Tonight is the Browns’ fourth and final primetime tilt of the 2019-20 season, facing off against despised, one-way rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, I know I don’t need to explain myself in calling this rivalry one-way, because anyone who watches football with even semi-moderate regularity knows the Browns are losers and the Steelers are winners. But, to provide some perspective for those of you who don’t follow either team and happen to be reading this blog, the Browns are 6-34-1 against the Steelers since the franchise returned in 1999. That’s right, the Browns beat the Steelers roughly 15% of the time they play them. Put simply….yikes.
Furthermore, this matchup is more often than not the last opportunity for a Browns head coach to either pull their head out of the guillotine, or meet their demise:
I saw some replies to this tweet mention that typically this typically goes down after the second Steelers game of the year, but a.) the fact that this happens at all is embarrassing and b.) the game tonight is different than most Steelers games.
The Browns have looked, putting it nicely, inconsistent in primetime games this year. They beat Luke Falk and the Jets on Monday Night Football (unimpressive), lost to the Rams in a game that their defense should not have kept them in but did, and got the doors absolutely blown off them by the Niners on Monday Night a few weeks back. Another loss, be it a blowout or last second field goal, on your home field in primetime with the eyes of the football-loving nation watching feels like it could be the end of an era for the Browns and Kitchens that will go down as disorganized, dysfunctional, and disappointing.
But the Browns do have a single, microscopic, shred of hope left. At 3-6 they’re not completely eliminated from playoff contention, and a win tonight puts them squarely back in the hunt with Miami coming to town next week and then the Steelers again in Pittsburgh. If they focus on one game at a time and win these next three weeks, they will sit at 6-6 with 2 games against Cincinnati, at Arizona, and vs Baltimore to end the year. Personally, I think the loss to the Broncos was the nail in the coffin for this season, but the players, at least on Twitter, have the right mindset and are looking to reset after the abysmal first half.
Maybe this team really has turned the corner. Maybe this team has enough leaders in the locker room to straighten this thing out and lead to a 7-1, 8-0 back half. Maybe the Browns are due to put up a solid all-around primetime game and beat the Steelers. After all, they’re 1-8-1 in their last ten against the Yinzers, so maybe a game against Mason Rudolph is exactly what this team needs to get the Pittsburgh weight off of their shoulders.
But I doubt it.
I want to believe. I really do. This team and this city are so fun to root for and deserve a football team that they can be proud of. But life doesn’t award handouts to the downtrodden, it rewards those who work hard and do things the right way. The Browns are highly penalized, turn the ball over, and at the end of the day, Mike Tomlin is simply a much better coach than Freddie Kitchens.
My feeling is that this game will be a game of consolation prizes. The Browns won’t get blown out, OBJ will score his 2nd touchdown of the year, but much like this season, it will be too little too late.
Steelers – 23 Browns – 17
Oh, and Joe Haden will probably have a pick six or something because, well, the Browns.