The Steelers have not forgotten a 13-6 road loss to the Browns last Dec. 10, especially since it helped keep their 9-7 team out of the playoffs. Revenge could be a huge factor for the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field.
But the victory in December may have helped the Browns get over the hump against the Steelers, who had won 12 consecutive games in the so-called rivalry before that game. While the Browns have major injury issues to deal with this weekend and are expected to start rookie quarterback Colt McCoy, they could still draw some confidence from the outcome of the last meeting.
''It was something we looked forward to doing and getting over the hump,'' receiver/returner Joshua Cribbs said of beating Pittsburgh in 2009. "It was something we needed for momentum. It was a momentum-changer for us and for the season last year and we're looking forward to doing the same thing this year.''
With eight sacks of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Browns may have also discovered how to play against the Steelers.
''We were built up, we were talking about we haven't beat them in so long, they're the big bad Steelers, we welcomed that challenge,'' said linebacker Marcus Benard, who had two of those eight sacks. ''We were at a point where we only had three starters from the original defensive guys. It was a group of guys that were hungry. We were fired up and ready to go.''
''What we did was collectively learn how to beat Pittsburgh,'' Browns linebacker David Bowens said. ''There's a game plan if we do 'X' amount of things, we'll probably win. We kept track of that during the game. We wanted to take it a series at a time. We tried to adjust to the adjustments they brought to the second game. After that it was all effort and heart. These guys played their tails off last year.''
Safety Mike Adams didn't seem as optimistic as Cribbs that the Browns have gotten over the hump against Pittsburgh.
''I wouldn't say that. Just like any other team,we lose one game, next year is totally different,'' Adams said, likely remembering that the Steelers were without safety Troy Polamalu.
But Adams has learned what kind of effort the game requires.
''Even my first year here, the effort and intensity, this game means so much to the organization and to the fans, the intensity is going to be very high,'' Adams said.
Pittsburgh leads the series 58-56, 51-25 since 1970, and is 36-21 against the Browns at home. They have not lost to the Browns in Pittsburgh since 2003, a 33-13 defeat at the hands of quarterback Tim Couch, who completed 20 0f 25 for 208 yards and two TDs with one interception. Couch was also aided by running back William Green, who had 115 yards on 33 carries, and a 75-yard interception return for a score by cornerback Daylon McCutcheon.
“To beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh regardless of who’s the quarterback you better play smart, you better play tough and you better be consistent through four quarters because they’re going to be consistent through four quarters and they’re going to be tough and it’s going to be loud,'' Browns coach Eric Mangini said. ''There are no microwave answer to beating these guys. This is a solid football team in all three phases that is tough and tough at home. You better be ready to meet that intensity and meet it head on and if you aren’t, then you’ve got problems.''