Well, that was improbable. Just ask the entire sports universe.
The Cleveland Browns? Winning a playoff game? In Pittsburgh? It still doesn’t seem real.
But that’s exactly what happened, stunningly, on Sunday night. Honest. It happened.
Just rub your eyes and look at the final score: Browns 48, Steelers 37. The Browns even led 7-0 after the first snap — and the Steelers had the ball first! That alone was miracle enough, given the history between these two rivals.
But the miracles didn’t end there. The Browns led 28-0 at the end of the first quarter. They were up 35-10 at halftime. And lo and behold, they didn’t collapse when Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers made a second-half surge.
In fact, the always-questionable (at best) Browns defense picked off Roethlisberger FOUR times.
Oh, and by the way, the Browns were ravaged by COVID-19. Their head coach, Kevin Stefanski, wasn’t at the game. He was at home, and rumors of him having a few beers during the evening may or may not be true.
Actually, there were no such rumors, though you can be sure Stefanski was like the team’s fans. He was probably in disbelief, anxious, and at the end, ecstatic. Same for the man actually charged with filling in for a Stefanski, a special teams coach named Mike Priefer. Until Sunday night, most Browns fans couldn’t even pronounce Priefer’s name. Some still can’t. All they know is they sure love the guy today.
To give you a little history here, the Browns had not won a road playoff game since 1969. That’s back when reporters filed their game recaps via chisel and granite.
Oh, and the Browns had never beaten the Steelers in the playoffs (on two tries) and had lost 17 IN A ROW overall in Pittsburgh. On top of that, Roethlisberger in particular has always owned the Browns.
He grew up in Findlay, Ohio, which is generally considered Browns country. He went to school at Miami of Ohio. But Roethlisberger always hated the Browns. Then he always haunted them.
There’s more. Way more. Because of multiple COVID-19 test results, the Browns had to shut down their practice facility every day last week but one. That’s right, they practiced once. They were missing their top defensive back, Denzel Ward, and their top offensive lineman, Joe Bitonio. And yes, Stefanski.
But they still had quarterback Baker Mayfield. They still had running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They still had a nothing-to-lose approach. And as it turns out, the Steelers were the team that looked like they could have used a few more practices. Like, a lot more.
Browns over the Steelers? In the AFC playoffs? Oh, it was an upset alright. It was something Cleveland didn’t dare dream could happen. Except it came true. Honest.