In Browns, a reinvigorated rival for Steelers
Mediocrity is restoring meaning to the Steelers-Browns rivalry.
Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh once was such a unique rivalry that the NFL gave it a night of its own. During much of the 1960s, the neighboring franchises played Saturday night special games in Cleveland.
But there has been little special about Browns-Steelers since the original Cleveland franchise defected to Baltimore after the 1995 season. The Browns have had only two winning seasons since they returned to the NFL in 1999, and they've won only 27 games in the past six seasons.
The Steelers are 24-5 against Generation II of the Browns, 11-3 in Cleveland.
But Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, desperation will bring about the second truly meaningful Browns-Steelers game at this stage of a season in 14 years. On Nov. 11, 2007, the Steelers (6-2) beat the Browns (5-3), 31-28, and went on to win the division with a 10-5-1 record to Cleveland's 9-7.
“It's certainly big for us,” tight end Heath Miller said. “We've put ourselves in a hole here and every game is important, and this is the next game.”
In most seasons, it wouldn't be. But with eight teams within one game of each other in the AFC playoff race, the Steelers could emerge as the front-runners for the second wild-card spot if they beat Cleveland and then Baltimore (4-6) on Thanksgiving night.
“We're focused on the first one,” Miller said. “We know the situation.”
Normally, the Browns are more of a nuisance to the Steelers than anything else at this time of the season. But these Browns possess one of the NFL's best defenses, and a typical late-November Cleveland day — with whipping winds and predicted single-digit wind-chill factors — could limit the Steelers' fast-improving passing game.
“It's always a bitter rivalry type of thing. It's always fun. It's always cold. It's always something we look forward to,” Steelers receiver Antonio Brown said.
But he paused, then said, “Yeah, the ball can sail with the wind coming off (Lake Erie).”
The Steelers can only hope their playoff chances don't blow away with it.
“We have a great mudder, so to speak, in Ben (Roethlisberger) that likes to play and executes well in bad weather, which you are really happy to have,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said.
The Steelers are 16-2 against Cleveland from Nov. 1 on, and Roethlisberger is 15-1 as a starter against them.
But here's one worry for the Steelers: AFC North teams are 7-0 at home against divisional opponents this season. The Browns, Bengals and Ravens all are 2-0.
“It's always been a pivotal game because it's an AFC North opponent, and every year I've been here it's always been about the playoffs,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders. “We always play Cleveland down the stretch.”
And almost always beat them. That's one Cleveland-Pittsburgh tradition the Steelers badly need to uphold.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Agent: Polamalu undecided whether to play in 2015
- Starkey: In defense of Mel Kiper Jr.
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- No tag for Worilds; Steelers cut Moore
- Steelers’ decision for NFL Draft: Pass rusher or cornerback?
- Depth a concern for Steelers’ Colbert
- Big names become available this week via free agency; will Steelers be tempted?
- Steelers GM Colbert prepared to look at all options before draft
- Steelers’ Harrison announces desire to play one more year