It’s funny how we, as Steelers fans, think with our hearts and not our heads when playoff football is right around the corner.
For example, four years ago at this time, I said to myself, “The Steelers will be perfectly fine with Ben Tate replacing Le’Veon Bell in this upcoming playoff game against the Ravens.”
A year earlier, as Pittsburgh approached Week 17 with a 7-8 record and needing a win and three teams—the Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers—to lose in-order to make it into the postseason, I thought, “That could totally happen!” (It actually almost did.)
Three years ago, as the 9-6 Steelers prepared for their Week 17 match-up in Cleveland, needing a win and a Jets loss in Buffalo in order to make it to the playoffs, I thought, “Man, I really love that Rex Ryan. And I just know he’s going to do Pittsburgh a solid by knocking off his former team!” (That really happened? Holy crap!)
Yes, we as fans really do find interesting ways to throw logic out the window when all we want for Christmas is a playoff berth.
But, man, I never thought I’d be a card-carrying member of Browns Nation—even for a week—yet, here I am.
In case you didn’t know, thanks to gumming up the works (to quote the late, great Myron Cope) during their first 15 regular season games, the Steelers (8-6-1) are preparing for their Week 17 match-up this Sunday, knowing they need a victory over the Bengals along with a loss by the Ravens to, of all teams, the Cleve Brownies (again, to quote Myron) in-order to make it to the postseason for the fourth-straight year.
Admit it, you never thought you’d be here, either, right?
You’ve seen those Browns-mocking memes (heck, you may have even posted them). Memes like: “I once left three Browns tickets on my windshield. I came back and there were nine.” Here’s another one: “My deepest condolences. You’ve just been drafted by the Browns.”
Then there are others, like: “Myles Garrett drafted by the Cleveland Browns, immediately retires from the NFL.” “Jabrill Peppers drafted by the Cleveland Browns, immediately retires from the NFL.” “Baker Mayfield drafted by the Cleveland Browns, immediately retires from the NFL.”
That’s right, the team we often refer to as the “Stains” or “Clowns” (I’m not even sure if some Steelers fans know the real name of Cleveland’s professional football team) is the one that holds Pittsburgh’s postseason fate in its sweaty, clammy hands.
Just yesterday, I was lamenting that darn tie in Week 1 over those lousy, talent-less Browns. Today, I just love the aggressiveness of interim head coach Gregg Williams, and I know he’s going to have his boys—many of whom have high draft pedigrees, which means they are extremely talented—ready to take it to Baltimore this Sunday.
Just last spring, I was criticizing the Browns for drafting Mayfield number one overall. Today, why, I think he’s got the brightest future of any quarterback from the 2018 NFL Draft class.
This is all too funny, because I know if I’m a Ravens fan today, and it was my team that had a “Win and You’re In” scenario with Cleveland coming to town, I’d be feeling pretty darn confident right now. In-fact, I’d probably be thinking ahead to a possible postseason re-match with the Chargers. When I thought of the Browns, my mind would immediately drift back to those memes and that 1-31 stretch that took place between 2016 and 2017.
Fortunately, as a Steelers fan, I know these aren’t your slightly-older brother’s Cleveland Browns. I can actually see the talent, talent that’s not being rationalized in my mind. I actually think Mayfield, again, the number one pick, is a better quarterback prospect than Lamar Jackson, who was selected with the last pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Baltimore’s defense might be the best, but the Browns’ defense has talent oozing out of every orifice.
Yes, the Browns would love to stick it to Pittsburgh, but I’m guessing they’d love to stick it to Baltimore even more. Why? That’s who Cleveland is actually playing this week. And call me crazy, but I’m guessing the Browns would have more fun knocking an AFC North rival out of the postseason by winning than by losing—only your most narcissistic Steeler fan would think the latter to be true (you know who you are).
It’s less than 48 hours since the Steelers officially placed their postseason fate in Cleveland’s hands (as of this writing), and I’m already rationalizing ways that the team with all the derogatory memes can do the City of Steel a solid this week.
It’s irrational, but it’s all I have.