Previous season stats, records and achievements during the season become irrelevant when the Browns and Steelers play against each other. The only thing that matters is how the teams perform in the game, not how they play against other teams. These games are often very physical and tend to be unpredictable.
This Sunday, the two AFC North rivals will match up for the second time this season in a game where the winner could be first in the division. At this point of the season, every game is essential; but this game is about bragging rights.
"I'm from Cleveland and played here for five," RB Kareem Hunt said. "I know what this game means. It's the best rivalry in football, no debate. It's always a close game when we play the Steelers, no matter the teams' situations. I am ready for this physical game and, of course, to win."
The Steelers already defeated the Browns this season 26-22 in Week 2, in a game where RB Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending injury. In the emotional game that followed the loss of their offensive anchor, the Browns remained competitive throughout. But late turnover sealed the victory for the Steelers.
The Browns were winning 22-19 in the fourth quarter with the ball. The Steelers offense was having a tough time moving the ball down the field and only scored three points in the second half against the Browns defense. With 7:06 remaining in the game, QB Deshaun Watson was strip-sacked by LB Alex Highsmith. LB TJ Watt recovered the fumble and ran it 16 yards for a touchdown.
"Last game, they got that one, but we felt like we gave it away," DT Dalvin Tomlinson said. "That game was physical. But we got another chance to rewrite our wrongs. I can't wait to get out there and play Sunday."
The Browns will be home and highly motivated as Sunday's game approaches. The team will be without Watson, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 10. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson will get the start, and everyone in the locker room believes he can get the job done on Sunday.
"We still have the same hopes, goals and dreams," S Grant Delpit said. "You know my heart goes out to Deshaun man. He's been banged up this year and unfortunately this year is coming to an end for him. But I know that he's going to still be around and still be in DTR's ear and P.J. (Walker), whoever it may be, to get them where they need to be at."
Sunday's game will feature two good defenses that have been the strong points of their respective teams. Both defenses have a player that shines on a weekly basis and has a major impact on each game. Garrett has 11 sacks and four forced fumbles this season. Watt has 10.5 sacks with two forced fumbles. In the Week 2 matchup, Watt was statistically the better player on the field. He had two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery touchdown. Garrett only had one tackle the whole game.
This Sunday should be hard fought, a game that could boost the Browns' morale. Players in the locker room are excited for this final matchup of the regular season against the Steelers.
"They punched us in the face in Week 2," WR Cedric Tillman said. "We want this game real bad. I am very excited for the game, and I know everyone else is."