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Pittsburgh Steelers Must Suppress Browns 2014 Uprising

Since the Cleveland Browns were reincarnated in 1999, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been able to count on two Ws almost every year just like “Wheel of Fortune” contestants can count on getting the R, S, T, L, N and E turned for them before they try to solve the final puzzle.

Wins over the Browns can’t be taken for granted this season.

In Week 1 at Heinz Field, the Browns fought back from a 27-3 halftime deficit to tie it, but Shaun Suisham’s last-second field goal won it for the Steelers.

The Browns (2-2) came back from an even bigger deficit last week. They were down 28-3 in the second quarter at Tennessee and rallied for a 29-28 win. Brian Hoyer threw three touchdown passes to lead the Browns to the biggest road comeback win in NFL history.

History would have been made if the Browns had completed their comeback at Pittsburgh. They’d have won there for the first time since 2003. That¬†unfinished business still haunts them and makes Sunday’s rematch a must-win for Cleveland from a psychological standpoint.

All four of the Browns’ games this season have been decided by three points or less. They easily could be 4-0, but they just as easily could be 0-4. The progress they’ve made is fragile. As much as a win Sunday would be a watershed moment for the franchise, a loss would be a mental punch in the mouth.

It also would give the Steelers (3-2) a game-and-a-half lead over the Browns and the head-to-head tiebreaker.

But a win won’t be easy for the Steelers.

Cleveland is coming into this game with all sorts of momentum. No lead will be safe.

Not since 2007 has the Steelers’ dominance over the Browns been under such duress.

The Steelers were 6-2 and the Browns were 5-3 when they met at Heinz Field in Week 10 of the 2007 season.

Cleveland jumped out to a 21-6 lead in the second quarter. The Steelers pulled ahead 24-21 on Ben Roethlisberger’s 30-yard touchdown scramble early in the fourth quarter, but the Browns took the lead right back when Josh Cribbs returned the kickoff 100 yards.

Then came a 14-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller and a 31-28 Steelers lead with 3:21 left.

Derek Anderson led the Browns to the Steelers’ 35 with 10 seconds left, but Phil Dawson missed a 52-yard field goal.

The Steelers and Browns both finished 10-6, but the Steelers won the AFC North because they beat the Browns twice.

The Browns have played 100 games since the start of the 2008 season, going 29-71. They’re 2-11 against the Steelers during that stretch. They were 1-11 when they beat the Steelers in 2009 and 2-8 when they beat them in 2012.

On Sunday, the Browns have a chance to be more than just a spoiler if they beat the Steelers. Not only could it be a turning point in the history of the franchise, it also would serve the practical purpose of moving them ahead of the Steelers in the AFC North standings.

A quarter century ago, the dynamic between these teams was reversed.

The Steelers rarely play both games against their pumpkin-helmeted rivals before Halloween. The last time both Steelers-Browns games took place in the first six weeks of the season was 1989.

Most Steelers fans in their 30s remember the 51-0 loss in the 1989 season opener at Three Rivers Stadium. The rivalry belonged to the Browns at the time. It was their seventh straight victory over the Steelers.

In Week 6 that year, the Steelers went to Cleveland and won 17-7. They improved to 3-3 with that win and eventually made the playoffs.

Their win at Cleveland that year turned the tide in the Steelers’ relationship with the Browns. The teams split their next eight games. Then beginning with the 1993 season finale, the Steelers won the last six games before Art Modell uprooted the team and moved it to Baltimore. Since Cleveland got its team back in 1999, the Steelers are 27-5 against the Browns.

Unlike the Steelers 25 years ago, the Browns weren’t humiliated at Pittsburgh in the season opener. The loss was devastating in a different way because a milestone win was so close.

If the Browns win Sunday, perhaps they can create a photo negative of what happened 25 years ago and equalize this rivalry.

The Steelers can’t let that happen.

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