Dismal Cleveland Browns Have a Lot to Play for Week 17 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIDecember 24, 2013

Nov 24, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns fans cheer against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Santa Claus’ mailbox is full of letters from Cleveland Browns fans hoping for a franchise quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft.

Good Ole St. Nick has got to be sick of the influx of such correspondence this time of the year from northeast Ohio suburbs. But this season, the bombardment started a little later than usual. Before losing nine of their last 10 games, the Browns were looking like a vastly improved ballclub. Some even thought a playoff berth was a real possibility as they sat at 3-2 early on.

Much like the facade of Santa and his elves, the Browns were exposed repeatedly and quickly sent back to the AFC North’s cellar. It’s cold, it’s dark, but it’s something they’ve gotten used to while failing to win more than five games in a season since 2007—only four times since 1999.

Current Top 10 2014 NFL Draft Order
Pick No.TeamWeek 17 Opponent
1Houston Texans (2-13)@ Tennessee Titans
2St. Louis (via WAS) (3-12)@ Seattle Seahawks
3Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11)@ Indianapolis Colts
4Oakland Raiders (4-11)Denver Broncos
5Cleveland Browns (4-11)@ Pittsburgh Steelers
6Atlanta Falcons (4-11)Carolina Panthers
7Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11)@ New Orleans Saints
8Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1)Detroit Lions
9Buffalo Bills (6-9)@ New England Patriots
10Tennessee Titans (6-9)Houston Texans
CBS Sports

A new quarterback is a necessity this offseason. We all know that.

Brian Hoyer showed flashes of brilliance in two successful starts, but his recovery from ACL surgery and still unproven track record leaves a cautious optimism in the air. As it stands following Week 16, the Browns are currently sitting in the fifth draft slot, behind Jacksonville, Houston, Oakland and St. Louis—all teams that could potentially select a signal-caller before Cleveland is even on the clock.

Many will point out that the Browns should lose to Pittsburgh and potentially leap higher in the draft order to help secure their quarterback of the future. It’s a topic many debate—win or lose and receive a better selection.

Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com helped his Browns followers out on Twitter by enticing them with the potential of the No. 3 overall pick with a loss.

But before we get there, the perennial losing franchise has one last chance to leave a positive note on a disastrous, untuned guitar of a second half of the season. A trip to Heinz Field to take on their once-bitter rivals awaits them before another offseason of hope and optimism kicks off.

It’s been an indescribable tailspin that began during a 31-point second quarter by the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11. Since that collapse, the Browns haven’t looked the same for four consecutive quarters, dropping six in a row in the process.

Everything that could possibly go wrong, has.

Starting nose tackle Phil Taylor and guard Jason Pinkston will likely miss the season finale after suffering concussions in Week 16, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. They join the team’s rapidly growing injury report.

Draft position is important, but knocking off a rival—if enough goes right Sunday for Pittsburgh, it could make it to the playoffs—should never be understated. A win could help rekindle that emotional rivalry that left Cleveland when the Browns moved to Baltimore in the mid-90s.

And when considering draft position, enough quarterback-needy teams are going to be picking ahead of the Browns no matter what the outcome Sunday.

This game is played to be won. Want to give the fans a late Christmas present and make up for squandering another season while asking for their patience?

Get a win over a divisional rival by showing those yellow towel-waving Pennsylvanians the gates early Sunday afternoon.

Then, let’s talk NFL draft.