Going into the game on Sunday, January 10, 2021, from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA, the Browns had not won a playoff game since 1994 against the New England Patriots. Coincidentally, who was the head coach for the Browns in that game? Bill Belichick. Think about what Belichick has gone on to do with the New England Patriots. It almost feels like an, “Oh what could’ve been.” They also had not won in the city of Pittsburgh since 2003; that’s 17 years of pain, frustration, and futility.
Before this season, when was the last time a Browns vs. Steelers game had some type of implications? Probably Week 10 of 2007 at Heinz Field when the Browns and Steelers met with the AFC North hanging in the balance. But being that game was in Pittsburgh and was 13 years before this season, it was the Steelers who came away with the victory. That season, the Steelers would advance to the playoffs while the Browns just missed the playoffs.
My generation of Browns fans has consistently heard that we need to hate (or strongly dislike) the Steelers because there is a rivalry. However, the Browns were unable to back that up as Pittsburgh was able to do essentially whatever they wanted whenever they wanted against Cleveland. There were times where it looked like the Steelers could just take the Browns’ lunch money.
In the last two seasons (including this current season) the Browns have beaten the Steelers three times. Week 11 of the 2019 season on Thursday Night Football (the Myles Garrett incident), Week 17 of this current season and now you can add the 2020 AFC Wildcard game to the mix. Perhaps the kindling is being put underneath the logs to reignite the rivalry. But the fire isn’t quite ready to be lit yet.
For the fire to be fully lit, the Browns need to show that Week 17 and the wildcard game were not flukes. They went out and beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the first time in 17 years. That wildcard game was one of the few times that Cleveland has beaten Roethlisberger recently. Before we can definitively say that the rivalry is back, the Browns need to show more consistency and the games need to mean something.