Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski grew up a fan of the team, and as such, he knows just how important it is to the city to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, any and every time they get a chance.
On Sunday, the Browns will host the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium, and Chudzinski said “It’s good to get back to work,” after a 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals over the weekend.
“There’s a real sense of excitement with our team,” Chudzinski said. “It’s in the air in the building. It’ll be good to be back at home. Pittsburgh’s been playing great football since their bye. They have an outstanding coaching staff, and I have a lot of respect for their group. They’re coming off a big win against Detroit.
“It’ll be important to have a good week of preparation, and we’re excited and looking forward to that. The approach we’ve taken is one week at a time. It’s a division game. It’s the most important game that we have this week, and we’ll treat it that way.”
As a native of Toledo, Chudzinski grew up during the time when the Steelers were winning Super Bowl championships under the direction of coach Chuck Noll with Hall of Fame players, including quarterback Terry Bradshaw, center Mike Webster, wide receiver Lynn Swann and the vaunted “Steel Curtain” defense executing the game plan on a week-to-week basis.
From the many Cleveland-Pittsburgh games Chudzinski watched growing up or coached in as an assistant with the Browns, two memories stand out, including the time NFL Most Valuable Player Brian Sipe led the team to a 27-26 come-from-behind win at home on Oct. 26, 1980.
“I remember the “Turkey” Joe Jones sack on Bradshaw and I remember a game, I think it was in ’80, when Sipe brought the team back,” Chudzinski recalls with a smile. “Ozzie Newsome caught a pass with a few minutes left in the game.
“It’s an important week. There’s always a little bit extra for the Steelers and Browns games. Everybody’s excited about them in the community. A division rival and so close together with the cities and the history that’s all there, it makes for a particularly fun week.”
Although Chudzinski admitted that it is a special week for everyone associated with the rivalry, he said the team will not be intimidated by Pittsburgh, who is on a two-game winning streak after a 37-27 victory over the Detroit Lions last week.
“They’re an opponent we need to play and play well and beat,” Chudzinski said. “We’re going to do everything we can to do that. I don’t think of teams that we play in that way. I think of what we need to do to win and beat a particular team. Those things are more of the things that we focus on.
“I’ve talked a lot about that. I think that they can tell that this is a rivalry, and I’ll continue to educate them over the course of the week if they don’t understand that.”
Since the loss of wide receiver/special-teams returner
Despite the decrease in production, Chudzinski believes the Browns have what they need to build an effective return game.
“You lose somebody like Travis and the ability that he has, and certainly, that’s a shot,” Chudzinski said. “I think we’re working around that, and we’ve got some guys that we feel can get the job done to the level that we need to get it done. It takes everybody in that regard.
“The blocking has to improve. The guys on special teams have to improve. I’ve talked to the team and some of the guys. We’re 10 games into it. The young guys, the rookies, aren’t rookies anymore. It’s time to step up, get better and continue to get better, which I think they are. We need them now to really turn it on.”
Early Wednesday, the Browns placed wide receiver
“We’ll see where he’s at in the next couple days,” Chudzinski said of Robertson. “He will miss today in practice.”