It has been a long time since the Pittsburgh Steelers have played the Cleveland Browns in a game with playoff implications for both teams. The time has finally arrived, and count me amongst those that are excited about the event.
I grew up hearing accounts of those Browns vs. Steelers match ups that turned a rivalry into a hatred. Unfortunately, when the Browns were uprooted from Cleveland and moved to Maryland, in the form of the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers’ rivalry went with it. When the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, it just wasn’t the same. The colors of the uniform and the team name all stayed the same, but the rivalry was nonexistent.
The once competitive series has been dominated by the Steelers. Pittsburgh has taken 19 of the 23 meetings between the two teams since returning to the NFL – not really competitive. The Browns are a stronger opponent this year than possibly any in the previous 23 meetings, but deficiencies abound.
The Browns have been the picture of inconsistency at the quarterback position since they returned to the shores of Lake Eerie. Cleveland has trotted out over 19 starting quarterbacks since 1999. In a league that is built around throwing the football and an offensive attack, not having a franchise quarterback will leave a team blowing in the Northeast Ohio winds.
Consistency has been a Steelers’ motto for years now, and as consistent as the Steelers have been in the past two decades, the current crop wearing the black and gold can’t claim that motto. The Steelers have finally won two games in a row, but have yet to even put forth a complete four quarter performance as a collective group. Their struggles in the running game, both offensively and defensively, leave this team vulnerable on many levels.
Both of these teams have deficiencies, and their 4-6 records are indicative of just that, but even with a losing record they find themselves in the thick of a playoff chase.
Want to know the intrigue of Sunday’s game in one sentence?
Winner stays, loser is done.
It’s as simple as that.
This matchup should make for a great football game come kickoff this Sunday.
Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz