CLEVELAND -- From starting more than two dozen quarterbacks to multiple first-round busts in the draft, the Cleveland Browns have had plenty of struggles since returning to the National Football League ahead of the 1999 season.
But nowhere have those struggles been more pronounced than when the Browns line up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have beaten Cleveland in all but six of their 37 meetings since the 1999 season.
“We’ve just got to come out fast,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “We know the things they’re going to do to us, the type of players that they have over there, but for us, we’ve just got to play to our techniques that we’ve been coached, trust in the scheme, trust in the process and kind of just leave everything on the field and just see where everything falls into place.”
Cleveland Browns battle Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in preseason finale
The Browns had plenty of success during the early days of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry, but since returning to the NFL, they have known almost nothing but misery when it comes to competing against the Steelers.
Including a 36-33 loss at Pittsburgh in the AFC Wildcard Playoffs on January 5, 2003, the Browns are 6-31 against the Steelers since 1999, and have won just four times out of a possible 28 games over the last 14 years.
Additionally, the Browns are 0-12 in regular-season openers since 2004, when they defeated the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium, and those are trends the team is anxious to change.
“It’s always a new year, a new beginning, a new challenge, so for us, everything that’s happened in the past is in the past,” Kirksey said.
Cleveland’s woes in the rivalry have a lot to do with an Ohio native, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Findlay, Ohio product is 20-2 in his career against the Browns, having completed 412 of his 659 attempts for 5,490 yards and 35 touchdowns against 17 interceptions.
Roethlisberger has plenty of weapons around him, namely wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell.
In 11 games against the Browns, Brown has been on the receiving end of 75 passes for 1,130 yards and seven touchdowns. Averaging 15.1 yards per reception, Brown has converted 53 first downs and gained 465 yards after the catch.
Bell has rushed for 507 yards and three touchdowns and been on the receiving end of 21 passes for 190 yards in five outings against the Browns.
And the Browns are trying to reverse their fortunes against the Steelers even with 20 of the 53 players on the active roster having one year or less of NFL experience.
“It’s just another game for us, and we’ve just got to go out and try to win,” Kirksey said. “We can’t dwell in the past. We’ve got a new team. I believe in these guys, and I believe that we’re going to go and compete, and we’ll see how it unfolds on Sunday.”