The Cleveland Browns provided a change of pace in their rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11, securing a 21-7 victory against a team they have struggled against since returning to the league.
The Browns have gone 7-34-1 against the Steelers since 1999 and haven’t swept them since 1988. On top of that, Cleveland hasn’t won on the Steelers home turf since 2003 — something they’ll be looking to change on Sunday.
With the lack of a track record, Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens isn’t willing to call it a true rivalry until his team starts having some consistent success.
“To me, it takes two to have a rivalry,” Kitchens told reporters on Wednesday. “We have to do our part. That is probably not going to sit well with some people, but to me, you have to win your share to make a rivalry.
I do not think our team has done anything. Our team needs to be focused on this week. I think that is what they feel. We have not done anything. What have we done? We have not done anything.”
Freddie Kitchens: Browns Still Focused on Going 1-0 Every Week
Asked if the win two weeks ago did anything to revive the rivalry, Kitchens was firm.
“No,” he said, “not even close.”
While Kitchens understands the rare history on the line for the Browns to pull off a pair of wins over Pittsburgh in a season for the first time in more than 30 years, the mantra is still the same for the Browns — 1-0 every week.
“We are only worried about this week, and we do not even care what ramifications it has,” Kitchens said. “That is not even in our realm of thinking. 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.”
Browns Expecting Hostile Heinz Field
A key for the Browns will be maintaining their composure in what is set to be a very hostile environment at the Steelers’ Heinz Field. It always is, but the noise will be compounded considering the events of two weeks ago, when Browns defensive end Myles Garrett bashed quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with a helmet, leading to an indefinite suspension and a bevy of fines.
“We have a young team that has developed during the course of the football season,” Kitchens said. “Listen, we want to play smart, we want to be tough and we want to play smart. That is because that is what usually wins football games. That entails a lot of different things, and that is just one aspect of it. You kind of have to put it all together to be successful. Sometimes when you have younger guys, it takes them a little time to put it together. I think we are starting to see some of those examples that they can focus and concentrate just on the task at hand.”
Running back Kareem Hunt said he expects a high level of trash talk, but he has the key to keeping his cool.
“They’ll say anything,” Hunt said. “Anything personal about your life. You just can’t react. Just get them in between the whistles. That’s what I like to do.”
The Browns are two-point favorites against the Steelers.