Steelers vs. Browns: Steelers Must Win to Get Season Back on Track

Mike BatistaContributor INovember 24, 2012

Isaac Redman and the Steelers can't let the Browns stand in the way of their quest for a playoff berth.
Isaac Redman and the Steelers can't let the Browns stand in the way of their quest for a playoff berth.Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers need a win in Cleveland Sunday to protect their one-game lead for the final AFC playoff spot.

They'd also avoid their first losing streak of the season.

History teaches us another reason why beating the Browns (2-8) is important for the Steelers (6-4).

Since the Browns were reincarnated in 1999, Pittsburgh is 23-4 against Cleveland. Those four losses came in 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2009. None of those Steelers teams made the playoffs.

That means a loss to the Browns is damning evidence of a Steelers team that's going nowhere. Steelers teams that lose to the Browns are like job candidates who show up for the interview drunk. 

Heck, in 2009 the Steelers barely showed up at all in a 13-6 loss at Cleveland that capped their first five-game losing streak since 2003.

A win over the Browns on Sunday would not only show that the Steelers are heading in the right direction, it would return normalcy to an up-is-down, down-is-up type of season for the Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger had been getting his best offensive line protection since 2005, yet suffered perhaps the most serious injury of his career.

Remember when Troy Polamalu and James Harrison played together for the first time in Week 5 (the Eagles game) and were supposed to save the Steelers' struggling defense?

Polamalu played just one quarter and is still in street clothes on Sundays. Harrison has just two sacks. Yet the Steelers are 5-2 since Week 5 and lead the NFL in overall defense and pass defense.

Shaun Suisham, who missed more than a quarter of his field-goal attempts last season, has suddenly become a stud.

The Steelers won a road game despite traveling on the day of the game, and in home games against the Redskins and Ravens they've dressed appropriately for this zany season with their garish 1934 throwback stripes.

To top off all the craziness of 2012, prodigal son Plaxico Burress has returned. A lot has happened since Burress left the 'Burgh for the bright lights of New York after the 2004 season. He's won a Super Bowl ring and spent nearly two years in jail. It makes it seem like he's been gone longer than eight years.

The Steelers hope this reunion goes better than Sonny and Cher's television reunion in the 1970s.

Steelers fans who watched Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Greene will remember when Sonny and Cher tried to revive their television show after they divorced. It just wasn't the same, and the show was eventually canceled, according to

The 35-year-old Burress is about as old in football years as the 66-year-old Cher is in real life. Sunday will be four days shy of four years since Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub. Since then, he's played just one season of NFL football, scoring eight touchdowns on 45 receptions as a Jet last season.

If Antonio Brown can't play Sunday, and he's questionable according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Burress would most likely be the No. 3 receiver behind Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders.

If Burress makes a significant contribution to a Steelers victory on Sunday, it might be this season's wackiest episode yet.

The Steelers shouldn't need Burress to save their season. These are the Browns, for crying out loud.

Charlie Batch, who at 37 is even older than Burress, would be wise to lean on Heath Miller or whichever running back has the hot hand if Wallace and Sanders can't get open.

If Batch can do that and the defense does what it's been doing for weeks, the Steelers should be able to beat the Browns and restore order to this season. 

If they lose, the silliness of 2012 would no longer be a laughing matter.


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