This was going to be the game for the Cleveland Browns.
Going into Sunday afternoon’s matchup at FirstEnergy Stadium against the Steelers, the team it knocked out of the postseason on January 10, this was going to be the moment Cleveland snatched its long-time tormentor's soul once and for all.
But you know how those Halloween flicks go, especially the one titled Halloween. Jamie Lee Curtis never quite rids her life of Michael Myers (btw, I haven’t seen the latest installment, so no spoilers).
Speaking of Michael Myers, the original movie, released in 1978, turned that slow-walking slasher into an icon and that film into a franchise. Much like Myers and Jamie Lee, wherever the Browns are, there are the Steelers, lurking behind the bushes or staring at them from inside a station wagon.
Cleveland is about to answer the call to success? It’s the Steelers on the other end not saying anything and scaring the high expectations out of the team and the town. Look over your shoulder, Brownies, Pittsburgh is always there, watching, waiting, haunting your dreams.
Myles Garrett may have shown up to FirstEnergy Stadium dressed as the Grim Reaper before Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh. The decorated pass-rusher also had some fun over the Halloween season by decorating his yard with the tombstones of NFL quarterbacks he's sacked so far in his career. But much like the little kids going trick-or-treating during the aforementioned movie, that’s just for fun. That’s cute. That makes for a great photo op and a nice story if you’re the Browns and their fans.
But the Steelers are the team wearing the white mask and that blue jumpsuit. They’re not joking around. They don’t care about what the Browns did to them in the playoffs last year. Remember in the movie when Jamie Lee thought she finally did away with Myers and he hauntingly sat straight up in the background?
Yep, Brownies, that’s what Sunday was for you and your black-and-gold tormentors.
The Steelers offense flushed away several opportunities throughout the first half. Pittsburgh even lost its kicker, Chris Boswell, when he was hit late on a failed fake field goal near the end of the second quarter and was out for the second half with a concussion.
Pittsburgh was completely hamstrung in the kicking department the rest of the way, as Pressley Harvin, the rookie punter, demonstrated quite clearly how his occupation utilizes a completely different skill-set than Boswell’s.
Social media spent the entire second half questioning the decision by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to go for the fake field goal and not only take three points off the board but bury his kicker in the process.
Yet, Tomlin’s decision didn’t come back to haunt him or his team.
Instead, the Steelers continued to haunt Cleveland, both the city and the football team that represents it.
On what turned out to be Cleveland’s final drive, Baker Mayfield, the quarterback most people want to make into a star, had a chance to finally achieve such a lofty status on merit and not Progressive commercials.
But he couldn’t get it done, neither could Jarvis Landry, who fumbled away the Browns’ penultimate drive deep in Pittsburgh territory.
How glorious would a touchdown on either of those possessions have been for the Browns? And how agonizing would it have been for Pittsburgh, especially when it was unsuccessful on the two two-point conversions it had to attempt in the second half thanks to Boswell’s concussion?
The Steelers would have likely been up by two scores by the end of the game, if not for the failed fake and Boswell injury. Instead, that 15-10 lead sure was scary, wasn’t it?
A loss to the Browns, especially one that would have come about with last-second heroics and would have also included some major second-guessing for the head coach with all the “isms,” could have been the final nail in the coffin for the Steelers, even with 10 games left in the season.
But the Steelers are now 4-3 and one game ahead of the Browns, who are now in last place in the AFC North.
Not only that but the Bengals were upset by the Jets on Sunday, thus making the AFC North a true four-team race with plenty of season left to play.
Wasn’t it supposed to be a three-team race after Sunday?
I guess someone forgot to tell the Steelers. Remember the final scene of the original Halloween movie when Donald Pleasence, as Dr. Sam Loomis, seemingly does away with Myers after shooting him right off the balcony?
The Browns had a chance to rid themselves of the figure that’s haunted them for years. They failed to do so.
The Steelers are still alive. I’m afraid the Browns will never be free of their black-and-gold demons.
Watch out, NFL, the Steelers, the team that should have been buried by those up-and-coming Brownies, may soon be coming to haunt a town near you.