Know Your Opponent: Cleveland Browns

September 21, 2022
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After a tough week that saw Pittsburgh and Cleveland take losses they shouldn’t have, we finally get the first meeting between the two in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era. One of the best rivalries in football is turning to a new page. Pittsburgh and Cleveland have squared off 141 times, with Pittsburgh currently holding the advantage 79-61, including a tie in 2018.

Comparing Cleveland and Pittsburgh

The two blue-collar cities sit about 135 miles apart. While the cities share similarities, a Pittsburgher or Clevelander probably won’t admit it. The Turnpike War started back in 1950 when the Steelers and Browns met for the first time. The Browns went on to beat Pittsburgh 30-17, forcing the Steelers to turn the ball over six times. Browns legend Otto Graham scored two rushing touchdowns to lead Cleveland over Pittsburgh. The Steelers wouldn’t get a victory against Cleveland until 1954 when Pittsburgh spanked the Browns 55-27. Steelers running back Ray Mathews scored four to get Pittsburgh its first win over rival Cleveland.

The AFC North rivals have had interesting ties to each other going way back. Legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll was a linebacker for the Browns before getting into coaching. Another Pittsburgh Legend Bill Cowher also had heavy Browns ties, on the field as a linebacker and on the sidelines as an assistant coach before making his way to Pittsburgh. Former Browns Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer is from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. A Pittsburgh suburb area. Even some legendary Steelers such as Jack Lambert, Ben Roethlisberger, and James Harrison all hail from parts of Ohio.

The Rivalry

While the Browns owned this rivalry back in the 1950s and 60s, the tides have turned in recent times. Since 2000, Pittsburgh has only seven losses to the Browns compared to 36 wins. To put it into perspective, Cleveland has only won two games at Heinz Field/Acrisure Stadium which was opened in 2001. While the Browns have struggled to stay as relevant as the Steelers in recent memory, they have handed Pittsburgh some of its worst losses in franchise history.

In 1989 the Browns beat the Steelers 51-0, the largest loss in Steelers franchise history. Aside from that, who can forget the catastrophic Steelers meltdown in the 2021 playoffs? The Browns waltzed into Pittsburgh and smacked the Steelers 48-37 but the score makes it feel closer than it was, as almost any Yinzer would tell you.

New Chapter

Now the rivals get to meet for the first time this season on Thursday Night Football. Mitch Trubisky vs. Jacoby Brissett. Trubisky is 1-0 against the Browns, the lone matchup being back in 2017. Brissett has faced the Steelers three times, all as a member of the Colts, but hasn’t found the win column against Pittsburgh yet in his career. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see the matchup of premier pass rushers as TJ Watt is still nursing his pectoral injury. Myles Garrett will be playing though. Hopefully, he doesn’t swing a helmet at somebody.

Both teams come into this matchup with one win and one loss. After a tough week 2 in both cities, the winner of this game will hold first place in the AFC North for the time being. Browns star running back Nick Chubb has been hot through two weeks. He’s gathered 228 yards on 39 rush attempts and three touchdowns. Aside from Amari Cooper, the Browns aren’t very imposing in the wide receiver room. The defense still stands tall though and could pose a threat to Trubisky and the Steelers.

The last time Najee Harris saw the Browns he flamed them for 188 yards. In his two career games against the Browns, Harris has carried the ball 54 times for 279 yards and two touchdowns. While he hasn’t stood out this year so far, expect Harris to get involved slightly more in Cleveland. Harris has only posted 72 yards on 25 rushing attempts this year. His numbers are slightly better in the receiving department, as he’s grabbed seven catches for 43 yards and a touchdown through two games.

There is no real way to predict how the game will go, as with any AFC North rivalry game. Two good defenses, two unusual quarterbacks, a handful of good running backs, great coaching, and two raucous fanbases. Fanduel Sportsbook has the Browns as 4.5-point favorites in the primetime matchup.