Browns fans may be pinching themselves, but this is not a dream. After 18 long years, the Cleveland Browns are playoff-bound again.
The Browns hung on in a late thriller against the Pittsburgh Steelers, prevailing 24-22 to set up an AFC wild-card rematch next week at Heinz Field. They join the Steelers (12-4) and Ravens (11-5) as the third AFC North team to represent the division in the postseason.
The Browns came into Sunday’s game knowing that a victory would guarantee them their first playoff appearance since 2002.
Going into the fourth quarter, they held a substantial 24-9 lead over the Steelers who, with the division title already secured, decided to start second-string quarterback Mason Rudolph in order to rest Ben Roethlisberger.
In the fourth quarter, Rudolph and the Steelers ate into the Browns' 15-point lead, getting in the end zone to bring the game within two points. Despite giving up 315 passing yards, the Browns came up with a stop on the two-point conversion and tight end Stephen Carlson recovered Pittsburgh’s onside kick to give the Browns the ball and the opportunity to close out the historic victory.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield picked up a critical first down on 3rd & 1 with a minute left to ultimately seal the deal.
Historically, the Browns are 0-2 against the Steelers in the postseason. The last time we saw the Browns in the postseason, it was the Steelers who defeated them 36-33 during Wild Card Weekend.
Under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, the Browns put together a strong regular season performance. They’ll have to beat the Steelers again, this time with Roethlisberger back under center, if they want this dream season to continue.