Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens decided to add a little extra fuel to the fire with his choice of attire in advance of his team’s highly-anticipated rivalry rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pictures began circulating on Friday night showing the Browns skipper wearing a shirt that said “Pittsburgh Started It.”
The shirt is in obvious reference to the Browns’ scrap with the Steelers two weeks ago, in which Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett bashed Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with a helmet. The play resulted in Garrett being suspended indefinitely and nearly $750,000 in fines. Each franchise was tagged with a $250,000 bill from the NFL following the brawl — no laughing matter.
A point of contention between the two fanbases has been who started it. Garrett certainly finished it — his punishment evidence of that — but Rudolph was only fined $50,000 for his actions.
The first reaction from most was that the shot had to be Photoshopped. No way was Kitchens — who has been playing down the heated rematch — making that kind of public statement.
But later on, a picture from another angle emerged of Kitchens wearing the shirt, all but proving that it was the real deal unless there was some elaborate (and unnecessary) hoax going on.
Composure Key for Browns to Break Streak of Futility Against Steelers
The Browns have gone 7-34-1 against their AFC North rival since 1999 and haven’t swept them since 1988. On top of that, Cleveland hasn’t won on the Steelers home turf since 2003. Regardless of his attire, Kitchens has preached for his team to be composed as they head into a hostile Heinz Field.
“Composure is always the key, especially when you play divisional games,” Kitchens said of the matchup. “We hold divisional games to a high standard around here because they mean just a little bit more from the standpoint of how your season is affected. Emotion is always a part of the game. I have said this before, it is the ability to keep your emotion in check and play with composure and passion, instead of the emotion.”
The Browns players have echoed that sentiment.
“I expect it to be a loud, hostile environment,” Browns running back Nick Chubb said. “We all know what happened last game. I am sure they did not forget. We are excited. We are happy to go in there and play in that type of high energy. Their fans will be into it, and we will be ready.”
Devlin Hodges to Start for Steelers as Rudolph Head to Bench
Knocking some luster off the rematch is that Rudolph will be riding the pine for the matchup, with the Steelers opting to start undrafted rookie Devlin “Duck” Hodges.
Rudolph struggled against the Bengals before being yanked last week, with Hodges leading the Steelers to victory in relief. Rudolph also tossed four interceptions against the Browns the week prior.
“You handle it with a good attitude, with a team-first attitude,” Rudolph told ESPN of the benching. “I can only control how I react and how hard I prepare, knowing that I’m one play away. I’m going to support the guy, knowing that this is a crazy game and you’ve got to be ready when your number is called. I will be ready, for sure.”
The Browns are a two-point road favorite for Sunday’s game, marking the first time since 1989 that Cleveland is favored in Pittsburgh.