CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cleveland Browns made history on Heinz Field in their first playoff game appearance in 18 years with their first playoff victory since 1994 when they were under Head Coach Bill Belichick and beat the Patriots 20-13 in the Wild Card round.
After beating Pittsburgh on our home turf last week 24-22, the 11-5 and No. 6 seed Browns faced the 12-4 and No. 3 seed Steelers for this NFL Wild Card showdown.
Those records have now changed to 12-5 and 12-5, only our season isn’t over.
The Browns will go on to play the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, one of the most pivotal members of the Browns missed 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 acted as head coach for Sunday’s game while Alex Van Pelt called the plays on offensive.
Per NFL policy, players and coaches to test positive for the coronavirus must remain away from the team for at least 10 days.
Those identified as individuals who come in close contact with someone with a COVID-19 infection must remain apart from the team for at least five days from the date of exposure.
Two critical offense players, CB Denzel Ward and LG Joel Bitonio, also tested positive on Tuesday and did not play.
Those players joined CB Kevin Johnson and WR KhaDarel Hodge, who are also on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Browns activated TE Harrison Bryant, S Ronnie Harrison Jr., and LB Malcolm Smith off of reserve/COVID-19 list just in time to play.
Those on the COVID-19 list weren’t the only Browns making headlines this week.
WR Rashard Higgins and OT Jedrick Wills Jr. were stopped by Westlake Police on Tuesday morning for allegedly drag racing against each other on Crocker Road with construction workers present before turning into a luxurious subdivision off Crocker Road, according to Westlake police.
During a probable cause search, officers discovered a suspected marijuana joint in Higgins’ car and destroyed it on camera.
He was not cited for drug possession.
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 in 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.
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.
Cleveland came to the second quarter with eyes on the ball and quick hands with the fourth turnover from the Steelers in the first half.
The second quarter started to sting for the Browns.
First, we got updates on two injured Browns players.
LB BJ Goodson is questionable to return with a shoulder injury while OT Jack Conklin is questionable to return with a hamstring injury.
Then, the Steelers scored their first touchdown of the game from the one-yard line.
A good kick on their end brought the score to 28-7 with the Browns clearly still in the lead.
But thanks to a seven-yard catch in the endzone by TE Austin Hooper, the Browns regained their three-touchdown lead with 1:10 left in the half.
Parkey brought our lead to 35-7.
However, the Steelers inched up with a field goal to put the score at 35-7 going into the second half.
The Steelers were first to score in the second half with a 17-yard touchdown.
The score was 35-16 after their successful two-point conversion.
Pittsburgh made an unanswered touchdown from QB Ben Roethlisberger to JuJu, narrowing the Browns lead to 35-23 after the extra point.
With no action in the endzone from the Browns, that would be the score to end the third quarter.
After their momentum stalled in the third, the Browns came back in the fourth with a 40-yard run by RB Nick Chubb into the endzone less than three minutes in.
Add the extra point and the Browns pad the lead 42-23.
Pittsburgh answered with a touchdown of their own, but a deflected two-point conversion kept the score 42-29.
Browns G Michael Dunn, who was filling Bitonio’s place, limped off the field to receive medical attention.
Cleveland ended the drive with a 24-yard field goal to bump them up 45-29 with 4:28 left in the game.
Cleveland kept the momentum going with an interception by LB Sione Takitaki.
Parkey took that pick into a field goal increase the Browns’ lead to 48-29 with the clock winding down.
Pittsburgh had one more touchdown and two-point conversion in them, but that wasn’t enough.
The Browns took the 48-37 victory in their first playoff win since 1994.
Come back to 19 News for game time updates and highlights.