It’s really not much fun spending the week leading up to the final game of the year talking about the upcoming offseason so much, but it is what it is (man I’ve been listening to Mike Tomlin too much I think). Even if this game is against the Browns, and means nothing for Pittsburgh other than finishing at .500 technically, we can’t forget that every year the Cleveland Browns play two Super Bowls, against the Steelers.
Most fans in Cleveland will admit that playing Pittsburgh is the highlight of their season most of the time. Well, the Steelers and maybe the rival Baltimore Ravens too, but the Steelers still hold a special place in their hearts. Well, something like that.
Since 2000, the Browns have only beaten the Steelers 4 times; once in 2000, once in 2003, once in 2009, and of course this season. They haven’t swept Pittsburgh since 1988, incidentally 1986-1988 they beat the Steelers all 6 games they played.
It’s easy to see why they take so much pride in beating their old AFL rival; simply because it doesn’t happen very often.
The Steelers hardly have any room for error in this game if they want to win, even if the Browns are as beat up as they are. Even on a healthy day, the talent on both sides of the ball clearly favors Pittsburgh, but all that goes out the window now. The AFC North seems to have that affect most of the time; anyone can beat anyone else on any given Sunday.
When you play for pride; that can be a huge motivating factor especially when it comes to placing such high importance on beating one particular team. According to all of the Browns fans that I know, or have talked to in passing, they still rate Pittsburgh as their biggest rival while Steelers fans have given that honor to the Ravens mostly.
Even if they finish their year 2-14, beating the Steelers gives them some sense of accomplishment. That type of mentality comes with an annual trip to the living room couch in January for the Browns. In fact, if you go back over the last 20 years, the Browns have only had 3 winnings seasons (finishing at least 9-7).
So even with a team and its fans suffering through so much adversity year after year, they proved as recently as this season that they can beat the Steelers from time to time. If the Steelers take any type of “entitled” approach as Ryan Clark talked about earlier this year, they could be in trouble.
Beating the Browns isn’t going to salvage the season for the SteelerNation, fans or players, but it certainly might for Cleveland.