Browns' owner savors rare victory over Steelers
CLEVELAND — Jimmy Haslam is new to this ownership thing, but he sure learned quickly how to celebrate a victory.
A former minority Steelers owner who plunked down $1 billion to buy the Cleveland Browns during the summer may have enjoyed the Browns' 20-14 win Sunday more than anybody else — especially witnessing the unusual and uncommon site of droves of Steelers fans heading to the exits.
“The biggest thrill was seeing the Steelers fans leaving early,” Haslam said. “I've been there the other way. It was good seeing their fans leaving and our fans staying and cheering. It was great. It was a great win for our team — great win for our fans.”
Haslam was a Steelers minority owner from 2008 until he bought the Browns in August, and he took a page out of the Rooneys' book when he greeted nearly every player in the locker room immediately following the game.
Suffice to say, this win meant a lot to him.
“I think sometimes things can go unsaid and they're pretty obvious,” Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. “The games all count as one, but anytime you have a prior relationship with a club, I am sure privately you have a little bit stronger emotions.”
Emotions were flying high after the Browns upended the Steelers to hurt their rival's playoff hopes heading into the final stretch of the season.
“Oh, definitely, without a doubt,” linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said about dropping the Steelers into a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals at 6-5 in the AFC North. “I love to beat those guys. I don't like them, they don't like us. It's great to beat up on them.”
For the Browns, there hasn't been much beating up on the Steelers lately.
They had lost four in a row to the Steelers and 16 of 17 in the series. The Steelers had won 11 of 13 in Cleveland since 1999.
“I know their fans travel well,” tackle Joe Thomas said. “Maybe this will not want to make them travel to Browns Stadium now.”
A lot of the Browns players, including return specialist Josh Cribbs, had enough of Steelers fans invading Cleveland year after year.
“The fans with jerseys and coats, the (fans) at the hotels around the city, get out of town,” Cribbs said. “From a Cleveland Brown and a Clevelander, get out of Ohio. That's how we do it here.”
After a slow start, the Browns turned it around Sunday the Steelers Way.
Cleveland ran the ball well with Trent Richardson (29 carries for 85 yards) and played smashmouth defense by forcing eight turnovers.
“Sure, the rivalry is in their favor now,” Jackson said. “But we hope to change that. A lot of their guys didn't want to shake our hands (after the game), and I am OK with that. I'll take the ‘W' every day.”
For the majority of the Browns, including Shurmur, it was the first time they had beaten the Steelers.
“Last year, I got a taste of the rivalry, and I know how important it is to play good football against an outstanding football team,” Shurmur said.
Added defensive back Joe Haden: “This is the biggest one since I've been here.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org