The Pittsburgh Steelers have a huge divisional game coming up on Sunday, and it’s against the…Cleveland Browns? For, wait, for both teams? Are my notes right?
The Steelers enter Sunday’s game holding the keys to the car in terms of the second Wildcard spot. They are currently one of four teams who own a 6-5 record, but they hold the tiebreaker over the other four teams as we speak—the Oakland Raiders, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Tennessee Titans.
The Browns are now just one game behind this pack at 5-6 after going on a three-game winning streak, which includes a key victory just two weeks ago against a Steelers team that had won four games in a row, and only narrowly lost the one before that due to a fumble in overtime.
Needless to say, this might be a 1 PM game, but this is one that will be closely monitored in that time slot, around the league, for multiple reasons, not only because of the playoff implications but because of the recent background between the two sides. And those are stakes Mike Tomlin and his team embrace.
“We love being in hot-button games,”, he told reporter during his Tuesday press conference. “We love being in hotly contested AFC North games. We’re not a group that runs from these type of games. We’re the type of group that runs to these type of games”.
They are running into this particular game with a man name Duck under center after electing to bench Mason Rudolph in the second half on Sunday. This is the first start of the rookie’s career that he is making that isn’t due to injury. And he’s being thrust into the biggest game of the season for the Steelers, essentially with their season on the line. Not that the Los Angeles Chargers game wasn’t a big one as well.
“When you’re in it, you feel it. It feels like it, and it’s a good feeling, because like I said, we’re competitors”, Tomlin said of the significance of this game. “We want to be in those games. We want to be in those matchups. We want to represent the National Football League, our division, this game of football, in those hot-button, big football games, and do so appropriately”.
The table is set for a hard-fought and significant matchup against a first-overall pick and a player who wasn’t even signed after the draft. It’s hard to give the Steelers the edge in this one, but they have a much better history of rising to the occasion than do the Browns, who haven’t even had a non-losing record in over a decade, and just recorded their first win over the Steelers since October 2014.
On Sunday, they have the chance to record their first win at Heinz Field since…October 2003. Literally the only time they’ve ever won in Heinz Field.