The Pittsburgh Steelers have a big divisional game coming up this weekend. Every one of their divisional games is going to be big right now, when you consider the fact that they are in fourth place. Right now, the team they’re most directly looking up at is the 4-3 Cleveland Browns, who won a game to get back over .500 while the Steelers were on their bye week.
The Browns also just so happen to be the team that put a whoopin’ on them in the postseason in January, genuinely embarrassing them on their own grass at Heinz Field in the Wildcard round, putting up 28 points in the first quarter alone. While this may be a motivational factor for some players, however, head coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday that it hasn’t been addressed globally.
“I’m sure it comes up in some form or fashion, but not as a rallying cry or not as a focus of a meeting”, he said when asked if the coaching staff were approaching the game that way or as a clean slate. “There are a lot of variables that are 2021 that should have our attention. We’ve got a lot riding on this game. We’re going to play a really good team in their venue”.
There are, after all, a lot of key members of this team who were not on the roster last year—many not even in the league. The offense in particular is substantially different, with four rookie starters in running back Najee Harris, tight end Pat Freiermuth, and offensive linemen Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr.
“It’s 2021. Last year’s game means nothing to Najee, it means nothing to KG, it means nothing to Dan Moore, it means nothing to Pat, etc., etc.”, Tomlin said “You’ve just got to acknowledge that, in the game of football, things change year in and year out and what’s seemingly low-hanging fruit is oftentimes irrelevant to some of the people in the room, and so we don’t spend a lot of time talking about old stories or old news”.
The Browns’ offense is actually largely the same, although it remains to be seen whether or not quarterback Baker Mayfield will be available. Their defense, on the other hand, is substantially different, and for the better.
Pittsburgh’s offense is also substantially different. So to whether or not it’s for the better, that remains to be seen, as it is an ongoing evaluation. The offensive line is drastically different, and they will have their hands full with Cleveland’s defensive front. Myles Garrett leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks already in seven games, and has recorded at least half a sack in all but one game.