When Browns coach Mike Pettine gave his players a history lesson about the franchise's series with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he questioned whether a rivalry really exists.
"I researched the history and I talked to the players about it. It's not pretty. I'll be honest with you," Pettine said Wednesday during a news conference. "I put it up on the slide to kind of talk our young guys through, the guys who don't know the history. I put rivalry, and I put question mark. From the Steelers standpoint, it's not much of a rivalry."
The Browns are 57-67, including 0-2 in the playoffs, all time against the Steelers. But since the Browns re-entered the NFL as an expansion team in 1999, they're a dismal 5-26, including 0-1 in the postseason, against their AFC North foes from Pettine's home state of Pennsylvania.
Now Pettine, in his debut as an NFL head coach, is charged with leading the Browns into Heinz Field to face the Steelers in the regular-season opener Sunday.
"When you look at one win in Heinz Field in 14 tries, two wins in the last seven years, five wins in the last 36 times against them, it's brutal when you truly look at it," Pettine said. "But that's something that's a big part of our prep, understanding that that has nothing to do with us, that has nothing to do with this game and nothing to do with us moving forward. It was our message back in the spring when we said, 'Hey, recognize the history, but break off the rearview mirror.'
"This is just another way to prove that. It's important that we understand that the rivalry is important, but at the same time, we've got to find ways to get it flipped. If you go back a long time ago, the numbers probably were the other direction, but in recent history, it hasn't been close, and that's something why I said we'll find out where we stand and see how much ground we've made up on the division and particularly on Pittsburgh when we go down there Sunday."