The combined record of the two teams taking the field is just 11-11. It’s at 1 PM game, which was moved up from a later start time. But for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns, this is a marquee matchup on which rests the future of their season.
The Steelers, 6-5, and the Browns, 5-6, are either just inside or outside the bubble, in the running for the second and final wildcard spot. Not only are there major playoff implications, there is also the history between the two sides, recent and otherwise, that shape the complexion of this matchup.
And the defense, which puts the loss two weeks ago on their own shoulders—even though the offense turned the ball over four times and only put up seven points—is ready for the rematch, the Steelers’ only loss in their last six games.
“I think it’s why we play, is for these types of games where we’re competitive, the other team is gonna come in with a chip on their shoulder, and it’s just gonna be about who’s gonna execute the most, be the most physical, and who’s gonna outperform the entire game”, said Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is obviously new to the rivalry with the Browns.
Fitzpatrick, who leads the Steelers with seven takeaways since being acquired via trade after Week Two, didn’t get any in that game, a rare thing so far during his time in Pittsburgh. In fact, the defense as a whole was blanked, for the first time since Week One.
They want to change that, but more importantly, they simply want to change the outcome. Said Bud Dupree, “They won the last game. We’ve got to get back in there and win this game. There’s a lot at stake, riding on us for the division. We want to put ourselves in position to make the playoffs, so this is a must-have game that we’ve got to win”.
And there is also something of pride on the line for a unit that has been among the best in the league this season. The Browns were able to do things against them that most teams have not this year, whether it’s making big plays or protecting the ball.
“We want to show the world that we’re consistent, that we can do it each and every week”, Dupree said. They didn’t get the job done against the Browns the last time, so they want to make sure that they take care of business this time.