Since the Cleveland Browns returned in 1999, no opposing quarterback has become as familiar with the new incarnation of the franchise as Ben Roethlisberger.
After all, with the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-18 victory over the Browns on Sunday, Roethlisberger moved his career record against Cleveland to 22-2.
So when Roethlisberger says something about the Browns, it might be worth listening to. And while the Steelers' star signal-caller has made a habit of trolling his arch rival, his latest comments could provide cause for optimism in Cleveland.
"That team is going to surprise a lot of people," Roethlisberger said of the Browns, according to Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne. "I'm glad we played them in Week 1."
The Browns limited the Steelers offense -- which in addition to Roethlisberger features one of the NFL's top receivers in Antonio Brown and running backs in Le'Veon Bell -- to just 290 yards on Sunday, just 35 of which came on the ground. Despite entering the fourth quarter trailing by 11 points, Cleveland played Pittsburgh close until the final gun, scoring a touchdown with 3:36 remaining to cut the contest to one score.
After the game, Roethlisberger spoke fondly of Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who passed for 222 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut.
"He did some great things against a defense that gets after it," the 2-time Super Bowl champ said. "I told him afterward, 'what an awesome start.' I know it’s not getting a win, but just to play the way he did, I was proud of him.”
Obviously, it's one thing to keep a game close and another to compete for the AFC title, as the Steelers are expected to do this season. But for once, the Browns seem like they might be headed in the right direction -- and one of their arch rivals is taking notice.