It’s Browns week. Again. Already. Perhaps the most anticipated game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns in over a decade. And that has as much to do with football and playoff implications as it does with….well, you all saw what happened the last time these two teams played a little under two weeks ago. But for the sake of context, a brief recap.
The Steelers trailed 21-7 as they faced a third and 29 from their own 17-yard line with 14 seconds remaining in the game. Inadvisably, they ran a screen pass to Trey Edmunds that left Myles Garrett open as a free rusher. He took full advantage, tackling Mason Rudolph after the pass had been thrown as he twisted the quarterback to the ground.
Rudolph didn’t care for that, so he grabbed at the lineman’s helmet to try to rip it off. Garrett responded by pulling the quarterback up off the ground by the facemask before ripping his helmet off. Rudolph, again, responded, getting up to get in Garrett’s face, who proceeded to swing the helmet and hit him in the head.
He won’t be playing in this game or any other game this year because of that, but that is the backdrop in front of which this game will be played. Tensions are high, and both sides know it. The Browns are doing their best to talk themselves out of responding this week, knowing they’re one of the most undisciplined teams in the league, in more ways than one.
“I feel it’s going to be a heated game”, Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward told Nat Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “There’s going to be a lot of trash talking. A lot of guys are going to try to get under your skin and do things to get you out of character. But we’ve just got to stay poised and focused on what we’re there to do and that’s win the game”.
They won the game the last time, putting the Steelers’ season in jeopardy. While they responded to put themselves back in playoff position, the Browns, having now won three games in a row, are now in position to pass Pittsburgh in the standings with another victory, as they enter the game just one back in the win-loss column.
While Rudolph may not play in this game, Ward didn’t think that would matter in terms of the on-field tensions. “I don’t think that that single player is going to be the difference of how a lot of guys feel going into this game”, he said. “Outside of what happened, there was still a lot of trash talk going on between specific players and just the rivalry itself is going to spark a lot of emotions going into this game”.
There were also several illegal hits on the part of the Browns, some called, some not, some fined, some not. The officials will be on the lookout for any kind of excessive behavior in this one, no doubt.