It all comes down to this. The Browns are at the brink of a playoff berth and one thing stands in the way from the first playoff appearance in 18 years: the AFC North Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off an exciting victory over the Indianapolis Colts that put themselves back on track and sealed the AFC North crown. The Steelers have been very disappointing after starting 11-0. They lost three-straight games to the Washington Football Team, the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Colts were up 24-7 in the 3rd quarter, but QB Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to a comeback victory by going 34/49 for 341 passing yards and throwing three TDs. After the Browns lost that win confirmed the AFC North title to go back to Pittsburgh.
We all know how the game against the New York Jets ended up. It still stings and it would pain me too much to write about and I’m still aggravated about it. So let’s move on.
In speaking of bad games, let’s talk about the last time the Steelers played the Browns. The Steelers hosted the game in Week 6 and were victorious over Cleveland with a final score of 38-7. RB Nick Chubb was out due to a MCL sprain and the running game was shut down with only a total of 75 yards from scrimmage. QB Baker Mayfield played awfully and was 10/18, had 118 passing yards, threw a TD to WR Rashad “Hollywood” Higgins, but had two INTs (one was a pick-six by S Minkah Fitzpatrick). Mayfield was benched and back QB Case Keenum went in and did not do much better, only going 5/10 with 46 passing yards. The Browns were able to turn things around obviously after this Week 6 matchup, winning six out of eight games.
The Cleveland Browns haven’t had the best of luck the past couple weeks to close out the regular season. The whole WR core was out due to COVID last week vs. the Jets, which hurt the Browns tremendously, but thankfully will be back this week. But unfortunately, LB B.J. Goodson, LB Malcolm Smith, CB Denzel Ward, S Andrew Sendejo, TE Harrison Bryant and S Karl Joesph have all been added to the COVID/reserve list, along with another member of the coaching staff. The Browns can be grateful that the Steelers have won the division because they will be sitting out players in hopes of resting up for the playoffs. The Steelers announced they will be sitting Big Ben, C Maurkice Pouncey, OLB T.J. Watt and DE Cam Heyward, but possibly some more star players too since this game would be meaningless for them to even risk getting anyone important hurt. Pouncey is a leader of the O-Line, and Watt and Heyward are key to the defense, so the Browns can expose their absences with their pass rush and running game that can be evolved to open up Baker’s passing attack. Yet the Browns are still lacking in the secondary with Ward, Sendejo and Joseph out, but S Ronnie Harrison is making his return after being placed on the IR after getting a shoulder injury vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Something the Browns can hang their hat on is that they will be going against backup nemesis, QB Mason Rudolph. This is DE Myles Garrett’s enemy from last season after using Rudolph’s own helmet to bash his head and it sent Garrett to be suspended indefinitely. The controversy of a racial slur being uttered to Garrett by Rudolph that caused him to go berserk was never confirmed, due to no audio being found from that incident. However, the narrative of a revenge game between the two is overblown for the most part. The Browns have bigger things to worry about: winning and making the playoffs.
The Cleveland Browns are so close to breaking their 18-year playoff drought and Browns fans everywhere are anxious leading up to this game. The Browns have a golden opportunity to put this game away early against a depleted Steelers team and prepare themselves for the playoffs. This is truly a “win or go home” game, so make sure to tune in this Sunday @ 1 p.m. to watch the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers!