I’m probably being overly nostalgic. But I long for the good old days when Steelers vs. Browns was one of the most important games of the year. I’m getting sick of meaningless games against the Browns.
Sure, playing the Browns will always be important because division wins help determine playoff position. And since the Browns are still in the same division as the Steelers, that gives the game meaning. But it’s not the same meaning that the game once carried.
Pittsburgh and Cleveland are the closest cities geographically in the AFC North. The two cities are so close, you can drive back and forth between them in just a couple of hours. Many Pittsburghers have family members in Cleveland, and vice versa. Pittsburgh and Cleveland are both former rust belt cities that have come roaring back. They’re natural rivals. Or at least they should be. But it’s hard to maintain a rivalry when one of the teams almost never wins the game. When that happens, “rivalry” is no longer the appropriate word. “Domination” is. And in recent history, the Steelers have dominated the Browns.
The Steelers have won 16 of the past 17 meetings with the Browns. If that’s not domination, then I don’t know what is.
Despite drafting early in almost every draft, the Browns just don’t seem to get any better. This year, they’re in last place in the AFC North. Sound familiar?
The Browns do have 2 wins this year. One of the came against the Cincinnati Bengals (thank you), and the other came against the San Diego Chargers. They’ve also played close games against the Ravens, Cowboys, Colts, and Eagles. So they shouldn’t be taken too lightly.
The thing that will probably keep the game interesting isn’t what the Browns do, but what the Steelers don’t do. For example, the Steelers won’t be starting Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Nor will they be starting backup quarterback Byron Leftwich. Nope, this week Charlie Batch, the Steelers’ 3rd string quarterback will be getting the start.
The Steelers also won’t be starting Troy Polamalu at safety. Polamalu continues to suffer from a calf injury which has kept him off the field for most of the season.
The Steelers also won’t have Antonio Brown or Jericho Cotchery at wide receiver. That’s why the Steelers chose to bring in Plaxico Burress.
And the Steelers won’t have Marcus Gilbert this week at right tackle. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but rookie Mike Adams has done a less than stellar job of filling in for Gilbert. I know that he’s a rookie, and that this playing experience will be good for him in the long term. But I just hope he doesn’t get Charlie Batch killed as he’s trying to learn how to play the position.
Despite all of the players who are injured, I’m certain the Steelers will find a way to beat the Browns. But the score may be closer than you expect.