Even though it didn’t really manifest all that much on the field, both sides made it clear that they still had some strong opinions about what happened the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns played each other. There was Jarvis Landry, for some peculiar reason, sporting a shirt that read ‘Revenge’ as he arrived to the stadium, for example, even though the Browns won, and owned the player who committed assault.
Then there were a number of players donning ‘Free Pouncey’ jerseys, obviously making reference to Maurkice Pouncey, and perhaps poking fun at his past as well. It was a clear message by his teammates, saying that they had his back for his response to Myles Garrett after he swung Mason Rudolph’s own helmet and struck him in the head with. Cameron Sutton also had a fairly colorful shirt speaking to the Steelers-Browns rivalry as well.
Despite all that potential pre-game animosity, the actual on-field experience was a pretty clean affair. There wasn’t much scuffling, perhaps a bit of chippiness here and there, but nothing out of character in a typical division game. Whether that had anything to do with concerns about over-officiating or both sides really just understood that it wasn’t a big deal, it’s hard to say.
But it’s easy to say it wasn’t, especially after the fact, and that’s what Mike Tomlin did. During his post-game press conference, he was asked if he thought that the Steelers did a good job of controlling their emotions in response to what happened in the last game.
“We weren’t concerned about it, to be quite honest with you”, he said. “We were about beating them today. That’s how you deal with some of that stuff; you beat ‘em”.
That is indeed what they did, and they didn’t make it easy on themselves, either. The Browns actually got off to an early 10-0 lead and controlled possession for the first quarter and a half before the Steelers started showing some signed of life, scoring 20 of the 23 remaining points.
They say the best revenge is living well. I still don’t know what revenge Landry was seeking, but it’s clear the Steelers it instead. Pittsburgh has strengthened its position in the chase for the second wildcard spot with today’s win, and effectively ended any meager hopes the Browns had remaining of doing so themselves.
What’s more, Cleveland is now just one loss away from securing yet another non-winning season, and they still have to play the Baltimore Ravens again. They were the betting favorites to win the AFC North, but they’re most likely going to finish third.