It’s 4-0 vs. 4-1. It’s the veteran quarterback looking for renewed respectability after missing a year with an elbow injury vs. the young quarterback who’s just looking for respectability. It’s the Steelers’ tradition vs. the Browns’ lack of any since returning as an expansion team in 1999. It’s the Terrible Towel vs. the Dog Pound. It’s the whole damn town vs. Myles Garrett.
Just how big is this game? So big, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin even felt compelled to coin a new ism during his virtual press conference on Tuesday:
“This week we are faced with a significant challenge, one that we are excited about because we love being in the kitchen,” said Tomlin, in a quote courtesy of the team’s official website. “AFC North ball is in the kitchen. It’s hot in the North and we have an AFC North home game against the Cleveland Browns, a team that has won four in a row.”
It’s nice that the coach is trying to show respect for a Cleveland team that comes to town on a four-game winning-streak following a Week 1 spanking courtesy of the Ravens.
I’m not going to show any respect for the Browns. Why? They’re the Browns. Remember the late-‘60s and all of the 1970s when the expansion Bengals basically stole the Browns’ team colors? Even if you don’t remember or weren’t born yet, that happened. Remember the past however many years when Cincinnati played the frustrated little brother to the Steelers cocky and obnoxious big brother and lost every meaningful game between the two squads? Even if you don’t remember, the Bengals and their fans certainly do.
Anyway, take the stripes off the Bengals helmets, ugly up the uniforms a bit more, and you have the Browns.
Pittsburgh has owned the Browns just as much as it’s owned the Bengals, only difference is Cleveland hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2002 when it marched into Heinz Field for a pickup game of one-on-one with Big Brother. Despite falling behind by 17 points, the Steelers won that wildcard game in dramatic fashion (even when Big Brother is kind of old and tubby, he still finds a way to win). Most of the wins since that day in January of 2003 have been far-less dramatic, but make no mistake about it, there have been a lot of victories.
Big Bro will claim another one at Heinz Field on Sunday.
Do you really think Baker Mayfield is going to come of age against Ben Roethlisberger? Do you really think Garrett is going to have his way against Alejandro Villanueva? OK, that might happen a time or two. The only difference is, Roethlisberger isn’t Mason Rudolph, and if Garrett knocks Roethlisberger to the turf, he won’t engage him in fisticuffs. Roethlisberger will simply get up off the grass and beat Garrett with his right arm. What poison will Roethlisberger use to take down Garrett and the rest of the Browns’ defense? JuJu Smith-Schuster? Chase Claypool? James Washington? Pick one.
As for Mayfield, he better hope the Browns can run the ball close to their league-leading average of 188.4 yards per game. If not, it will be Mayfield vs. the Steelers relentless pass rush, and the likes of T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Bud Dupree might plant Mayfield into the ground like he once planted the Oklahoma Sooner flag into the turf at the Ohio State University.
I must say, I don’t like Cleveland’s chances of being successful on Sunday. Teams like the Browns don’t win these games.
Heinz Field is the Steelers kitchen, and it will be way too hot for Cleveland on Sunday.
The Browns better get ready to call the West Penn Hospital Burn Center around 4p.m.