Even bigger stakes.
That's the setup for the Browns' first trip to the postseason since 2002, as they'll square off with the Steelers — the team they beat Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium to clinch a playoff berth — at Heinz Field. The Browns, at 11-5, earned the AFC's No. 6 seed with their 24-22 victory over the Steelers on Sunday. Pittsburgh, which clinched the AFC North last week and finished the season 12-4, carries the No. 3 seed. The game is set for Sunday at 8:15 p.m.
"I am just excited to play football around this time of year," WR Jarvis Landry said. "It doesn't matter who we play."
It's not only a rematch of Sunday's game, but also the Browns' last trip to the playoffs, when they faced the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the 2002 Wild Card round and ultimately fell in a wild one, 36-33. Dating back to the AFC Division Round matchup following the 1994 season, the Browns will have faced the Steelers three straight times in the postseason, and they've all been in Pittsburgh.
Back in present time, the Browns and Steelers split their regular season series for a second straight year. Pittsburgh handed the Browns their worst loss of the season Week 6 (38-7), and the Browns picked up the victory they absolutely had to have Sunday.
Now, they'll play again with everything on the line for both sides.
"It is not like you can Xerox a game plan," Browns coach Stefanski said. "You have to go back in and see what you called, see what worked, see what did not work and see who is available to you, and they will do the same. It is going to be quite the challenge. Again, we respect that team over there. It is a really good team, and we are going to have to play our best to have a chance to beat them."
Check out photos of the Steelers against the Browns
Asked if he had any thoughts on the upcoming matchup, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "I don't have any."
"It is too early for that really," Tomlin said. "I am just assessing what transpired in that stadium today and making decisions relative to that. We will have tomorrow waiting on us in the morning."
The Steelers rested a number of key players Sunday, including QB Ben Roethlisberger, potential Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, C Maurkice Pouncey and DT Cameron Heyward. The remainder of the roster, though, played the majority of the snaps Sunday as the Steelers nearly came back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit.
The Browns, meanwhile, came into Sunday's game without six players who were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The group included five key players on defense — LB B.J. Goodson, LB Malcolm Smith, CB Denzel Ward, CB Kevin Johnson and S Andrew Sendejo. It's unclear if some or any from the group will be available next week.
"We are going to get some guys back hopefully, and they are obviously going to get some guys back – they sat quite a few," QB Baker Mayfield said. "We will roll with the punches. It sets up a must-win.
"Like I said earlier this week, it was win or go home for us already. Our playoffs started a week early. It just so happens that we play the same opponent next week. We know what the Steelers are all about. It is going to be a physical game just like tonight was."
No matter what, it will be all hands on deck for the franchise's biggest game in 18 years.
"We are ready for whoever we are playing," RB Nick Chubb said. "We have to go in this week, have a great week of practice and work out whenever we play or whoever we play."