CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - From positive COVID-19 tests taking down our head coach and key players, to drag racing tickets, and being called “nameless gray faces” by one of the Steelers, it’s been a hectic week for the Browns leading up to this game.
But that’s not stopping them from making history on Heinz Field for their first playoff game appearance in 18 years.
After beating Pittsburgh on our home turf last week, the 11-5 Browns are refacing the 12-4 Steelers for this NFL Wild Card showdown.
By the way, the last time the Browns won a playoff game was in 1994 under Head Coach Bill Belichick when they beat the Patriots 20-13 in the Wild Card round.
However, one of the most pivotal members of the Browns is missing this historic moment.
The Browns announced on Tuesday morning that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive for COVID-19, 18 years to the day since Cleveland’s last playoff appearance.
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer is the acting head coach for Sunday’s game while Alex Van Pelt is calling the plays on offensive.
Two critical offense players, CB Denzel Ward and LG Joel Bitonio, also tested positive on Tuesday and are not playing.
Those players join CB Kevin Johnson and WR KhaDarel Hodge, who are also on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
As for the rivalry, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster gave the Browns a little added motivation ahead of Sunday night’s playoff matchup.
During a recent player availability, Smith-Schuster was asked if he feels the Cleveland Browns are any different this year after finishing with an 11-5 record.
“I think they’re still the same Browns that I’ve played every year,” Smith-Schuster said. “I think they’re nameless gray faces. They have a couple of good players on their team. But at the end of the day, the Browns are the Browns. It’s AFC North football. They’re a good team. I’m just happy we’re playing them again.”
The Browns made sure to give JuJu Smith-Schuster a run for his money by scoring a touchdown i
n the first 14 seconds of the game when the Steelers bobbled the snap and the Browns recovered it in the endzone.
K Cody Parkey brought the Browns lead to 7-0 with the extra point.
As for the rest of the first quarter highlights...
The Steelers didn’t get the ball back for long when the Browns CB MJ Stewart intercepted the ball just over four minutes into the game.
Browns WR Jarvis Landry then turned that second turnover into the second touchdown of the night.
As if 18 years of tension were bubbling over, the Browns came out swinging with a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.
It wasn’t long until the Browns were back in the endzone with an 11-yard run by RB Kareem Hunt with 4:40 left in the first quarter.
Another good extra point gave the Browns the 21-0 lead.
The Steelers soon turned the ball over for the third time in the first quarter with help from Browns S Sheldrick Redwine.
Hunt then turned that turnover into a touchdown again.
Cue the celebration dance:
Add the extra point and the Browns were up 28-0 in yes... the first quarter.
That was the most points scored in the first quarter by any team in NFL playoff history.
If the Browns emerge victorious, they’ll go on to play the Kansas City Chiefs.