Plenty at stake for Browns Sunday against Steelers

Cleveland can end playoff hopes for Pittsburgh
Browns vs Steelers
Browns vs Steelers(WOIO)
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 2:26 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 2023 has started off pretty well for the Cleveland Browns. Sunday’s win over Washington ended the Commanders playoff hopes. Now can the Browns do it again to conclude the 2022-2023 season?

That’s just one of several storylines when the Browns travel to Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh this coming Sunday to face the Steelers.

“This is a division game and it is a rivalry game. We have a ton of respect for that organization, those coaches and those players,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “We get to lace them up Sunday – don’t know what time yet – but we get to compete for 60 minutes, and we are excited about that.”

Cleveland and Pittsburgh enter the season finale coming off road wins down along the Baltimore, D.C. Beltway. The Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive with a late touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett to Najee Harris to beat the Ravens 16-13. The Browns beat the Commanders 24-10.

Pittsburgh must beat Cleveland and also need losses from the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins to get the the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC. Of course a Browns win eliminates the Steelers.

Knocking the Steelers out of the playoffs isn’t the only thing on the line for the Browns on Sunday. A Browns win means both teams finish 8-9 on the season. Cleveland would finish in third place in the AFC North because they won both meetings with Pittsburgh. That impacts the opponents each team faces next season.

If Cleveland beats Pittsburgh it marks the first time since 1988 that the Browns sweep both regular season meetings between the division rivals. Cleveland won 23-9 on October 2 at old Three Rivers Stadium and 27-7 on November 20 at old Municipal Stadium that year.

Sunday’s matchup is also important for both head coaches. Stefanski is hoping to remain the only Browns head coach since the team returned in 1999 to not have a double digit loss season. Stefanski went 10-6 in 2020 and 8-9 in 2021. A win Sunday and the Browns finish 8-9 for a second straight season.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is looking to avoid his first ever losing season. Tomlin has guided the Steelers to 15 consecutive non-losing seasons. It’s the most consecutive non-losing seasons to begin an NFL head coaching career in league history.

The Browns also look to be undefeated at Acrisure Stadium. Perhaps the new name for Heinz Field will provide better results for Cleveland. The last regular season victory in Pittsburgh took place October 5, 2003. It is the only Cleveland regular season victory at the current home of the Steelers.

“I guess when I say, ‘I know what is at stake,’ you know that they are fighting for the playoffs and you know that a lot of eyeballs are going to be glued to the TV watching this one. That is what is the exciting part for us to be in a meaningful game,” Stefanski said. “We understand that it is our last one, but we are excited about going against a division opponent. We know how tight these games have been so that is the exciting part to be able to compete for 60 minutes.”

It’s hard to ignore what all is at stake for both teams. Even with just one team still in the playoff hunt, storylines like these are exactly what the NFL wants on its final week of the regular season.