Cleveland Browns fans have to wonder why their team can’t be like Pittsburgh – Terry Pluto

CLEVELAND, Ohio – How did this happen?

The Pittsburgh Steelers started the season with a 2-6 record and a raw rookie QB. They were embarrassed by the Browns, 29-17, in the third week of the season.

The Steelers not only lost to Cleveland, they looked lost. The Browns were 2-1 at that point.

Now we head into the final week of the season and which team is still in the playoff race?

Browns fans know the painful answer to those questions, and it’s not their guys in the orange helmets.

Yes, Pittsburgh went from being 2-6 at the bye week to 6-2 in their last eight games. It coincided with the return of star pass rusher TJ Watt.

But these are still the Steelers with a raw rookie QB in Kenny Pickett, a Pittsburgh team with only 11 TD passes all season. To put that into context, those 11 TDs are the fewest in the NFL – by a lot.

The next fewest TD passes by a team is 15, and five different franchises have that many.

In what is supposed to be a pass-obsessed league, the Steelers are on the edge of the playoffs with a ratio of 11 TD passes compared to 14 interceptions.

The Browns? They have 17 TD passes, 10 interceptions. Nevertheless, they were eliminated from playoff contention two weeks ago.

THE TOMLIN FACTOR

Pittsburgh continuously finds a way to win games and remain in playoff contention. If the Steelers beat the Browns Sunday, coach Mike Tomlin will finish his 16th season in Pittsburgh without a losing record.

Tomlin has critics. They will point out his teams are never bad, but what have they done in the playoffs lately? Pittsburgh lost to Cleveland in 2020 – the Browns only postseason win since the franchise returned in 1999.

The Steelers have not won a playoff game since 2016. They are on a four-game postseason losing streak.

All true.

But it’s also true that the Steelers are like gum on the sole of your shoe. They are annoying. It feels like you can’t get rid of them. And just when you think they’re gone – especially in the regular season – they can still make your life miserable as they push for the playoffs.

I want the Browns to be a team like that – a team that consistently keeps fans engaged and finds ways to win games when it seems that shouldn’t happen.

It goes back to what GM Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski outlined as their vision for the Browns: Smart, tough, accountable. Since the 11-5 record in 2020 and their first season together, this regime is 15-18.

THE DREADED PITTSBURGH TRIP

Since the team returned in 1999, this is the ninth time the Browns have ended their season in Pittsburgh.

The record in those first eight games? You got it. The Browns are 0-8 in the Pittsburgh finale.

Those games also ended the Cleveland head coaching careers of the following: Mike Pettine (2015), Rob Chudzinski (2013), Pat Shurmur (2012), Eric Mangini (2010) and Romeo Crennel (2008).

This time, there is no reason to expect Berry or Stefanski to be fired after the game – regardless of the outcome.

But it’s the Browns. Things can always change. That said, it appears they will be back with the idea of ​​Stefanski deserving a full season with Deshaun Watson.

The Browns opened the season with a 2-1 record. They lost six of their next seven games.

They hit bottom at 3-7. Since then, they are 4-2.

But it’s still a 7-9 record. They need to win Sunday to equal last season’s underwhelming 8-9 mark.

The Browns head into Sunday’s game with a chance to ruin Pittsburgh’s season. The Steelers take the field with an opportunity to make the playoffs if they win along with a few other things falling in Pittsburgh’s direction.

And that’s the difference between these two franchises.

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