CLEVELAND — The Steelers game for the Browns is not only a rare must win in December.
It’s another endangered species: A should win.
There haven’t been many of those in Pittsburgh, or even at home, since 1999.
If the Browns can’t beat a Steelers team with Ben Roethlisberger wearing a headset, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown gone, James Connor (shoulder) ailing and JuJu Smith-Schuster out of concussion protocol but limited by a knee injury, they have only themselves to blame.
If a Browns team with Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Kareem Hunt can’t beat this Steelers team under these friendly circumstances now, then when? After the Devlin Hodges Era is over?
- The Arizona game should be a tougher test than Pittsburgh.
And when the season began that’s not something I expected to say without cuing the laugh track.
- Kareem Hunt on the Steelers game: “I feel like they circled this game after that last one. So they’re definitely going to come out ready to hit and do whatever it takes to inflict their will on us. So we’ve just got to go out there and be more physical.’’
This game will be even more closely officiated than the last. The key for the Browns isn’t so much matching physical play as confining the physical play between the whistles.
Something you may have noticed is not an area of excellence this season for the Browns.
- Baker Mayfield remembers returning to Lubbock as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback after transferring from Texas Tech, calling it “the most violent place” he’s played.
“I don’t think Pittsburgh could match that, I really don’t,” Mayfield told the media this week.
To be clear, he’s not challenging Steelers fans to try to match that. It just sounds like he is.
- Mayfield won a shootout against Patrick Mahomes that day in Lubbock, throwing seven TD passes in a 66-59 win.
Sunday, the Browns might only need two or three scores to outlast “Duck” Hodges and the depleted Steelers offense.
(By the way, I’m well aware the above sentence is automatically a candidate for “Famous Last Words.”)
- Hodges, an undrafted free agent from Samford, said, “I don’t have anything to lose.”
Except for his job to Mason Rudolph and a game that would likely end Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, he’s almost right.
- Kyrie Irving wasn’t in Boston Wednesday night when the Nets played the Celtics, but he was the target of jeers and chants regardless.
Some signs depicted Irving as the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz.
Others were off base.
- Irving took to social media to respond with a long lecture on sports as entertainment versus real life.
An excerpt: “It happens all the time and Tonight just shows how Sports/Entertainment will always be ignorant and obtrusive," Irving said as part of a lengthy Instagram post.
"It's one big SHOW that means Very VERY little in the real world that most people live in because there are Actually things that matter going on within it.”
Or they just booed him because he said he’d re-sign in Boston, then didn’t.
- Irving called sports entertainment “One big Gimmick with Some smoke and mirrors!” and added, “I’ll always be the one that the stand and speaks on the truth every time though.”
- For his next bit of truth telling — no doubt while using a cell phone hot spot under a Bodhi tree — he should end the practice of randomly capitalizing certain letters.
it’s Very distracting.
- Golden State coach Steve Kerr bloodied his hand breaking a clipboard out of frustration in a game the Warriors eventually won, 104-90, over Chicago.
Kerr jokingly called himself “day to day.”
Meaning, I think, that with a 4-15 team he will want to break a clipboard every 24 hours or so.
- A freak accident damaged a luxury car owned by former Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer. His 2016 McClaren 650 S was parked at a Houston area dealership when a tire from a semi traveled across six lanes of traffic and smashed the $300,000 vehicle.
What were the odds?
Even more surprisingly, Bauer did not blame cleveland.com baseball writer Paul Hoynes.
- The New England Patriots just clinched a 10-win season for the 17th consecutive year.
No, Bill Belichick did not say, “We’re on to 18.” He just thought it.
- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says head coach Jason Garrett will not be fired this season. Jones said following Thursday’s loss to Buffalo that firing Garrett would give the Cowboys zero chance for the Super Bowl.
While keeping Garrett would give the Cowboys 0.5 chance for the Super Bowl.
- Ole Miss lost, 21-20, to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl after kicker Luke Logan missed a 35-yard extra point in the final seconds.
Why 35 yards? Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore received a 15-yard celebration penalty with four seconds remaining when he caught a TD pass and mimicked a urinating dog in the end zone. That not only took Ole Miss out of two-point conversion territory — if it chose to go for the win — it forced the longer PAT try,
Kids will be kids. I mean, even the pros have cost their teams.
Remember when Jarvis Landry’s taunting penalty after a TD catch resulted in Austin Seibert missing a 48-yard PAT against Buffalo?
The important thing is for the guilty party to own the mistake.
““They threw a flag and said I was taunting or something like that,” Landry said afterward. “I would do the exact same thing.”
Oh. Never mind.
- Browns 23, Steelers 13.
- Have a weekend.