL while trying to make a tackle, after Baker Mayfield tossed an interception against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. Prior to that, Mayfield had shown signs he was regressing, or at least not developing into the franchise quarterback the Browns envisioned when he was selected first overall in 2018. Whether Beckham’s injury, a legion of avowed critics, or a better understanding of Kevin Stefanski’s offense led to Mayfield’s offensive explosion can’t be fully quantified but after throwing five touchdowns in the game Beckham went down, he’s played the best football of his pro career, throwing 11 touchdowns against one interception in the last nine games of the season.

Cleveland is trending upwards, led by Mayfield, who looks comfortable as a franchise quarterback, while aided by the two-headed monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the running game. Pittsburgh’s decorated roster is slumping, after briefly entertaining visions of going unbeaten. This should be one of the best games of the wild-card round, and it could get heated, quickly.

Steelers vs. Browns: Tale of the Tape

Category

PIT

CLE

Record

12-4

11-5

Head-to-Head

1-1

1-1

Points For (per game)

26.0

25.5

Points Against (per game)

19.5

26.2

Steelers will win because

Roethlisberger has seen it all and even if he’s not at full strength, he understands the nuances of playoff football better than an inexperienced Browns team. T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick are elite forces, and the Steelers’ pass rush could force Mayfield to revert back to his worst qualities of throwing the ball into traffic under duress. This is a team limping into the playoffs, but if the renewed focus helps the Steelers’ passing game find their tempo again, it could be a long night for the Browns.

Browns will win because

Mayfield is playing the best ball of his career, while Chubb or Hunt are both liable to go off for explosive gains against a Steelers’ defense that isn’t as formidable as it once was. Denzel Ward has developed into a lockdown corner and can make Claypool’s postseason debut a nightmare, while Garrett is a game-wrecking force, who would love nothing more to live in Pittsburgh’s backfield and deliver hit after hit to a weakened Roethlisberger. Cleveland had to beat Pittsburgh in Week 17 and there’s little reason why it can’t win two weeks in a row.

What’s the NFL Playoffs schedule in 2021?

  • Wild Card games: January 9-10

  • Divisional games: January 16-17

  • Conference championships: January 24

  • Super Bowl: February 7

NFL Wild Card Weekend Previews

NFL Wild Card Round Schedule

Saturday January 9

Time (ET)

Matchup

Stream

1:05 p.m.

Colts at Bills

DAZN

4:40 p.m.

Rams at Seahawks

DAZN

8:15 p.m.

Buccaneers at Washington

DAZN

NFL Wild Card Round Schedule

Sunday January 10

Time (ET)

Matchup

Stream

1:05 p.m.

Ravens at Titans

DAZN

4:40 p.m.

Bears at Saints

DAZN

8:15 p.m.

Browns at Steelers

DAZN

NFL Division Round Schedule

Saturday January 16

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL Division Round Schedule

Sunday January 17

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL AFC/NFC Conference Championship Schedule

Sunday January 24

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

TBD

DAZN

TBD

TBD

DAZN

NFL Super Bowl 55 Schedule

Sunday February 7

Time

Matchup

Stream

TBD

AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion

DAZN

More NFL Playoffs on Yahoo Sports