The last time these two bitter AFC North rivals played one another was in Week 3 on Thursday Night Football. Considering this upcoming game is in Week 18, the regular season finale, that first meeting feels like light years away.
Just think about how things have changed since that game:
- Mitch Trubisky was the starting quarterback for the Steelers
- Jacoby Brissett was the starting quarterback for the Browns
- Rookies like Jaylen Warren and George Pickens were still developing a niche within the offense
- The Steelers were without T.J. Watt who was on Injured Reserve (IR)
I could go on, but when these two teams meet on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium it will be like two different teams facing one another for the first time this season. Sure, some of the same names and faces haven’t changed. Names like Cam Heyward, Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Najee Harris. However, at least for one team, there is a lot more on the line than just a divisional win.
With the Browns already eliminated from the postseason, they have to rely on playing spoiler for the Steelers. Pittsburgh doesn’t control its own destiny when it comes to the AFC Playoffs, but they need to win their game to have a shot. If the Steelers win and get help by way of New York Jets and Buffalo Bills wins, they are in as the 7th seed in the playoffs. I think it’s safe to say the Browns would love nothing more than to end the thought of a playoff berth for their rivals.
As for the Steelers, they are hoping to win four straight games, and to punch their ticket to the big dance. Can rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett continue his magical streak of back-to-back game-winning drives? I think Steelers fans would agree the hope is to not need those type of comebacks. This should be a good one, with plenty of scoreboard watching going on during the 1 p.m. ET games.