Rivalry Renewed: Browns – Steelers Preview

Spencer Lanning Antonio Brown Cleveland Browns
AP Photo

The show must go on. Come rain, snow, sleet, sun, or apathy the NFL schedule does not relent.

Even if Cleveland fans do not particularly feel like watching football, the Cleveland Browns (0-10) will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) Sunday afternoon. The long-time rivalry is renewed with much less enthusiasm than previous seasons, but do the Browns have a surprise up their sleeves? (Probably not)

Are the Browns favored?

I mean, no. Pittsburgh is an eight-point favorite, this despite losing to Baltimore and Dallas in back-to-back weeks. For the eleventh straight week the Browns enter the game as underdogs, another week by more than one touchdown. Of course, when your last win was 343 days ago it is hard to be upset with Las Vegas’ powers that be. Making matters worse, the Browns are 2-8 against the spread this season, having not covered since their loss to Tennessee.

Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 68-58. The Black and Gold have a two-game win streak in the series and have won six of the past seven. Cleveland’s most recent win came October 12, 2014 when the Browns handled their guests 31-10. Brian Hoyer threw a touchdown pass, Ben Tate ran for two scores, and Isaiah Crowell ran in for a five-yard touchdown as Cleveland embarrassed Pittsburgh. Since then the Steelers have outscored the Browns 58-20 in the past two contests. Get pumped.

Familiar Faces

James Harrison (LB) – Kent State: This season marks Harrison’s 14th season in the NFL, all but one played in Pittsburgh. He was twice named Kent State’s Outstanding Defensive Player (2000 and 2001). In 2001 he was named first-team All-MAC at linebacker.

Cameron Heyward (DE) – Ohio State: A sixth year player out of Ohio State, Heyward has 21 tackles and three sacks this year. He played four seasons at Ohio State and was a human wrecking ball in the backfield. Heyward recorded 163 tackles and fifteen sacks over his four years; he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2010. Unfortunately he suffered a pectoral injury against the Cowboys and is expected to miss the rest of the campaign.

Ricardo Mathews (DE) – Cincinnati: Mathews has played sparingly this season, his seventh in the league. A four year starter in Cincinnati, Mathews recorded 69 tackles and 5.5 sacks as a Bearcat. He played on the 2008 and 2009 Big East Conference Championship teams.

Mike Mitchell (S) – Ohio: Bobcat faithful will recognize Mitchell, a four year starter in Athens. He recorded 213 tackles, three sacks, seven interceptions, and five forced fumbles in college. He is enjoying a strong season in Western PA..

Roosevelt Nix (FB) – Kent State: Nix has appeared in 18 games over two seasons in Pittsburgh. The Reynoldsburg native played four years for the Golden Flashes and finished with 182 tackles, 24 sacks, and 12 forced fumbles.

Ben Roethlesberger (QB) – Miami (OH): Browns fans know Ben all too well by now. He is in his 14th NFL season and has won two Super Bowls for the Steelers. Roethlisberger was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Miami history. Suffice to say if there is an offensive state in the Miami recordbook you can assume he holds it. Let’s move on.

Ryan Shazier (LB) – Ohio State: Yet another Buckeye-turned-Steeler, Shazier joined Pittsburgh in 2014. As a Buckeye he recorded 316 tackles and fourteen sacks. He earned All-Big Ten Conference first-team honors in 2013.

Familiar Feet

Antonio Brown (WR) — This:


The Steelers find themselves in the thick of the AFC North race. The club started out strong, winning four of its first five games. Then Ben Roethlisberger suffered an injury, and the team began to sputter. They have lost four straight games against Miami, New England, Baltimore, and most recently Dallas. The team ranks 15th in points scored (23.8 ppg) and 14th in points allowed (22.9). Even with four of their last seven games coming on the road, the Steelers have a fighting chance a playoff spot. They will close with three straight division games which may prove critical in a playoff push.

Cleveland Browns JerseysQuarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 205-of-317 attempts for 2,357 yards, 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Despite being 34 years old, Big Ben is as potent as ever. Running back Le’Veon Bell has appeared in six games gaining 433 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Brown is as dangerous as you remember: he has pulled down 69 receptions for 831 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016.

When the Browns left for Baltimore in 1995, they departed as one of the most well respected and storied franchises in professional football. The club’s all-time record stood at 374-266-10, a full 108 games above .500. That’s the equivalent of 6.75 full seasons. Since returning in 1999, the Browns have posted an 87-195 record which brings the franchise’s all-time record to 461-461-10. Since the Browns joined the NFL in 1950, the team has never dipped below .500. It stands to reason that stat will change on Sunday.

In 2003 the Browns defeated the Steelers in Pittsburgh 33-13. Before the game, ESPN showed quick sound bites from fans of both teams. One Cleveland fan said, “I don’t care if we go 2-14 as long as those two are against Pittsburgh.” I’ve often wondered about that quote, and if the statement really represents the depths of the rivalry. There is no guarantee that Clevealnd can defeat the Steelers twice, let alone once, but if the club were to finish with one win, a victory over the Steelers would give Browns fans something to keep them warm all winter long. Y’know, besides mock drafts.