CLEVELAND — Since returning to the National Football League in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have posted a 7-34-1 record against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the numbers have been even more staggering in games played in Pittsburgh, a place where Cleveland has not won since October of 2003.
The Browns are 2-19 in games played in Pittsburgh since 1999, including a playoff loss following the 2002 regular season, but the Steelers know better than to underestimate a Cleveland team that beat them just two weeks ago.
“I don’t know that it was dead,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
“There is no secret sauce. That is our job. Football is our game. Our job is to win. Circumstances don’t matter. People don’t care about our problems or they are glad we have them. That is the approach that we take.”
The rivalry had a new, and regrettable, chapter written at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on November 14.
There has been plenty of talk on the national and local levels about the Browns and Steelers’ first of two meetings in the 2019 regular season, and most of it was centered on a brawl in the final eight seconds that marred a 21-7 Cleveland win.
Although the talk surrounding this week’s rematch at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh has been about the brawl, neither the Browns nor the Steelers are focused on anything but trying to get a victory and remain in the hunt for a postseason berth.
“Composure’s always a key, especially when you play divisional games,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said.
“We hold division games at a high standard around here because they mean just a little bit more from the standpoint of how your season’s affected. Emotion’s always a part of the game. It’s the ability to keep your emotion in check and play with composure and passion instead of the emotion.”
Tomlin added, “We keep it moving. That incident is in our rearview mirror. We focus on this challenge this week and the things that are going to be going on in this stadium and this game. We will play and play to win, and part of playing to win is playing smart, so it requires not a lot of conversation from us.”
Both the Browns and Steelers know better than to approach this rivalry game with anything but a keen focus on executing their assignments better than the opponent and finding a way to be ahead on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
“We are excited about being in these type of games,” Tomlin said. “It is what competitors crave, and we have a lot of respect for it. We like to show that respect by performing, and obviously, as we sit here today are preparing for that.”
Kitchens added, “We are only worried about preparing today. Truly feel like our guys are only worried about preparing today. They have demonstrated that over the course of the week. Let’s see if we can stay hyper-focused again this week, and that means today. We have to narrow our window of what we are focusing on, and that is just today.”