So one game into this NFL season, here’s where we are with the Browns:
They’ve gotten our attention.
Now, can they hold it?
The answer to that, of course, is yes.
Good or bad, the Browns have never NOT held our attention. Why? Well, because they’re the Browns and we’re us. Caring about the Browns comes with the turf if you were born and raised or live reasonably close to where the Browns work.
Families in these parts raise their children to care about the Browns, and those children become adults and raise THEIR children to care about the Browns — through bad times, and really bad times — because that’s just the way it works.
The fact that the Browns are one of the few teams that have never played in the Super Bowl, even though the Super Bowl is 57 years old, has nothing to do with it.
Actually, it probably does have something to do with it, but I am not a social scientist, so this is where I get off the train.
You don’t need a degree in Jim Brownsology to know that Browns 24, Bengals 3 was a spectacular, attention-getting way to start the 2023 season for a franchise with a first-game-of-the-season history of shooting itself in the foot.
It’s not often that you see Joey Burrow being put in the spin cycle by a pass-rushing mob of defensive linemen in need of a nickname (Schwartz’ Wartz?).
That certainly got the attention of not just Burrow, and the borough of Cincinnati, but, presumably, many of the teams on the Browns schedule, the next of which, of course, are the Pittsburgh Steelers. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.
Last Sunday’s win over the Bengals may have looked like recess on the school yard. But come Monday night, at the confluence of the “What’s your problem, man?” “Who you looking at?” and the “Badda-boom, badda bing” rivers, we’ll get a better idea on how seriously we should take the current edition of the new and improved Cleveland football Browns.
The Bengals bashing got our attention.
Stealing the Steelers’ lunch money on their own playground will hold it.
It has taken awhile, but these are not the glory years of the Pittsburgh Steelers. We know this because they haven’t won a Super Bowl in 15 years, and they haven’t even PLAYED in one in 13 years.
They still, however, have a terrifying (to opponents) pedigree. For example, in a six-year span from 1974-79 the Steelers won every Super Bowl but two.
Overall, in total Super Bowls played in, the Steelers hold a slight 8-0 edge over the Browns.
The Steelers have also had only three head coaches in the last 54 years. Over that same span the Browns have had … well, um … let’s see here … uh, 21 coaches.
Not that anyone’s counting or anything.
But, hey, it’s not like the Browns have never had any great moments against the Steelers. Because they have. They’ve had one.
In 2020, Kevin Stefanski’s first year on the job, the Browns beat the Steelers 48-37 in the wild card playoff game AT PITTSBURGH — and Stefanski wasn’t even at the game. He had COVID so he watched the game on TV while sitting in his basement at home in Cleveland.
Not only did the Browns win that game, but when it was over Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat on the bench and cried. No, really. He sat there and cried on national TV.
Aside from the 1964 NFL championship game, it might be the greatest moment in Browns history.
So perhaps it’s fitting that, with the Browns feeling good about themselves, having literally toyed with Cincinnati in a totally one-sided bully-ball blowout of the Bengals in the first game of the season, that the second game should come against the Steelers, in Pittsburgh, on Monday Night Football.
The Steelers lost their first game 30-7 to the 49ers, at Pittsburgh. San Francisco’s quarterback was Brock Purdy, the last player taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. Against the Steelers, Purdy completed 19 of 29 passes for 220 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 111.3.
While that game was going on, the Browns were dismantling the Bengals, while Schwartz’ Wartz were holding Joey Football to 14 completions in 31 attempts for 82 yards and a quarterback rating of 52.2.
It was an attention-getting opener for a Browns team that historically, in the first game of every season, typically calls attention to itself for all the wrong reasons.
But this opener felt different. It looked different. It sounded different.
And the outcome was far different from virtually every Browns opener in this century.
Now comes the hard part: proving it wasn’t a fluke. Proving that these Browns are the real deal.
The Bengals game got our attention.
Monday night in Pittsburgh: Can they hold it?