CLEVELAND -- Since returning to the National Football League in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have struggled to find consistent success, especially against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North Division.
But while the Browns have struggled against the Steelers, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still considers this a rivalry game, particularly because his home-state team passed on the opportunity to select him in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Miami University.
“This is still a huge rival for me, especially me personally,” Roethlisberger said. “It is Ohio. It is the Browns. I thought I was going to go to the Browns. I am kind of over that, but for me, this is AFC North football. Like I said, it is the Browns. This is a huge rivalry for us.”
Roethlisberger has made quite the career for himself in the National Football League over the last 13 years, and much of that success has come at the expense of the Browns.
In 22 games against the Browns, including 21 starts, Roethlisberger has guided the Steelers to a 20-2 record and posted a 97.1 quarterback rating.
Against the Browns, Roethlisberger has completed 389 of his 623 attempts (62.44 percent) for 5,323 yards and 35 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Despite being sacked 36 times for 232 lost yards, Roethlisberger has averaged 8.54 yards per pass attempt.
Roethlisberger has thrown for at least 300 yards against the Browns on five occasions, but three of those have come in the last four meetings, and the 379-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 30-9 win at home last season came when he was supposed to be on the shelf due to injury.
“I know all about that town, and I know how passionate they are about their sports,” Roethlisberger said of Cleveland. “I tell guys on this team that don’t know any better, and I could be completely wrong, but I think I am pretty accurate when I say -- they talk about how Cleveland is a Cavs town and this and that -- I say, ‘I promise you that the Browns still rule in Cleveland and I think the Indians are second.’”
And it is that passion which Roethlisberger expects to see at FirstEnergy Stadium when he leads the Steelers into Cleveland Sunday.
“I understand that when it comes to wins, obviously, the Indians going to the World Series this year, the Cavs winning last year, that means a lot to the city, but the city -- in my opinion and the people I talk to and know -- would do anything for a Browns Super Bowl,” Roethlisberger said.
“I know that they are still passionate. I know the weather is supposed to be bad, but I expect there to be a great crowd just because it is. I know the Browns do not have a good record, we do not have a good record, but just the love that the fans have. I have a lot of respect for the fans because of their passion for their team.”