Sunday night’s performance marks the 1st playoff win for the Browns in 27 years, the first time the Browns are playing in the divisional round since Bill Belichick was their head coach in 1994.
BROWNS Breakaway Early
The Cleveland Browns scored 20 points in the first ten minutes of the game as they dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 48-37 victory.
I mean what an unreal introduction performance in the 2020 playoffs from the Browns. Playing in its first playoff game since 2003, it couldn’t have been a better start for Cleveland.
On the 1st play of the game, C Maurkice Pouncey hiked the ball way over QB Ben Roethlisberger’s head resulting in the Browns recovery for a TD. After a punt and a pair of INT's by Big Ben, the Browns had great field position and didn’t waste it as they jumped out to a gigantic 28-0 lead with less than two minutes still left in the 1st quarter.
The quick start was humongous for the Browns as they were without head coach Kevin Stefanski plus multiple other coaches and players due to COVID-19 protocols. This doesn’t even include missing starting DE Olivier Vernon (Nine sacks in the regular season; 2nd most on team) who ruptured his Achilles tendon last week. It allowed new play caller Alex Van Pelt to not force anything by running their ground and pound game early and often with a mix of Baker Mayfield PA passes.
While the Browns can celebrate playing spoiler against the Steelers, they’ll have less than a week to prepare for 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Even though they’ll get their head coach and a bunch of key players back, they’ll have to repeat their offensive success early and often next Sunday afternoon to have a chance to hang with Mahomes and company.
What's Next for the Steelers?
There’s no better word then embarrassing to describe the Steelers play on Sunday night. Even though they made it close at the end, it was too little, too late for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense. What seemed like a team of destiny starting 11-0, it was all downhill from there as they lost four of their last five regular season games.
The big question with this loss is where do the Steelers go from here? Roethlisberger will be 39 by the start of next season and would have a $41 million dollar cap hit if he plays in 2021. He’s also hinted multiple times throughout the year that this could be his final season. Have we seen Big Ben in a Steeler uniform for the last time? Only time will tell.
While Roethlisberger mulls retirement for another offseason, the Steelers will also have multiple key free agents hit the open market at impact positions. OLB Bud Dupree, LB Avery Williamson, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, and RB James Conner are just a few names that will hit free agency. With the Steelers currently slated to be a bottom five team in available cap space in 2021 and the cap expected to plateau this offseason due to the pandemic, there’s a very good chance some if not all of those players mentioned above played their final game in a Steelers uniform.
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