Minus Coach, Browns End Long Playoff Drought In Pittsburgh
CLEVELAND (11-5) at PITTSBURGH (12-4)
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
OPENING LINE – Steelers by 3 1/2
RECORD VS. SPREAD – Browns 6-10; Steelers 10-6
SERIES RECORD – Steelers lead 77-60-1
LAST MEETING – Browns beat Steelers 24-22 on Jan. 3 in Cleveland
LAST WEEK – Browns beat Steelers 24-22
AP PRO32 RANKING – Browns No. 12, Steelers No. 6
BROWNS OFFENSE – OVERALL (16), RUSH (3), PASS (24).
BROWNS DEFENSE – OVERALL (17), RUSH (9), PASS (22).
STEELERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (24), RUSH (32), PASS (15).
STEELERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (3), RUSH (11), PASS (3).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES The AFCs No. 6 seed, the Browns are making their first playoff appearance since the 2002 season. … Pittsburgh, the No. 3 seed, is making its ninth postseason appearance in head coach Mike Tomlins 14 seasons but first since 2017 when the Steelers were upset in the divisional round by Jacksonville. The Steelers and Browns have met twice in the postseason, both of them Pittsburgh victories, the last a 36-33 comeback victory in the wild-card round in that last playoff appearance for Cleveland. … The teams split their two regular-season meetings this year, each winning at home. Pittsburgh drilled Cleveland 38-7 at Heinz Field on Oct. 18, sacking Browns QB Baker Mayfield four times and forcing two turnovers. … This is the 12th time in Steelers history they will play a team three times in the same season. Pittsburgh is 10-1 in third meetings with teams. … Cleveland first-year coach Kevin Stefanski will miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will handle sideline duties for Stefanski, who by league rules is prohibited from being active on game day. Priefer subbed in 2016 for one game for Minnesota when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had eye surgery. Cleveland has lost 17 straight games at Heinz Field, last winning in Pittsburgh in 2003 when QB Tim Couch led the Browns to a 33-13 victory. Browns Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio will also miss the game due to a positive COVID-19 test. Bitonios loss is a big one because the team lost his two top backups to season-ending injuries. The Browns may not know until Sunday if top CB Denzel Ward will be back. He missed last weeks game after testing positive for COVID-19. Starting LB B.J. Goodson was activated from the COVID-19 list after missing two games. Hes the defensive signal caller. Browns RB Nick Chubb went over 1,000 yards rushing for the second year in a row, eclipsing the mark with a 47-yard TD run last week. Chubb missed the October matchup with the Steelers, who held Cleveland to 220 total yards. Mayfield had several big runs last week, including a 28-yarder and game-sealing 3-yarder with just over a minute left. Stefanski led the Browns to 11 regular-season wins, the franchises most since its expansion reboot in 1999. The Browns need star DE Myles Garrett to put pressure on Roethlisberger. Garrett didnt get a sack last week and has not been the same since missing two games with COVID-19. Garrett did speak with Steelers QB Mason Rudolph following last weeks game. It was their first get together since last years ugly helmet-swinging scuffle, which resulted in Garrett being suspended six games. Browns WR Jarvis Landrys streak of catching at least two passes is now at 110 straight games, tied for the fourth longest with Marvin Harrison. Pittsburgh is 6-5 in the wild-card round of the playoffs and just 3-5 at home. … A year removed from right elbow surgery, Roethlisberger attempted 608 passes, tied for the second-highest season total for his career. The 38-year-old’s 33 TD passes were one off his career-high set in 2018. He sat out last week’s regular-season finale to rest for the postseason. … Roethlisberger is 13-8 in the playoffs but just 5-6 since Pittsburgh’s last Super Bowl title in 2008. … Roethlisberger is the only player on the roster with a Super Bowl ring and is one of just nine Steelers who have a playoff win in Pittsburgh on their resume. … The Steelers finished dead last in the NFL in yards rushing and yards per attempt (3.6) but had a little success against the Browns. Pittsburgh ran for 129 yards in the first meeting and 85 in the second. … Cleveland isn’t the only team in the game with COVID-19 issues. Steelers CB Joe Haden will sit out after testing positive. Cam Sutton will fill in. … Pittsburgh’s offensive line struggled mightily in the run game but allowed an NFL-low 14 sacks. … The Steelers’ defense tied a club record with 56 sacks, a total that led the league for the fourth straight season. Pittsburgh racked up eight sacks in two games against the Browns, including four in the regular-season finale even with Pro Bowl linebacker T.J. Watt and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Cam Heyward sitting out to get some rest. … Watt, a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, had 15 sacks. Watt is one of 12 players in NFL history to get 13 sacks or more in three straight years, a list that includes Hall of Famers Reggie White, Derrick Thomas and Kevin Greene. … The Steelers are unsettled at kicker. Chris Boswell has been bothered by hip and groin issues over the last month, missing three games. Replacement Matthew Wright has made all 11 of his field goal and extra-point attempts but struggles on kickoffs. Only one of Wright’s 15 kickoffs have resulted in a touchback. … Fantasy tip: Pittsburgh rookie WR Chase Claypools nine TD receptions were the most by a first-year player in the league. Claypools 11 total TDs tied a franchise record for most by a rookie and he scored in both games vs. Browns.
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