Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Steelers

Barry Odom is Driving the Woody Wagon

As a middle-schooler living in a suburb of Baltimore, Md., I was all about Maryland Terrapins basketball and Len Bias, the Orioles and Cal Ripken, Jr., and the Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas. College football was the furthest thing from my mind. So when my family and I moved to Columbia, Mo. in 1988, I had no idea that I would become a huge Missouri Tiger football fan.

There wasn’t much to cheer about in 1988 as a Tiger fan. Woody Widenhofer was starting what would become his last year as head coach of his alma mater. To say the Woody Wagon was a rough ride would be an understatement.

I lived close enough to Memorial Stadium that the sounds of Marching Mizzou starting its early morning pre-game rehearsals would help wake me up on game days. As an impressionable 8th grader, I was still too young to realize that the team really had no chance to beat their competition, but I always had hope. 28 years later, i’m thinking that hope should have come with a complimentary bottle of scotch to ease the pain.

Widenhofer finished his Tiger coaching career with a record of 12-31-1. When he was hired, it seemed like a good idea. He had played at Missouri and was instrumental in the Steel Curtain defense that made the Pittsburgh Steelers so dominant. He just wasn’t a good head coach.

Missouri now has another True Son, defensive guru coaching the team and it’s not going well. Vahe Gregorian compared the ineptitude of Barry Odom’s 2016 team to Widenhofer’s first year at Missouri. I don’t know about any other Tiger fans, but yes Vahe, I too am having flashbacks to the bumpy ride on the Woody Wagon.

Odom’s tenure at Missouri could very well turn out better than Widenhofer’s. It’s only Odom’s first year as a head coach, so he should be given a reasonable chance to prove himself. Still, it’s next to impossible to find the silver lining in what Tiger fans are having to witness.

Much was made of the new defensive scheme that was implemented at the start of the 2016 season. The new scheme has been a complete disaster and has left fans calling for defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross to be fired. Sure, Cross is in charge of the defense, but this was a scheme that Odom wanted to install last season, so much of the blame should fall on Odom’s shoulders. Thank goodness Gary Pinkel said no to that move.

To Odom’s credit, he isn’t a “we do what we do” type of coach and he did acknowledge that this new read-and-react style of defense wasn’t working. Going into the Kentucky game, he changed the scheme back to what had worked so well in the past. Even with a group of defensive players that knew this style, it didn’t matter against Kentucky. The defense once again gave up over 500 yards of offense. That was an accomplishment that not even Widenhofer’s teams had accomplished.

Some may say that i’m being too critical of Odom. I would say that i’m not. Yes, there have been a number of season ending injuries to defensive starters, but these problems existed even when those star defenders were healthy. Youth can be used as an excuse for losing if you’re an apologist. Quality coaching can offset the negative impact that goes along with being considered a young team. That is if you believe that quality coaching not only includes Xs and Os, but also recruiting. Missouri football is suffering from an inexperienced coach and a lack of talent.

When former athletics director Mack Rhoades hired Odom, he went cheap. He went so cheap that Odom is the lowest paid head football coach in the SEC. There were a number of issues surrounding the Missouri program at the time, so it was going to be a tough hire. But as they say, you get what you pay for and Missouri seems to be getting what it paid for. A cheap, bargain basement True Son who is pulling the Woody Wagon out of the garage, dusting it off and taking it for another romp around Columbia.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Flickr

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Monday Morning Breeze: The Revolution Will Be Caught One-Handed

[(MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: The Breeze will recap CFB’s Alabama-Clemson National Championship game on Tuesday, so this will be Professional Football-heavy, or College-Deflated, depending how you choose to see the glass re: -imisms) It’s near impossible to miss the unfolding humor in a reality that pits America’s Most Traditionally Revered NFL team against the steaming pile of toxic that has been Daniel Snyder’s Washington Trumps, in D.C., for a wild-card playoff game.

When you add the fact that a prominent Packer player is named “Ha Ha Clinton-Dix” while Hillary stumps for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination, I mean, clearly Fate’s got a warped thing for the wickedly absurd. So what could prepare us for an NFL Wild-card weekend that lived up to its name? Where Ace Ventura jokes became re-relevant (“laces out”) making my heart gently weep for Minnesota’s Blair Walsh Project, where it seems everyone wants to be like ODB Jr whether it’s receivers vying for his “Best Ever Catch ‘Til Tomorrow” crown, or Vontaze’s Burfict crime-ing for his “Grossest Cheap Shot” frown, where all he does is Russell Wilson Seattle to wins (or perhaps Faith’s wind), while the Bengals missed Double-Deuce Dalton more than the time it takes to restore sore thumbs, Pack Nation slumbers well ’cause Aaron Rodgers remembered how to kinda throw again, some.

To playoff football let’s succumb. Enter to the beating drum of your heart’s hum and maybe find fun…

NFL PLAYOFFS PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

NFL Playoffs Games of the Week (Wild-card Round) Kansas City Chiefs 30 @ Houston Texans 0 So it was, ho hum, on the very first kickoff of the very first ho hum playoff game KNILE DAVIS EXPLODES THROUGH A MASSIVE HOLE AND ho hum RETURNS IT ONE-HUNDRED AND SIX FREAKING YARDS FOR THE TD. Houston was never really close on the majority of this play or for the rest of the game as Kansas City would never relinquish that lead, with the helpful, steady hand of Alex Smith leading the way and the woefully unsteady hand of Bryan Hoyer (4 picks, yikes!) leaving the Texans exposed like a butterfly filet of poor play.

Jon Gruden quote of the day: “JJ Watt’s battling a bad groin injury.” Look, Watt’s an incredible player, but even he can’t fight a Kansas City O-line AND tangle with one of those “bad groin injury” things at the same time.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 @ Cincinnati Bengals 16 An enchanting, angry contest. Part 1 of “Insane Catches by Incredible Wideouts,” and Vontaze’s Rage. This story told with the help of Vine’s visuality. We’ll start with the uglier portions of the game and finish with the beauty of Martavis’ gorgeous holy-roller TD catch. In all, it seems Andy Dalton will still get blamed for another 1st round exit, even though he wasn’t playing. We begin with one Vontaze Burfict losing his famously hot-tempered mind, producing a near clone of the ODB Jr. cheap-ass headshot, this time on Antonio Brown…

..but “Oh by the way” Burfict was way more egregious, disgusting, with this cheap headshot on Maxx Williams in a previous game versus the Ravens. Careful, it’s disturbing…

https://vine.co/v/iMWPBbFYELr

…and continuing the ugly parade, Pittsburgh ASSISTANT COACH Mike Munchak, yes, a coach, ripping some of Reggie Nelson’s dreads, rightfully pissing him right off…

…but thank all that’s True and Right in the world for Martavis Bryant’s incredible athleticism, focus, and brilliance all on display on this catch in the 3rd quarter, possibly trumping Beckham’s one-handed stab heard ’round the world…

Seattle Seahawks 10 @ Minnesota Vikings 9 This game will forever be remembered (by me) as “The Blair Walsh Project,” but it also included Part 2 of “Incredible Catches by Amazing Wideouts” and one of the more unlikely turning-point plays in recent history. First off, it looked cold as freezer burn in Minn-eh-sot-ah, -3 degrees for much of the game, with breath bursting from the entire stadium’s mouths like 80,000 proud vapers.

While their defense was its usual stout self, Seattle came out slightly resembling a steaming crater of ineptitude on offense. Then the play below happened, which appears to foreshadow more terror for Wilson and the ‘Hawks offense. Except he’s Macklemore uncommonly composed Russ Wilson, even in the face of certain peril, proving once again on this play why he’s so valuable to Mr. Pete Carroll and the ‘Hawks. For a little forced imagination, think of how 99.9% of the time the QB/center shotgun exchange is botched like this it results in, at best, a sack.

Instead, picture this reality where Wilson recovers smoothly, calmly baseball slides, retrieving the ball and springing back up in one swift motion, rolls away from oncoming defenders, looks downfield and fires a strike to a wide-open Tyler Lockett for the game-changing play. Seattle would go on to a TD and huge momentum swing, injecting life into their moribund offense and turning the tides of what was shaping up to be a certain Viking victory.

Yeah, I believe in momentum, F Nate Silver on this topic, and this was a huge swing in a game largely dictated by field position.

…then Adrian Peterson fumbles on the ensuing Viking possession, and SEA recovers with 10:30 left in the 4th.

…oh by the way Doug Baldwin becomes a bent Beckham-like wizard and makes this incredible one-hander…

…although Chase Coffman proves there should be some kinda permit receivers have to earn to attempt one-handed catch, like a driver’s license, ’cause he tries to be like Doug B. but instead makes an interception so easy…

Trailing Seattle 10-9 very late in the 4th quarter, Kyle Rudolph beat Kam Chancellor in man coverage for a huge first down catch (vindication for Chancellor getting away with a clear hold on Rudolph earlier), putting the Vikings in money-FG position for the certain game-winner. It was a kick that 99.6% of the time would’ve been a Blair Walsh layup 3-pointer. In a kinder, gentler reality Walsh nails the kick, the Vikings win, slay the 2-time Super Bowl Seahawks and move on to the next round.

In this harsher, cruel, coooold reality Walsh shanks the kick so badly left of the uprights, like a boomerang that didn’t go where it was supposed to and never came back, allowing America to brush the 8-inch thick dust off every Scott Norwood and Ace Ventura joke no longer forgotten to mankind. I understand Walsh is a professional, paid a ton of money to make that kick. He has to make that kick. But damn, I just feel bad for him.

Green Bay Packers 35 @ Washington Cousins/Trumps 18
This game started with a bizarre “DeSean Jackson scores but doesn’t” on a catch and run where he crossed the goal line near the pylon but crossed too far and stepped first out of bounds while holding the ball back pre-goal line. Green Bay went on to hold Washington to a field goal and early momentum. However, Green Bay’s offense was dormant for much of the first half until Aaron Rodgers started hooking up hardcore with Davante Adams and James Jones (don’t worry, Olivia Munn) and headed into halftime up 17-11 after giving up a safety.

In the second half, the Packers could not cover Washington’s Jordan Reed, who played incredibly (9 catches, 120 yards) with Kirk Cousins putting the Washingtons up 18-17 with a QB run. As the second half wore on though, Green Bay wrested control away, shutting down Washington’s attack, pounding Washington’s D with a steady diet of Lacy and Starks, and squeezing just enough juice out of A-Rod’s recovering air raid to coast comfortably into the next round. Kirk Cousins and the Washingtons were kinda like Leo here, at the Golden Globes: they won their division, had home-field against the Pack, everyone was lauding them for pulling through the RGIII fiasco.

They’re laughing, they’re having a good time, sitting nearer the top than they’ve been in a while. Meanwhile Rodgers and the Pack were like Lady Gaga: they just hadn’t looked like their typically dangerous self after blazing to a 6-0 start to the season before dropping 4 of their next 5 and finishing 2nd in the NFC North.

But oh, never forget about the beautiful power of Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, as they approach laughing Leo/Washington all the way from the forgotten back, shimmering the entire way as they (purposefully?) knock the Snyder’s over-extended elbow out of the way, smirking a triumphant return to the next round with a future full of promise, leaving Leo and the Snyders meekly grimacing in their wake.

https://vine.co/v/iMApWTgWgvL

THIS WEEK’S SIGN SOMETHING’S ASKEW IN THE WORLD

https://vine.co/v/iMm2OdgxwAK

Selfishly Sprayed Tweets Peak at Past Week

Browns Hope to Spoil the Steelers Season

 (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

While most 3-12 teams don’t have many reasons to play hard in week 17, the Browns have plenty of incentive to give their last game of the season everything they have.

First the Browns are going against their biggest rival in a game where they have the chance to keep them out of the playoffs. Second rumors are running rampant that Ray Farmer and or Mike Pettine could get fired, so players will go all out to help their coach, and put more good plays on tape for the potential new staff to look at.

There are some other factors that could keep this game close as the Steelers struggle on the road and they have a porous defense.

When the Browns have the ball:

The Browns are going to need to attack the Steelers through the air as they struggle in pass defense. One player to watch in the Steelers defensive backfield is corner Antwon Blake who is on pace to allow more receiving yards than any corner in Pro Football Focus’ records (since 2007). Odds are even Austin Davis can find ways to exploit this secondary. The Steelers run defense is better than average, so establishing the run could prove challenging. Overall, I feel that the Browns have enough firepower to put 20 or more points against the Steelers. After all Ryan Mallett, Buck Allen, and Kamar Aiken were able to.

When the Steelers have the ball:

The Browns need to get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger if they’re going to have any chance. Tramon Williams and Charles Gaines stand no chance against Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton  and Martavis Bryant if Big Ben has a clean pocket. Last time these two teams played the Browns did a good job limiting DeAngelo Williams to only 54 yards. Perhaps the Browns can duplicate those results.

Prediction:

Steelers look rusty again (as they normally do against lousy opponents) but the Browns give up some late touchdowns and lose in some typical Cleveland Brown-like way.

Steelers 26 Browns 24

Indianapolis Colts Crash and Burn in the Sunshine State

Opportunity was knocking for the Indianapolis Colts as they headed south to play Jacksonville this past Sunday afternoon. The Colts, despite their struggles, were in first place in the AFC South. They came into the game carrying a 16-game winning streak within the division. A victory against the 4-8 Jaguars would go a long way toward securing a playoff berth for The Horseshoe.

With all this at stake, and a “winnable” game in front of them, you would expect a quality team to take advantage of a scenario such as this. Instead, the Colts took a promising start and turned it into an avalanche as they fell 51-16 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The way this game unfolded was eerily similar to that of last week’s debacle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Indianapolis led 10-6 late in the first half, but were outscored 39-0 the rest of the way. Against the Jaguars, Indianapolis held a 13-3 lead late in the first half when Jags DE Andre Branch stripped QB Matt Hasselbeck of the ball, recovered the ensuing fumble and coasted 49 yards for a touchdown. After falling behind by 10 points, Jacksonville outscored the Colts 48-3 from that point forward.

How bad were the Colts in this contest? Let me count the ways. The Colts allowed the aforementioned fumble return touchdown. They allowed a 73-yard punt return touchdown to the Jaguars’ Rashad Greene. They gave up 154 rushing yards, allowing a gaudy 5.3 yards-per-carry average. QB Blake Bortles threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions in a very effective performance.

Some of Indianapolis’ offensive numbers actually looked pretty good (they were only outgained 380-322 yards on the day), but this was a case where the yardage gained did not turn into points on the scoreboard. Every time the Colts drove down the field, they were eventually stopped. Every time Jacksonville drove down the field, they found paydirt.

The bottom line to all this is very simple: good teams make plays in the crucial moments, and find ways to win. The last two weeks, Indianapolis had late first half leads, and when “crunch time” was upon them, they wilted. Badly.

Around midseason, the two most disappointing teams in the NFL were arguably Seattle and Indianapolis, both preseason Super Bowl favorites, both sitting at 4-5. The Seahawks have proven they are a legitimate contender in recent seasons, so what have they done since that 4-5 start? They have gone 4-0, winning the last two in blowout fashion. In short, they’re on a roll.

The Colts, on the other hand, have lost their last two games by identical 35-point margins. This is not what contenders do, honestly, this isn’t even what decent teams do.

The Colts are still in the thick of the race for the AFC South Title after New England defeated Houston on Sunday night. But, does this really mean anything in the big picture?

The Colts are a mess right now, and trending very much in the wrong direction…they’ve basically hit rock bottom these last two weeks when the division race was just starting to heat up. We can talk about the offensive line problems, the fact that QB Matt Hasselbeck is starting to come back down to earth, a defense that can’t get much pressure on the quarterback and is giving up big plays at an alarming rate, and so on.

But, the real concern here has to do with intangibles. The players are not showing much fight or will to win, and the coaching staff seem to be losing their players at a critical point in the season…the players simply aren’t responding to head coach Chuck Pagano on any level right now.

Another “important” game looms next Sunday, when the Houston Texans visit Lucas Oil Stadium. There’s no sugarcoating it, everyone in the Colts organization from management to coaches to players need a serious gut check. Things like heart, resolve and commitment are necessary for a team to make the playoffs and be a contender once they get there. The Indianapolis Colts are showing a disturbing lack of these key ingredients, and they will go nowhere without them.

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers: a Postmortem

For the Indianapolis Colts, this past Sunday began with good news…they saw their two closest division rivals, Houston and Jacksonville, go down to defeat. The Texans fell in Buffalo 30-21, while the Jags lost a 42-39 shootout in Tennessee.

The good news continued as their game against the Steelers commenced, when Pittsburgh’s Jacoby Jones fumbled the opening kickoff, giving Indianapolis the ball at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. Then, there was, well…the rest of the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers sliced and diced Indianapolis en route to a 45-10 drubbing on Sunday night. The Colts were able to hang tough for most of the first half, holding a 10-6 lead late in the period. But from that point forward, the Steelers completely dominated play.

Pittsburgh (7-5) will likely need to earn a Wild Card berth to advance to the playoffs, and the way they played in this game, they absolutely looked the part of a playoff team. The Colts (6-6), by virtue of playing in the AFC South, continue to hold the division lead, despite this forgettable performance.

Last season, Pittsburgh handed Indianapolis a resounding defeat as QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns. Big Ben didn’t generate the same kind of numbers in the rematch, but that’s deceptive, to say the least. Roethlisberger was brilliant again, going 24-for-39 for 364 yards and four touchdowns.

Indianapolis played some zone coverage early in the game in an attempt to slow down the Steelers passing game, but it didn’t work. When they went back to man-to-man, you guessed it: that didn’t work either. The Colts had no answer for anything Big Ben and his offense wanted to do on this night.

To add insult to injury, RB DeAngelo Williams was just as effective against the Indianapolis defense, gaining 134 yards on 26 carries. Let’s not forget, Williams is filling in for injured starter Le’Veon Bell…it’s nice to have quality depth, isn’t it?

Did anything go well for the Colts in this contest? Not really. Their offense was almost as inept as their defense, although RB Frank Gore had a solid outing, given that there was very little room to run against a tough Pittsburgh rushing defense.

Indianapolis’ offensive line couldn’t buy any time for QB Matt Hasselbeck to find his receivers, which was key for both teams – Pittsburgh’s defense against the pass has been poor most of this season, so that was the Colts’ best chance to compete in this game, and they could never get untracked due to the poor protection up front.

The Steelers certainly look the part of a playoff contender, but where does this leave the Colts? Actually, this hapless showing doesn’t change much for this team. They are still battling to fend off Houston (and perhaps Jacksonville) for the division crown, still sitting in first place, in fact. So, Indianapolis is still in position to make a run at the playoffs.

The more important question may be: if the Colts do win the division, can they make any noise once they get to the playoffs?

The overall talent on the roster, particularly if QB Andrew Luck returns and plays to his potential, says yes. But upon closer examination, Indianapolis just has too many holes to be a solid Super Bowl contender. The offensive line has been shuffled around all season in the hopes of finding an effective combination, but they have mostly been a liability. One of the team’s big offseason acquisitions, WR Andre Johnson, has been invisible in this offense. The defense has shown promise at times, but injuries and inconsistent play have left them searching for answers as well.

A healthy and effective Andrew Luck can cover up a lot of deficiencies, but his ability to get healthy or play effectively are very much in question right now. It seems that Indianapolis has played with fire for years now, counting on their young quarterback to make everything “right.” What we are seeing now is what happens when the many weaknesses this team has are no longer being disguised by one dynamic player.

The Colts may very well end up winning the AFC South and playing in the postseason. However, unless a lot of things come together for this group at just the right time, they won’t be playing in January for very long.

A True Top 25 of Browns-Steelers Games

Joe “Turkey” Jones. Dave Mays. Chris Jennings. Gerald McNeil. David Grayson. Brian Hoyer. Trent Richardson. Tim Couch.

Cleveland Browns running back Mike Pruitt (43) runs away from Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert (58) during a 32-10 Steelers victory on November 22, 1981, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Dennis Collins/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns running back Mike Pruitt (43) runs away from Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert (58) during a 32-10 Steelers victory on November 22, 1981, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Dennis Collins/Getty Images)

Most of the names on this list didn’t amount to very much during their Browns career. But their names are remembered because of the roles they played in victories over the team’s biggest and most bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Lost in all the turmoil surrounding this year’s team – the seemingly impending dismissal of coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, the quarterback controversy between veteran Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, the possible trade of veteran captain Joe Thomas – is that this is “Steeler Week.” And, with Browns nemesis Ben Roethlisberger’s status for the game doubtful due to a leg injury, this Sunday’s game at Heinz Field suddenly looks to be a winnable one.

The Browns have only won one game at Heinz Field since it was opened in 2001, and it was also the site of one of the Browns’ biggest heartbreaks since the franchise returned in 1999 – their 36-33 come-from-ahead playoff loss to the Steelers in early 2003. And, wins for the Browns over the Steelers, and overall for that matter, have been few and far between since the franchise was reborn in 1999.

But, once upon a time, it wasn’t always like that. From 1950-70, the Browns got off to a 32-9 start in this series, winning the first eight games and 16 of the first 18 games the two teams played against each other. In the 80s, the Browns won seven straight games and went 14-8 over Pittsburgh.

However, thanks to the Steelers’ 26-6 record since 1999 – 34-10 dating back to 1990 – Pittsburgh has taken control in this rivalry.

A Jaded Steeler fan may wonder how someone like me could find 25 winning Browns games against the Steelers. I would like to remind Jaded Steeler Fan that your team only leads the series 66-58, not counting two playoff victories over our beloved Dawgs.

So, in honor of “Steeler Week” and the 127th meeting between the Browns and the Steelers, here are my top 25 games between these two squads in this rivalry. Who knows, maybe what happens Sunday can crack this list.

25. Browns 17, Steelers 9 (Oct. 11, 1992): Before Mike Tomczak ended his career as a long-time Steeler backup quarterback, he spent one year backing up Bernie Kosar with the Browns. And, when Kosar battled injuries in 1992, it was the former Ohio State Buckeye and Chicago Bear who stepped up and filled that void. Under second-year coach Bill Belichick, Tomczak did just enough to lead the Browns past the Steelers at the old Stadium, throwing for 171 yards and a touchdown.

The touchdown pass, a 47-yard strike to Michael Jackson midway through the fourth quarter, turned a 10-9 lead into a 17-9 advantage. Kevin Mack added a 1-yard touchdown run  to start that second half, turning a 6-3 halftime deficit into a 10-6 advantage they never relinquished. Pittsburgh wound up going 11-5, while the Browns slumped to 7-9.

24. Browns 15, Steelers 7 (Oct. 3, 1970): Let the record show that the teams’ first showdown as members of the AFC went in Cleveland’s favor. While the Steelers wound wind up being the NFL’s “Team of the 70s,” they began the decade just 5-9. And, rookie Terry Bradshaw’s introduction to Cleveland on this Saturday night at the old Stadium was not a good one. He was sacked for a safety and threw three interceptions, including a pick-six to Erich Barnes that was returned 38 yards in the third quarter that wound up being the final points.

Fellow rookie Mike Phipps relieved an ineffective Don Gault, who went 1-of-16 for 44 yards and two interceptions, and made his NFL debut a winning one. He went 3-for-5 for 86 yards and a touchdown, a 53-yard pass to Reece Morrison. Yep, the Browns just completed four passes against the Steelers and won. Gault never took another NFL snap, but yet is credited with a 1-0 record as an NFL starter. Bradshaw did rush for a touchdown in the loss.

23. Browns 21, Steelers 16 (Nov. 25, 1973): Less than a month before I was born, the Browns handed

Pittsburgh Steelers Joe Gilliam (17) in action vs Cleveland Browns at Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Steelers Joe Gilliam (17) in action vs Cleveland Browns at Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

the Steelers an ugly loss. With Terry Bradshaw not in the lineup – Joe Gilliam started and Terry Hanratty came on in relief – the Steelers scored the first points of the game and led, 16-14, midway through the fourth quarter. Gilliam found Ron Shanklin for nine yards in the opening drive and then he led three drives that ended in Roy Gerela field goals in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Mike Phipps, who only completed 5 of 17 passes with three interceptions, scored on a one-yard sneak and found Greg Pruitt for a 15-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Browns a 14-10 halftime lead. Pruitt, a rookie, scored the winning touchdown on a 19-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly, who would retire following the season, was held to just 12 yards on 11 carries. Franco Harris, in his second year, was held to 48 yards on 22 carries. The Steelers went 10-4, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Raiders. The Browns went 7-5-2, their last winning season until they went 9-7 in 1979.

22. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Nov. 1, 1964): En route to their final NFL Championship, the Browns rebounded from a 23-7 loss to the Steelers at home by coming into Pitt Stadium and dominating their rivals from pillar to post. The Steelers rallied from a 10-0 deficit to tie the score at halftime, but the second half was all Browns. Ernie Green rushed for two touchdowns in the second half, en route to 86 yards on 17 carries, while Hall of Famer Lou “The Toe” Groza added two of his three field goals during that 20-7 second half.

Jim Brown gained 149 yards on 23 carries and added five more receptions, while quarterback Frank Ryan completed 15 of 28 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown to Clifton McNeil. The Browns defense intercepted Steeler quarterback Ed Brown twice – both by Larry Benz – and held him to just 8 of 23 for 128 yards. The win improved the Browns to 6-1-1, en route to a 11-3-1 finish and a championship.

21. Browns 17, Steelers 7 (Sept. 16, 1985): A new era of Browns football began with this Monday Night Football clash at Cleveland Stadium on the second week of the regular season. With Marty Schottenheimer in his first full-season as the head football coach and veteran Gary Danielson and rookie Bernie Kosar taking over at quarterback, the Browns needed to knock off their hated rivals after dropping a 27-24 overtime loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in last week’s season opener. Danielson, making his second start as a Brown, completed 18-of-30 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown and an interception. His 17-yard scoring pass to wideout Fred Banks in the second quarter opened the scoring for both teams, and an 18-yard field goal by Matt Bahr in the third made it a 10-0 Browns lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Mark Malone found John Stallworth for a 6-yard score in the fourth to cut the Browns’ lead to 10-7. But Cleveland put the game away on its ensuing possession with a 21-yard touchdown run by second-year running back Earnest Byner. Byner rushed for 82 yards on 18 carries, while rookie Kevin Mack added 40 yards on 12 carries. Both backs would go over 1,000 yards rushing –just the third time in NFL history a pair of running backs would accomplish the feat – and the Browns wound up winning the AFC Central Division with an 8-8 record, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and winning their first division title since 1980.

20. Browns 19, Steelers 13 (Dec. 26, 1987): Wins at Three Rivers Stadium could never be counted

Defensive back Delton Hall of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles wide receiver Webster Slaughter #84 of the Cleveland Browns during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on December 26, 1987 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Defensive back Delton Hall of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles wide receiver Webster Slaughter #84 of the Cleveland Browns during a game at Three Rivers Stadium on December 26, 1987 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

on, especially since the Browns had just ended a 16-year losing streak the previous season. Yet the Browns needed to win at their perennial house of horrors in the 1987 season finale to clinch their second-straight division title over an 8-6 Steelers team. The Browns jumped out to a 9-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal from Matt Bahr and a two-yard touchdown pass from Bernie Kosar to backup tight end Derek Tennell, but a 39-yard field goal by Gary Anderson cut that lead to 9-3 at halftime. The Browns got a 30-yard field goal from Bahr to take a 12-3 lead heading into fourth quarter, and the Steelers cut that deficit to six with another Anderson field goal.

However, the Browns put the game away with two-yard touchdown run by Earnest Byner to take a 19-6 lead. Pittsburgh’s Cornell Gowdy made things interesting with a 45-yard interception return late in the fourth quarter to make it a six-point game, but the Browns were able to run out the clock and improve to 10-5. Hanford Dixon and linebacker Eddie Johnson each picked off Mark Malone once apiece, while Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome caught six passes for 94 yards to lead the Browns offense. The 10-5 Browns reached the AFC Championship game three weeks later, but lost a heartbreaking 38-33 game to the Denver Broncos when Byner fumbled on the 2 with just over a minute remaining in the game.

19. Browns 27, Steelers 7 (Nov. 20, 1988): The Browns, who had started four different quarterbacks during the season, were sitting at 6-5 with the hapless Steelers coming to town. If the Browns wanted to get back to the playoffs for the fourth-straight season, they needed to take care of business against Pittsburgh. With Bernie Kosar healthy and back under center, the Browns didn’t waste any time showing who the dominant team really was. After opening the scoring with a 32-yard field goal from Matt Bahr, Kosar found backup tight end Derek Tennell for a two-yard scoring pass to take a 10-0 lead into the second quarter. Frank Minnifield added to that lead when he blocked a Harry Newsom punt and returned it 11 yards to give the Browns a 17-0 lead that the Steelers cut to 17-7 just before the half.

Kosar, who threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, found Reggie Langhorne for a 77-yard touchdown bomb early in the third quarter to put the game away, and Bahr added a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The Browns defense sacked Steelers starter Bubby Brister six times, led by rookie Michael Dean Perry’s two, and picked him off twice. Linebacker Eddie Johnson had a sack and an interception, while Minnifield had the other pick to go along with his huge blocked punt. The Browns used this performance to win five of their last six games and finish 10-6, qualifying for the playoffs as a wild-card team. This was also the last time the Browns swept the Steelers in a season series (until this year, perhaps).

18. Browns 23, Steelers 20 (Sept. 17, 2000): The Browns had just stunned the Steelers, 16-15, at Three Rivers Stadium in 1999 – one of just two victories for the expansion Browns that season – and had rebounded from a 27-7 thrashing by Jacksonville in the 2000 season opener to defeat the Bengals, 24-7, on the road to take a 1-1 record into Cleveland Browns Stadium and their next meeting with the hated Steelers. The Browns jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind two first quarter touchdown passes from Tim Couch to tight end Aaron Shea and fullback Mark Edwards, respectively. But the Steelers, behind former Ohio State quarterback Kent Graham, rallied to cut that lead to 14-10 at halftime with a field goal and a four-yard scoring run by Richard Huntley. A 23-yard field goal by Phil Dawson gave the Browns a 17-13 lead midway through the third quarter.

However, a 10-yard rush by Jerome Bettis gave the Steelers a 20-17 lead heading into the fourth. Instead of rolling over, the young Browns fought back with a pair of fourth-quarter Dawson field goals – the latter from 19-yards out with 2:48 remaining – to take a 23-20 lead. Graham had the Steelers marching into field goal territory on his final two-minute drive. However, with no timeouts, rookie No. 1 overall draft choice Courtney Brown sacked Graham for a four-yard loss with 13 seconds remaining, and the Steelers ran out of time before assembling the field goal team. It’s the last time the Browns have won two straight against the Steelers (hopefully, until this coming Sunday). The Browns couldn’t sustain that 2-1 start, finishing a dismal 3-13. Ironically, of Chris Palmer’s five wins as the Browns’ head coach in two seasons, two of those wins came against the Steelers. That loss dropped the Steelers to 0-3, but they rebounded to finish 9-7 (and missing the playoffs).

17. Browns 33, Steelers 13 (Oct. 5, 2003): This is still the only time the Browns have won at Heinz Field (until this Sunday, hopefully). More importantly, not only was this a nationally-televised Sunday night game, but this was the teams’ first meeting since the Steelers came back from deficits of 24-7 and 33-17 to escape with a 36-33 playoff victory. Tim Couch, playing arguably the best game of his short five-year career, completed 20-of-25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. William Green gauged the vaunted Steeler defense for 115 yards on 33 carries. Couch’s six-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis and a short Phil Dawson field goal gave the Browns a 10-0 first quarter lead, and a 9-yard scoring pass from Couch to Kevin Johnson made it a 16-3 advantage midway through the second quarter.

Jerome Bettis plunged in from the 1 to cut that lead to 16-10, but Couch capped a 9-play, 78-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left to give the Browns a 23-10 halftime advantage. Daylon McCutcheon’s 75-yard interception return off a Tommy Maddux pass early in the third quarter was the final nail in the Steelers’ coffin. The Browns improved to 2-3 with the win (same record as the Steelers). However, they would finish 5-11. It would be Couch’s final year in the NFL. This would also be the Browns’ last win over the Steelers for the next 12 games and six seasons.

16. Browns 45, Steelers 7 (Oct. 29, 1950): The rivalry made its first appearance on the shores of Lake Erie with the 4-2 Browns taking on the 2-4 Steelers. The Browns had beaten Pittsburgh three weeks prior, 30-17 (see No. 15 on this list) in a dominating effort, and actually were more dominant at home. Hall of Famer Marion Motley rushed for 188 yards on 11 carries and scored a 69-yard rushing touchdown and a 38-yard receiving touchdown from Otto Graham. Both scores helped the Browns open up a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter, and a 14-yard scoring run by Don Phelps made it a 31-0 lead after three quarters.

After the Steelers scored, the Browns put the game away with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Dub Jones and a 38-yard TD pass from backup Cliff Lewis to Horace Gillom. The Browns defense forced eight turnovers in this romp, and the Cleveland offense outgained Pittsburgh, 533-349. The Browns wound wind up going 10-2 in their first NFL season and won the NFL Championship – their fifth title in their first five years of existence.

15. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Oct. 7, 1950): This was the first-ever meeting between these two storied franchises, and the Browns – in their first year in the National Football League after dominating the All-American Football Conference from 1946-49 – quickly showed who the dominant force was.

Played at Pitt Stadium, Hall of Famer Otto Graham rushed for two one-yard touchdowns to give the Browns a 14-3 lead, followed by a Dub Jones 7-yard rush to make it a 21-3 halftime lead. Cleveland put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard touchdown run by Jones to make it a 30-10 advantage. The defense forced six Steeler turnovers, despite giving up 345 yards of total offense.

14. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Dec. 18, 1983): This was Brian Sipe’s final game in a Cleveland Browns’ uniform, and he went out with a blaze of glory against their hated and bitter rival in this late-season showdown. With the Steelers at 10-5 and already clinched the division title, the 8-7 Browns needed to win just to get a chance at a playoff berth. Sipe completed 14-of-22 passes for 199 yards with four touchdowns

Linebacker Tom Cousineau #50 of the Cleveland Browns pursues running back Walter Abercrombie #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Municipal Stadium on December 18, 1983 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Linebacker Tom Cousineau #50 of the Cleveland Browns pursues running back Walter Abercrombie #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Municipal Stadium on December 18, 1983 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

and no interceptions to lead this minor upset. Sipe opened things up with a 64-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Rocky Belk, and added a two-yard scoring toss to backup tight end Harry Holt and a three-yarder to wideout Ricky Feacher to give the Browns a 23-10 halftime lead.

The Sipe-Holt connection put the game away early in the third quarter with a one-yard scoring toss and a 30-10 lead. Belk would only play that season, finishing with five receptions and two touchdowns. Franco Harris, in his final game as a Steeler, would be held to just 56 yards on 20 carries by a Browns defense that picked off quarterbacks Cliff Stoudt and Mark Malone once apiece. Alas, the 9-7 Browns finished second in the AFC Central with the win, but missed out on the playoffs by tiebreakers. It would be the last hurrah of the Kardiac Kid-era Browns — head coach Sam Rutigliano would be fired midway through the 1984 season after a 1-8 start.

13. Browns 10, Steelers 9 (Dec. 19, 1982): This one landed on my ninth birthday (it’s still the last time the Browns have won a game on my birthday). However, a closer look shows just how important this win really was. The Browns, in the strike-shortened season, were just 2-4 heading into this showdown at Cleveland Stadium with Paul McDonald at quarterback replacing an injured Brian Sipe. A loss would have essentially ended their season. However, the defense picked off Terry Bradshaw four times — three of which by rookie Hanford Dixon — and sacked him three times. The Steelers led, 7-3, at halftime on a six-yard TD pass from Bradshaw to John Stallworth.

However, McDonald, who completed 19-of-40 passes for 227 yards, led the Browns on a third-quarter scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard plunge by fullback Johnny Davis. An intentional safety taken when punter Steve Cox ran out of the end zone in the final seconds made it a one-point game, but it wasn’t enough. The win improved the Browns to 3-4 and led to a 4-5 season. It was good enough for them to make the playoffs under the expanded eight-team format, and this win propelled them to that playoff berth. It was also the last time the Browns beat a Bradshaw-led Steeler team – he retired after just one game in 1983.

12. Browns 20, Steelers 14 (Nov. 25, 2012): Prior to last year’s 31-10 win at home, this had been the most recent victory for the good guys. With the Steelers down to third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, the Browns defense forced a whopping eight turnovers – three of which occurred in the final three minutes of play. They intercepted three Batch passes, but recovered five fumbles from five different Steeler running backs. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who had a batted pass intercepted and returned for a 53-yard touchdown by linebacker Lawrence Timmons on the fourth play from scrimmage, recovered to lead the Browns to 20 points. He threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron late in the second quarter off of a turnover, but the Steelers led, 14-13, at halftime on a Chris Rainey 1-yard run in the final seconds of the second quarter.

Kicker Phil Dawson connected from 28 and 32 yards out in the first half. But rookie Trent Richardson’s 15-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter gave the Browns a 20-14 lead, which was good enough for the long-awaited ‘W.’ Richardson finished with 85 yards on 29 carries, while Weeden (who was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter) threw for 153 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

11. Browns 13, Steelers 6 (Dec. 10, 2009): This one cracks our list because of how out-of-nowhere it really was. The Browns came into this Thursday Night home contest with a 1-11 record, and new coach Eric Mangini was on the hot seat with the rumored hiring of Mike Holmgren as team president earlier that week. However, instead of rolling over to the vaunted Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champions, they hit them in the mouth.

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times – a season-best for the Browns’ beleaguered defense – and held them to just two field goals. Brady Quinn only threw for 90 yards and was offset a lot by receiver Josh Cribbs, who ran for a team-best 87 yards out of the Wildcat formation. But, he led two first quarter scoring drives (both Phil Dawson field goals) and another just before halftime, capped by rookie Chris Jennings’ 10-yard touchdown run to make it 13-0. The game wasn’t over until linebacker David Bowens batted away a fourth-down Roethlisberger pass with just over a minute remaining, and Santonio Holmes was leveled after a short punt return with no time remaining to cap one of the most satisfying Browns victory during the “Expansion Era.”

10. Browns 24, Steelers 19 (Oct. 9, 1965): The Browns came into 1965 as the defending NFL champions (alas, they haven’t been able to do that since then) and picked up right where they left off, winning two of their first three games before hosting the hated Steelers (0-4) on a Saturday night. However, the underdog Steelers hung tough with the vaunted Browns, rallying from a 10-0 first quarter deficit to take a 19-17 fourth quarter lead on a Dick Hoak 15-yard run. Jim Brown (who Cleveland drafted just one pick after the Steelers selected Len Dawson in the first round of the 1957 draft) scored two touchdowns, one receiving, and gained 168 yards on the ground.

However, it was his backup Leroy Kelly (who also wound up in the Hall of Fame), who made the biggest plays of the game-winning drive, which began on their own 22 with 3:35 remaining, catching passes of 22 and 21 yards. Following a four-yard run by Brown to put the ball on the Pittsburgh 14 with less than a minute to go, Frank Ryan found Gary Collins on a post pattern in the end zone for the game-winning score. The Browns wound up going 11-3 and reaching the NFL Championship game for the second-straight year, but lost to the Green Bay Packers in what turned out to be Brown’s final game of his storied career.

9. Browns 16, Steelers 15 (Nov. 14, 1999): After three years without football, the Browns were reborn

Kevin Johnson #85 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates the touchdown during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Browns defeated the Steelers 16-15. ( Jamie Squire /Allsport)
Kevin Johnson #85 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates the touchdown during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Browns defeated the Steelers 16-15. ( Jamie Squire /Allsport)

as an expansion team in 1999, playing in a sparkling new stadium in the exact spot that the old Cleveland Stadium stood. In their first game back, the Browns were humiliated by the Steelers, 43-0, at home. Just a few weeks later, on Nov. 14, the Browns played like a totally different team, keeping themselves in the game. The Browns scored first on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson (both rookies), but the Steelers battled back to take a 15-7 lead on a touchdown and three field goals.

But, with 6:26 left in the game, defensive lineman John Thierry intercepted Kordell Stewart and was brought down at the Steeler 15, setting up a Couch to Mark Edwards touchdown pass a few plays later. Karim Abdul-Jabbar’s two-point conversion run was stopped, but the Browns had one more chance. Taking over with no timeouts at his own 20 with 1:51 remaining, Couch drove the Browns 58 yards in five plays. Without stopping the clock and with 18 seconds left, Chris Palmer ran the field goal team out on to the field. The Browns snapped the ball with two seconds left, and rookie Phil Dawson, into an 18 mph wind, calmly drilled a 40-yard field goal to give Cleveland the stunning upset win. It turned out to be the Browns’ second-to-last visit to Three Rivers Stadium and their first win there since 1989’s 51-0 blowout.

8. Browns 26, Steelers 24 (Nov. 19, 1972): The suddenly resurgent Steelers, after decades of ineptitude, took a 7-2 record into this contest at Cleveland Stadium, with the Browns at 6-3. The Browns jumped out to a 20-3 lead behind two TD passes from Mike Phipps, but the Steelers scored just before halftime to make it 20-10, then got two touchdown runs – the latter a 75-yard run from Franco Harris – to take a 24-23 fourth quarter lead.

Don Cockroft missed a 27-yard field goal with just under two minutes remaining, but he got another chance thanks to the defense forcing a three-and-out and a clutch drive led by Phipps. With 13 seconds remaining, Cockroft earned his redemption with a 26-yard field goal, giving the Browns a much-needed victory. Both teams made the playoffs that season, but both were defeated by the undefeated Miami Dolphins.

7. Browns 27, Steelers 26 (Oct. 16, 1980): This game virtually signaled the death of the first Steeler dynasty and helped propel the “Kardiac Kids” to their first-ever AFC Central crown and first playoff berth since 1972. Despite the Steelers missing most of their regular offensive starters, Pittsburgh jumped out to a 26-14 fourth quarter lead with backup QB Cliff Stoudt, an Oberlin native, at the helm.

But Brian Sipe and Co., despite blowing a couple of golden scoring opportunities earlier in the game, came to life in the fourth quarter. Sipe found Greg Pruitt for a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 9:21 remaining (Don Cockroft missed the extra point, keeping the Steelers ahead by six). Then, with 5:38 remaining, Sipe found a streaking Ozzie Newsome wide open for an 18-yard touchdown, sending 80,000 fans at Cleveland Stadium into a frenzy. Ron Bolton prevented Stoudt from making a late rally with an interception at the two-minute warning, and the Browns were able to run out the clock on this huge victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.

6. Browns 31, Steelers 10 (Oct. 12, 2014): What does Brian Hoyer have in common with Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden? They were all starting quarterbacks during the “Expansion Era” who manufactured wins over the hated Steelers. The Browns enter this Sunday’s game on a one-game winning streak over the Steelers thanks to this white-washing – the Browns biggest win over the Steelers since they went to Three Rivers and won, 51-0, in 1989. The Steelers took a 3-0 first quarter lead before Hoyer – a former Pittsburgh backup in 2012 – led three second-quarter touchdown drives to take a 21-3 halftime lead.

The biggest play was a 51-yard bomb to tight end Jordan Cameron with 9:35 left in the quarter, sandwiched between touchdown runs by rookie Isaiah Crowell and Ben Tate (who would wind up starting for Pittsburgh in a Wild Card game that year). Tate’s second touchdown of the season, a 1-yard plunge with 12:37 left in the game, made it a 31-3 lead. Hoyer went 8-for-17 for 215 yards and a touchdown, but the running game rolled up 138 yards on 38 carries. Defensively, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just twice, but threw an interception and was thwarted on two fourth-down conversions. It snapped a four-game losing streak to the Steelers and was, arguably, the most satisfying victory for the Browns since 1999.

5. Browns 18, Steelers 16 (Oct. 10, 1976): This game is famous for Browns defensive end Joe “Turkey” Jones’ sack of Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, where Jones slammed Bradshaw right on his head and knocked him out of the game. The Steelers had won Super Bowl X the previous season and were poised to try to win it again.

They knocked out Brian Sipe early in the game, which resulted in little-used rookie Dave Mays (the Browns’ third-string QB) making his NFL debut. Mays – who was Cleveland’s first black quarterback – earned his way into Browns lore by calmly leading the Browns to two third-quarter scores – a 1-yard run by Cleo Miller and a 50-yard field goal by Don Cockroft – which gave them a 15-10 lead. Following Turkey’s sack, Cockroft added the game-clinching 40-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining.

4. Browns 27, Steelers 24 (Oct. 5, 1986): Since Three Rivers Stadium opened up in 1970, the Browns had never won there. They would always seem to lose in bizarre fashion as well, which perpetuated the local myth of the “Three Rivers Jinx.” The previous season, the Browns had the Steelers on the ropes before Gary Anderson’s last-second field goal gave Pittsburgh a 10-9 win. The Browns tried everything; staying in different hotels, busing instead of flying, bringing dirt from Cleveland Stadium and sprinkling it on the field during warm-ups, you name it. And, this one wasn’t without its bizarre moments as well.

The Browns took a quick 10-0 lead, but back-to-back turnovers gave Pittsburgh a 14-10 lead late in the first half. That’s when Gerald McNeil, nicknamed “The Ice Cube,” became a permanent fixture in Browns lore when he returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, giving the Browns a 17-14 halftime lead. At the time, it was the Browns’ first kickoff return touchdown in 12 years! However, the Steelers regained the lead early in the third quarter, and the two teams traded scores which resulted in Pittsburgh leading, 24-20, to start the fourth quarter. But, Mike Johnson recovered a muffed punt, and Earnest Byner’s four-yard TD run with eight minutes left gave the Browns the lead for good. It got interesting though – Matt Bahr missed a chip-shot field goal with just under five minutes to play, but Mark Malone’s pitch to Earnest Jackson on a bizarre option call from the Browns 35 was botched and the Browns recovered.

3. Browns 37, Steelers 31 OT (Nov. 23, 1986): The Browns had just ended their 16-year “Three Rivers Jinx” earlier in the season (see No. 4) and had come off a huge win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night at home. Bernie Kosar and Mark Malone engaged in a wild shootout. Kosar completed 28 of 46 passes for a then-career-best 414 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, just two days before his 23rd birthday. The Browns had taken a 31-28 lead with 1:51 left on a Matt Bahr field goal, but lost Bahr for the season on the ensuing kickoff when he made a game-saving tackle on the Steelers’ Lupe Sanchez at the Browns 40.

Gary Anderson made a 40-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, and the Browns did not have a healthy kicker. After both teams went three-and-out in the OT, Kosar went to work. With 6:37 remaining and the ball on the Steeler 36, Kosar pumped once and fired deep down the left sideline for rookie Webster Slaughter. Slaughter caught the ball in stride and scored the walk-off touchdown. The Browns’ 536 yards offense was the most a Pittsburgh defense had ever yielded up to that point.

2. Browns 51, Steelers 0 (Sept. 10, 1989): The Browns were in the midst of a five-season playoff streak, where they qualified for the AFC Championship game three times in a four-year span. This season

Linebacker Clay Matthews #57 of the Cleveland Browns holds the football in the air as he is congratulated by defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry #92 and other teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium circa 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Linebacker Clay Matthews #57 of the Cleveland Browns holds the football in the air as he is congratulated by defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry #92 and other teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

capped off both streaks and began with question marks concerning new head coach Bud Carson. Carson, who was the architect of the famed Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970s, had never been a head coach before. But, in this season opener at Three Rivers Stadium, Carson’s attack 4-3 defense stunned Bubby Brister and the Steelers by forcing six turnovers and scoring three defensive touchdowns – two of which by linebacker David Grayson and the other by veteran Clay Matthews.

Rookie running back Tim Worley fumbled the ball at least four times, and two of them were returned for touchdowns. This rout catapulted the Browns to a 9-6-1 season and their last AFC Championship game berth. The Steelers rebounded to finish 9-7 and came within a point of meeting the Browns in that AFC Title game.

1. Browns 28, Steelers 23 (Oct. 24, 1993): Just two weeks after this game, Bill Belichick and Art Modell touched off mass furor when they released regional icon Bernie Kosar. However, all was right in the world with this game, simply remembered as the ”Eric Metcalf Game.” The Browns jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, thanks to a 62-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde to Michael Jackson and a 91-yard punt return by Metcalf, but the Steelers tied at 14 just before halftime. The Browns led again, 21-17, on a short TD pass from Testaverde to fullback Ron Wolfley, but the Steelers came back to take a 23-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

With Testaverde knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder, Kosar was poised to direct one his patented two-minute drives. However, Metcalf never gave him the chance, weaving through the Steeler special teams for a breathtaking 75-yard touchdown with 2:05 remaining. Metcalf became just the first NFL player to have two punt return TDs in the same game. Stevon Moore clinched the win by recovering a fumble with less than a minute remaining, but everyone remembers the Metcalf return as the winning play. The win improved the Browns to 5-2, but Kosar’s release deflated this team that wound up a disappointing 7-9. It was also the last time the original Browns beat the Steelers. The Steelers wound up 9-7 and reached the playoffs.

Here we go, Brownies, here we go!

Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks!

Excruciating Losses Continue To Haunt The Browns

One thing about the Cleveland Browns – since they’ve returned in 1999, they’ve found more inventive and heart-breaking ways to lose games than any other NFL team.

 Josh Lambo #2 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with his teammates after hitting the game winning field goal.(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Josh Lambo #2 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with his teammates after hitting the game winning field goal.(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Last Sunday’s last-second 30-27 loss by the Browns to the San Diego Chargers was the latest in a long line of “Only In Cleveland” improbable losses.

After the Browns tied the game with 2:09 remaining on a Josh McCown touchdown pass to Gary Barnidge and subsequent two-point conversion pass from McCown to Taylor Gabriel, the Chargers – missing three starting offensive linemen and with just two healthy wide receivers – drove down to the Browns 21 in eight plays, going 57 yards. Rookie kicker Josh Lambo lined up for a game-winning 39-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left and kicked it wide right. However, the Browns’ Tramon Williams jumped offside, giving Lambo and the Chargers one last chance five yards closer.

This time, and with no time on the clock, Lambo delivered from 34 yards out, giving San Diego an improbable win that dropped the Browns to 1-3.

Andrew Clayman from the site Waiting For Next Year compiled a list of all 41 instances in which the Browns had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in the final minute since the franchise returned in 1999. Whatever you do, avoid being around sharp objects or listening to songs from The Cure while reading this article (http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/09/heres-every-last-minute-browns-loss-since-1999) because chances are good you may feel suicidal when you are done.

What I’ve decided to do is take that list of 41 and whittle it down to the 10 most memorable (or most heartbreaking) of those last-second losses. The more unique the circumstance, the better chance it got on the list. I did not include the Browns’ 36-33 loss in the 2002 playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers because I wanted to limit it to regular season games (and, also, because that game is still a sore subject).

Because it’s so new, I did not include Sunday’s loss in this list. Instead, and because I feel like torturing myself and you, I found 10 others. Enjoy.

10. Dec. 2, 2007: Cardinals 27, Browns 21 – Nowadays, there is no such thing as a force out – defenders can shove a receiver out of bounds on a catch and, as long as his feet don’t touch inbounds, it’s considered an incomplete pass. But back in 2007, defenders weren’t allowed to do this maneuver. This came into question on the last play of this late-season game in Glendale. Derek Anderson, who threw for 304 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, took over at his own 18 with 1:48 remaining and began to put together a nice drive. The Browns drove to the Arizona 37 with 22 seconds left, but Anderson threw three straight incomplete passes. On fourth-and-10 with six seconds left, Anderson found tight end Kellen Winslow in the left corner of the end zone, but Winslow was shoved out of bounds before he could get his feet in. The play was not overturned by a replay review, and, in a season in which the Browns just missed the playoffs despite a 10-6 record, this loss loomed large.

9. Nov. 14, 2010: Jets 26, Browns 20 (OT) – The Browns were surging under rookie quarterback Colt McCoy after he engineered two shocking upsets over the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. Playing with confidence in a charged up stadium that booed the returning Braylon Edwards every time a pass was thrown his way, the Browns forced overtime when McCoy found Mohamed Massaquoi for a 3-yard touchdown with 44 seconds remaining. In overtime, a Chansi Stuckey fumble at the Jets 30 after a long completion prevented the Browns from attempting a potential game-winning field goal. And, an interception by rookie Joe Haden at the 3 with 1:35 left appeared to seal a tie game. But, in typical Browns fashion, they wound up punting the ball back to the Jets, who took over at their own 37 with no timeouts and 24 seconds left. On the first play, Sanchez found Ohio State product Santonio Holmes, who broke an Eric Wright tackle and ran into the end zone for a walkoff touchdown. The Browns wound up going 5-11 and Mangini was fired.

8. Sept. 23, 2007: Raiders 26, Browns 24 – Another narrow loss in the 2007 season that loomed large because the Browns came up an eyelash short of a playoff berth. The Raiders, quarterbacked by Josh McCown – yes, THAT Josh McCown – jumped out to a 16-0 first half lead before Anderson and the Browns came battling back. A 21-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards in the third quarter gave the Browns a 17-16 lead, and a 1-yard sneak from Anderson with 3:33 left cut the deficit to 26-24. Getting the ball back at their own 9 with no timeouts and 1:04 left, Anderson drove the Browns into field goal range on a 13-yard completion to Joe Jurevicius with 3 seconds left. As Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard game-winning field goal, rookie head coach Lane Kiffin called timeout just before the ball was snapped. Having to re-do it, Dawson’s second attempt was blocked by Oakland’s Tommy Kelly.

7. Sept. 29, 2002: Steelers 16, Browns 13 (OT) – The Browns went 0-3 against the Steelers in this playoff season, with all three losses coming by three points apiece. Other than the playoff defeat, this one was probably the most bizarre. At Heinz Field, Tommy Maddux relieved an ineffective Kordell Stewart in the fourth quarter and found Plaxico Burress for a game-tying 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:05 remaining to send the game into overtime. After Andra Davis intercepted Maddux on the first play of overtime at the Steelers 34, Dawson missed a game-winning 45-yard field goal. Given new life, Maddux and the Steelers drove inside the Browns’ 10-yard line. Pittsburgh elected to try to kick a game-winning 24-yard field goal on second down – remember that, folks. However, Todd Peterson’s kick was blocked by Alvin McKinley. Peterson recovered the kick, and his fumble was pounced on by Steelers lineman John Fiala. Because the kick did not cross the line of scrimmage, and because the kick didn’t occur on fourth down, the Steelers got another chance. This time, Peterson kicked a 31-yard field goal to give the bad guys the win.

Quarterback Tim Couch #2 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 10, 1999. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images
Quarterback Tim Couch #2 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 10, 1999. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

6. Oct. 10, 1999: Bengals 18, Browns 17 – In the 1999 NFL Draft, the two quarterbacks the Browns were torn over for the first pick were Tim Couch out of Kentucky and Akili Smith out of Oregon. Both QBs were photographed together wearing Browns jerseys with John “Big Dawg” Thompson for the cover of Sports Illustrated. Couch wound up being the pick and Smith wound up being taken third-overall by the rival Cincinnati Bengals. Both quarterbacks didn’t amount to much in the NFL, but Smith’s career was more miserable than Couch’s. However, for one afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Smith showed up Couch and the Browns’ braintrust who passed on him. On a day when rookie kicker Dawson scored the first – and only – rushing touchdown of his career, and the first rushing touchdown of the season for the Browns, the young hosts clung to a 17-12 lead late in the game. Smith took over at his own 20 with two timeouts and 2:04 remaining and drove his team down to the Browns’ 2 thanks to a 9-yard pass to Darnay Scott on fourth down and a pass interference penalty on Corey Fuller at the 2. On third down and with nine seconds on the clock, Smith found Carl Pickens on a fade route to rob the expansion Browns of their first win of the season. Smith only finished with five TD passes in his career and only won three games in four years, adding insult in injury.

5. Dec. 8, 2013: Patriots 27, Browns 26 – The Browns really had no business being in this game. But, thanks to receiver Josh Gordon’s 151 receiving yards and quarterback Jason Campbell – who wasn’t cleared to start until two days prior to kickoff – and his 391 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, Cleveland led throughout and took a 26-14 lead with 2:39 left on a four-yard pass from Campbell to tight end Jordan Cameron. At that point, the Patriots’ win probability was 0.1 percent. But that doesn’t factor in the team they were playing. Tom Brady threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 1:01 remaining to cut the deficit to 26-21. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Jordan Poyer on the touchdown allowed the Patriots to kickoff 15 yards closer than normal. Then, Fozzy Whitaker fumbled the ensuing onside kick, which was recovered by kicker Stephen Gostkowski at the Cleveland 30. A pass interference penalty on rookie Leon McFadden in the end zone put the ball on the 1, where Brady found Danny Amendola for what turned out to be the improbable game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. Amazingly, the Browns had a chance to win on the last play of the game. But Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field goal fell just short.

4. Nov. 4, 2001: Bears 27, Browns 21 (OT) – After winning just five games in the two previous years, the Browns were 4-2 under first-year coach Butch Davis heading into this showdown at Soldier Field. And, a 25-yard fumble recovery by former No. 1 overall pick Courtney Brown just 55 seconds into the game gave the Browns an early 7-0 lead. A 55-yard touchdown pass from Couch to Kevin Johnson late in the third quarter gave the Browns a 21-7 lead, and, with less than a minute remaining, that lead appeared to be safe. But that’s when things got really weird. Bears quarterback Shane Matthews, the regular backup, found Marty Booker on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left to cut the deficit to 21-14. Then, Chicago recovered an onside kick at the Browns 47. After two short completions, Matthews flung a Hail Mary pass that was tipped in the air and caught in the back of the end zone by running back James Allen for a stunning 34-yard touchdown with no time remaining. Then, before anyone realized what was truly happening, the game was over. After the Browns stopped the Bears in overtime, a Couch pass on their third offensive play was batted at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by safety Mike Brown, who returned the gift 23 yards for a game-winning touchdown.

3.  Nov. 22, 2009: Lions 38, Browns 37 – Former first-round pick Brady Quinn had, by far, his best game as a pro on this afternoon at Ford Field, throwing for 304 yards with four touchdowns. It was a shootout with rookie top-overall pick Matthew Stafford, who wound up throwing for 422 yards and five touchdowns. The Browns blew a 24-3 first-quarter lead, but a two-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Michael Gaines – and a two-point conversion from Jamal Lewis – gave Cleveland a 37-31 lead with five minutes remaining. A Brodney Pool interception in the end zone with 3:40 remaining appeared to be enough to get the Browns just their second win of the season, and, when Detroit got the ball back, it had to drive 88 yards in 1:46 without any timeouts. With eight seconds left and the ball on the Cleveland 32, Stafford threw a Hail Mary into the end zone that was picked off by Pool with no time on the clock. However, officials flagged Hank Poteat for pass interference – officials rarely flag defenders for interference on a jump ball, but they did on this day. Because coach Eric Mangini called a timeout, Stafford – who separated his shoulder on the throw – was able to reenter the game and find Brandon Pettigrew for the game-winning touchdown. Typical Browns.

2. Sept. 8, 2002: Chiefs 40, Browns 39 – Browns backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb, starting for an injured Couch, burst on the scene with a 329-yard, three-touchdown performance in the season opener. Holcomb completed 27-of-39 passes in his first start as a Brown, and the Browns threw four touchdown passes in the game (one from receiver Kevin Johnson). A 41-yard field goal from Dawson with 29 seconds remaining appeared to give the Browns a wild 39-37 win. However, as Trent Green tried to throw a Hail Mary pass with no time remaining, linebacker Dwayne Rudd got to him and appeared to sack him. Green was able to pitch the ball to lineman John Tait just before he went down, but that didn’t stop Rudd from running to midfield and flinging his helmet off in celebration. In the meantime, the 320-pound Tait was rumbling down the sideline, and the officials flagged Rudd for unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet on the field of play. That gave the Chiefs one last play with no time remaining, and veteran Morten Andersen made a 30-yard field goal to give the visitors an improbable win. Rudd will always be remembered in Cleveland for this boneheaded maneuver.

1. Dec. 16, 2001: Jaguars 15, Browns 10 – This game will forever be known simply as “Bottlegate.”

Bottles and debris litter the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, as frustrated Brown fans defy a referee call during the Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game 16 December, 2001. (Photo credit DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Bottles and debris litter the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, as frustrated Brown fans defy a referee call during the Cleveland Browns-Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game 16 December, 2001. (Photo credit DAVID MAXWELL/AFP/Getty Images)

Trailing by five with under a minute to go, Couch drove the Browns deep into Jacksonville territory. Believe it not, the 6-6 Browns still had a chance to make the playoffs, but needed a win. On fourth-and-2 from the Jacksonville 10, Couch connected with Quincy Morgan for three yards and a first down. After Couch spiked the ball to stop the clock on first down, referee Terry McAuley decided to have another look at the Morgan catch – which is forbidden by NFL rules. When McAuley decided to reverse the catch, giving Jacksonville possession with no timeouts remaining, confused and angry Browns fans decided to let the refs know they weren’t happy by throwing whatever they had available onto the playing field. That was mostly hundreds of plastic beer bottles that were, at the time, served at the games. McAuley further broke more NFL rules by deciding to call the game with 48 seconds remaining, but was forced to return to the field, along with both teams, to run two more plays 30 minutes after the game was initially called. The riot from fans makes this one more memorable, but overshadows the fact that McAuley and his officials broke an NFL rule. The Browns wound up finishing 7-9. It’s still the only time that play has been reviewed after another play had already been run.

As you can see, the Browns found 10 very inventive ways to lose a game in this list. It’s not uncommon for a franchise to fall victim to one of these types of losses. Maybe two or three. But 10? And when you realize this is only the tip of the 41 last-second loss iceberg, it only gets more nauseating. I don’t know what forces are at work when it comes to the Cleveland Browns, but I think they’ve made their point by now, don’t you?

Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks!

More Than A Friday: I’ll Be Nice, Let’s Be Better

Thursday was a difficult day, a day highlighted by senseless loss of life. It was so difficult, in fact, that I considered blowing off the column this week, but that would be taking the tragedies of the day and making it about me. That’s simply not my style. Before I left the office, I learned of the C-130 (aka Sky Pig) that went down in Jalalabad, killing twelve people, but the 12 lives taken there weren’t the focus of conversation on Thursday, nor will it be in the coming weeks.

Look, we’re all fed up, if not fatigued by the stories of mass shootings. The incident in Roseburg, Oregon seems to be just another notch in the bedpost for someone’s agenda, and as much as we, most of us anyway, want to be sensitive to the families of the victims, we all have an angle. Most of us aren’t shy about discussing it. Blame the epidemic that is mental illness or blame the weapons used to obliterate the innocent, if you must, but my thesis here remains the same. Let’s treat each other better, and continue to strive to be worthy of all things we’re blessed with in this life.

I’m not sure what I was planning to publish for Friday, as I attempt to transition to sports in a not so subtle manner, but I’m definitely pivoting towards being nice this morning. I’ll be nicer about Jose Ramirez and how he should have been treated by the Minnesota Twins after violating age-old baseball code, and I’ll even be kind about two of my least favorite teams in all of sport being showcased in the NFL’s prime time event last night.

The Elite Quaterback1The misspelling is intentional.  If you get the joke, great.  If not, please just move on. and The Dog Killer

For very different reasons, I abhor the the football chapters in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, known affectionately by everyone involved with the National Football League as the Steelers and the Ravens. However, when they’re on the same field of play and we have to hear about how wonderful this rivalry is, I despise the sum a lot more than the combined value of its parts.

Generally, I am reminded that I’ve held on to grudges for too long as a Browns fan, and I reluctantly knowledge that to be true. Generally, I also don’t care about the accuracy of any of that; my irrational feeling is my prerogative as a fan. On this day, a day that senseless stole the lives of so many, I was going to put all of that to the side and be nice.

With Ben Roethlisberger out 4-6 weeks, or 2-3 weeks if you consult Dr. Bill Cowher, the Steelers turned to backup quarterback Mike Vick2He doesn’t want to be Michael.  He probably doesn’t want us to remember why he was sent to Leavenworth either.. Now, if I wasn’t being nice, I’d bring (allegedly) sexually assaulted women and tortured canines to the conversation, but I’m being nice. So, before the game, I thought, “Get well, Ben” and “Good luck, Mike”.

These are fellows with families and mothers who love them unconditionally. I would filter those mean things I might want to say about them, if I knew I were in the presence of those families, so I know I’m capable of doing so. On the other sideline, you have the franchise that once existed as the Cleveland Browns. Very few people affiliated with the events that took place in 1996 would be involved in Thursday evening’s match up, so again, I’ll be nice.

Pittsburgh, in addition to missing the services of their quarterback, is also missing their projected starting center, so at 2-1 on the season, they’re thinking about damage control. Vick is there because Bruce Gradkowski isn’t healthy and Landry Jones isn’t good. They were going to run the ball and keep it simple for the ex-con taking snaps from the backup center. They were fortunate enough to start this run with a taxi-squad at home against a winless Baltimore team.

While we argued how valid some of the 3-0 starts were on this week’s Suits and Laterals Podcast, on the flipside of that coin, you could also question the lack of substance behind the Ravens’ 0-3 start. Denver was understandable, Oakland wasn’t, and the letdown against the Bengals was what it was. I’m sure they’re not proud of how they look in the standings, but John Harbaugh isn’t going to lead a squad that gives up that easily.

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The games between these two are usually close, and it usually means quality, but Pittsburgh’s 10-7 halftime lead didn’t represent that in any way. The Steelers defense isn’t very good, but the Ravens offense couldn’t quite exploit that. I’ll admit that Joe Flacco can be everything the Ravens want from their quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he’s that guy all of the time, and he most definitely was not even close to that in the first half. The Steelers, on the hand, were basically in line with the low expectations you’d have had with Vick.

The Steelers had this game in hand; all they needed to do was close. And, they’re the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s what they tend to do when they play from ahead. Vick notwithstanding, they have Antonio Brown to pick up the slack, and Le’Veon Bell isn’t a bad second option, especially when you want to shorten the game by keeping the clock moving.

Vick to Brown occurred a few times, but it was never effective or efficient. It was Bell that got the touches, the yards, and the Fantasy Football points, but he didn’t get the ball in the end. If I recall correctly, the Steelers had five opportunities to finish off their division rivals and failed to do so. Now, even though I was trying to be nice, there was a little bit of anxious giddiness to me when I considered an 0-4 start for the Ravens. And, when the Steelers failed to use Bell in short yardage on 3rd and 4th down, it bothered me as a football fan. After Josh Scobee missed a second field goal, each promised to make life difficult for Flacco and company on Thursday, I was stuck in nice-mode and forgot how much joy I usually take in Pittsburgh failure.

Even before Ravens kicker Justin Tucker hit from 42 yards in the final seconds of regulation, I felt that Pittsburgh deserved to lose a game, though they controlled everything about it for so long. When Tucker hit from 52, after a questionable 4th down call by Mike Tomlin, who refused to go to Bell on 4th and 1 (or trust Josh Scobee3Scobee, the Steelers’ third kicker since the start of the pre-season, missed two kicks in the game’s final three minutes of regulation.to kick a 50-yard field goal), I felt justice had been served.

I wasn’t content that a team I’ve spent my entire life disliking lost. I just felt Football Team A was punished for screwing the pooch, a fine example of the universe evening itself out.

Everyone Loves Showboating, Everyone Except Me

The Indians and Twins played 18 innings of baseball on Wednesday, with both teams running out of time to grab a playoff spot. In dropping the matinee 7-1, Cleveland gave Houston a chance to effectively end the Indians season, regardless of what happened in Game 2 of the double-header at Progressive Field. In the eighth inning of a game the Twins trailed 7-1, the Minnesota skipper opted to walk Jason Kipnis to get to Jose Ramirez.

Ramirez responded by pulling a Ricky Nolasco pitch over the right-field wall for a 3-run jack, a ball that sailed all of 331 feet into the Cleveland night. After hitting his sixth home run of the year, the Indians utility infielder admired it for longer than he should have, and then he flipped his bat towards the visitors’ dugout. I know that things change, and that few understand the etiquette involved here, but you really can’t do that.

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This isn’t a participation trophy thing; it’s more about respect for the game, and when you get over on a pitcher for one of those 4-base hit, your feat and the scoreboard have done all the talking that needs to take place. I never saw Bob Gibson pitch and couldn’t quote any of his stats to you, but I know that he was notorious for not tolerating that shit. I mean, you could do it, but at a cost, as Gibson would put the next pitch he threw you into your rib cage. That was the fee for patting yourself on the back, and everyone seemed to be on the same page with that. And hey, I’m actually down with that arrangement.

These days, everyone seems to want to make excuses for the grand-standing. Now, athletes allegedly come from different cultures and don’t understand unwritten rules. I, on the other hand, like that some things are kept off the books, and don’t need everything to be so literal. I’m all about hashing shit out like men, and I don’t say that like some fake tough guy. Short of the whole “snitches get stitches” thing, I like the idea of settling things face-to-face without calling the police over every stinkin’ neighborly dispute, and in baseball, I like when the game polices itself.

Since the home run and subsequent bat flip occurred late in Wednesday night’s contest, Paul Molitor and the Twins could only verbalize their dissatisfaction with Ramirez. To their credit, Terry Francona offered no justification and basically apologized on his player’s behalf. Among the baseball people involved, the only ones who have opinions that matter, the Twins gripe had weight to it. No, Ramirez didn’t kill a guy, as whiners and defenders of bat flips so annoyingly pointed out, but he was in the wrong with it. He even offered an apology.

His manager even put him in a place to take his medicine, batting him lead-off in the final meeting between the two teams on Thursday. I saw this one going down one way, and it went like this. If the Twins opted to get their pound of flesh from Ramirez, it had to happen on the first pitch, it couldn’t be at the batter’s head, and you don’t get a Mulligan if you miss. As Tribe color man Rick Manning predicted, the Twins put a priority on winning a ballgame over the fireworks that come with the unwritten rules. Fair enough, they’re in a playoff race and don’t need to lose a starter in the first inning of a game over something silly.

It’s my belief that the umpires respect that code, and no ejection would have taken place. I’m not sure that Jeff Kellogg’s crew would act that way, but it’s my personal opinion that they should have and probably would have. Where I disagree with Manning, is with the suggestion that the Twins get theirs down the road. Nope. There’s a statute of limitations on the mitigating circumstance of “he threw the first punch”, and it expired when Tyler Duffey went down and away with his first pitch to Ramirez.

It was okay to do nothing in that situation on the field. I’m not sure many will disagree, regardless of how they feel about bat flips. So, let’s bring this thing full-circle, and remember that doing nothing is the wrong way to react to Thursday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College.

That includes bitching about nothing being done. There’s a group in Washington that can do something to initiate change. We all have the ability to vote for or against at least one of them. Next month or next year, before you blindly cast a vote for or against any of them because of a letter by their name4Letters like (R) or (D)., take the time to understand what they plan to do, and if you don’t know, ask them. This is our country, as in yours and mine, make sure your represented…if you care, that is.

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1. The misspelling is intentional.  If you get the joke, great.  If not, please just move on.
2. He doesn’t want to be Michael.  He probably doesn’t want us to remember why he was sent to Leavenworth either.
3. Scobee, the Steelers’ third kicker since the start of the pre-season, missed two kicks in the game’s final three minutes of regulation.
4. Letters like (R) or (D).

More Than A Friday: We Remember New York, and We Still Live in Fear

It was fourteen years ago today, when we learned that we are never safe, not in this world. Yes, I remember where I was when I learned of what happened. Yes, it was terrible in every way. And yes, it changed a lot of things for a lot of people, but most of all, the events of that morning instilled a level of fear in all of us, about things that perhaps we were previously too blissfully ignorant about.

We fast forward to this week, where we have a new, legitimate fear in our own backyard in Arizona this very week. Maybe back then, on the day of, we didn’t understand the motive, why those planes hit those buildings, but maybe those answers came with time, even though those answers were never what we deemed acceptable. Right now, we don’t know why we fear the very highways we travel every day, other than the fact that we don’t care to be hit by random gunfire. I find myself assuming a level of vigilance, keeping my head on a swivel, eye-balling rooftops and roadside mountains for snipers. I hear that, while the highway shootings are of a serial nature in Arizona, this is happening in Chicago now as well. What the hell is happening? I don’t want to be next, but I really don’t want there to be a next at all.

I guess it’s important to remember how fear brings us together, and makes us collectively brave. We remember those who ran toward the trouble, when so many were running away. Those rescue workers died, so that so many could live. At this point, I’d like to take a deep breath, and let the honorable stand on their own plane.

Alright, new thought. This is a sports site, so I want to mention how Mike Piazza’s home run and President Bush’s first pitch at the World Series helped begin the healing process in New York and across the country. The Mets wore caps honoring the police and firefighters, who we will forever remember as heroes, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t talking about baseball and level of heroism that is above reproach in the same breath. Speaking of which, let’s breathe one more time.

Here are ten thoughts from the week that was:

  • Former tennis star James Blake had a rough run-in with the New York Police Department the other night, and I suppose that’s putting it mildly. The former #4 tennis player in the world was tackled and cuffed on Thursday in a sting operation gone awry. Blake, who bore a reasonable likeness to a suspect, according to police, said he told police he wished to comply and that he was very scared throughout the entire ordeal. On a day that we’re honoring your fallen brothers, this is not okay, NYPD.
    https://twitter.com/RyanRuggiero/status/642425084070756352/video/1
  • Amid some heavy investigative reporting on the part of ESPN’s Outside the Lines and a similar multi-author report by Sports Illustrated, the New England Patriots had their Super Bowl homecoming game on Thursday evening in Foxboro. They took the field, not as champions, but certifiable cheaters in the eyes of many. Accusations of sabotage and things of that ilk weren’t easily dismissed, especially when the visiting Steelers headsets malfunctioned in the first half of Pittsburgh’s 28-21 loss to the Patriots. Mike Tomlin wasn’t happy, and I’m no Steelers apologist, but his anger was justified. Apparently, he doesn’t get a leg to stand on, because he stood on the field of play during a kick return, a few years back. Get the hell out of here with that noise.
  • Back to New York, where the Yankees strangle-hold on the top American League Wild Card spot and realistic chances in the division are being largely ignored, the Mets have become my favorite “I have no dog in the fight” team to watch on MLB.tv. On Labor Day, I tuned in for parts of their most important game of the season, versus the Nationals in DC. Yoenis Cespedes did what he’s done since arriving in Queens, and that’s to provide a spark for the previously hapless offense that Terry Collins has marched out there. The other takeaway from the Mets’ 8-5 victory, was more about the man than the ballplayer that Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is. He hit a grand slam in the game, shifting momentum before Cespedes took it back, but this is a guy that survived an abduction in Venezuela back in 2011. That kind of thing always stays with me, and I take great joy in any success that he has.
  • Ohio State wore the #1 ranking, given to them by the Associated Press and the Coaches, very well on Monday, at Virginia Tech. The result of the game, a 42-24 rout of the Hokies, came secondary to the story we’ve wondered about, on and off, for the last eight months. How would Urban Meyer deal with “too many cooks in the kitchen” at the quarterback position. Many figured Braxton Miller would transfer, and that the odd man out would be visibly unhappy. JT Barrett was named a captain early in the week, and seemed anything but disgruntled about being the backup to Cardale Jones. As for Miller, he didn’t transfer, but he stepped aside, switching positions, and it looks like he might be one of the best receivers in the country. Well played, Urb.
  • Talk about a state of misery! Both of the Missouri ballclubs look like they’re slowing down at exactly the wrong time. Kansas City has the luxury of an 11-game lead in the American League Central Division, despite being losers of seven of their last ten. Up in St. Louis, the Cardinals have taken themselves out of the best ever conversation, and they’ve just looked flat-out bad at times, recently. They’ve dropped two of three to both of their relevant adversaries in the National League Central Division since last weekend, and they aren’t off to a good start in Cincinnati either. The fact that Pittsburgh has a fighting chance at that division spells doom for the Cardinals, who lost 11-0 in the ‘Nati on Thursday.
  • The Pirates defeated the Reds on Wednesday at Great American Ballpark, in a game the Reds finished without Joey Votto. The Canadian slugger got jobbed all game by plate umpire Bill Welke’s strike zone, and he let him have it after a called strike 2 in the eighth inning. I recall how angry you can get about things like that, so I understand, but I’ve never been labeled a star of the stature that Votto is, so I’m surprised. Major League Baseball was nice enough to spare him on his 32nd birthday Thursday, but stay tuned on Friday. They may be giving him a belated gift of a day off, probably without pay.
  • Did I miss something about Tennessee football? I see that they’re now ranked #23, and people seem to believe their game with visiting Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon at Neyland is a big game. Not buying on the Vols after what I saw of their opener against Bowling Green, but we’ll see. Of course, I didn’t shell out the $99.99 to pay-per-view Bob Stoops’ Sooners clobber Akron last week, so who knows.  I also see we’ve got Mississippi State ranked, just in time to host LSU this weekend. What the pollsters won’t do for the SEC!
  • On the other hand, Oregon and Michigan State should come as advertised. Forget that the Ducks gave up 42 to Eastern Washington or that the Spartans looked less than spectacular at Western Michigan last Friday; look for a close, low-scoring game. That doesn’t bode well for Mark Helfrich and Oregon in East Lansing on Saturday night.
  • I know most people live in the “what have you done for me lately?” realm, but I’m still a sucker for the nostalgia of a Packers-Bears game. No dog in the fight, but these two organizations have played about as even as two teams can play over the entire course of history, though Sunday won’t be even in any way, shape, or form.
  • If you don’t give a damn about a rivalry that happens to be lopsided in 2015, you probably care less about my opinion on the night Rob Gronkowski gave my Little White Beanbags fantasy team, my first go-around with fake football in about 8 or 9 years. I can’t begin to imagine the level of apathy non-hockey fans would have over an Oilers-Coyotes game in November, but I’m still excited to go to Glendale on November 12th, but if hockey people are comparing Edmonton rookie Connor McDavid to LeBron James, that’s some hockey I don’t want to miss.

And no one ever gets excited about going to Glendale, even before we were scared of being hit by rounds of seemingly random gunfire. Stay safe, everyone.

Down By Contact #3: It's Almost Over

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Some NFL teams know that they’re in.  Some know that they’re out, but many players and coaches around the league don’t know whether or not they can make plans for January just yet.  Our focus this week was all about who is jockeying for playoff position, and in some cases, it’s all about survival.  Mike Burgermeister is back once again for the Cheddar Bay segment; this time he’s joined by Jeff Geisinger, better known as “HitTheHorns” in Cheddar Bay circles.  Jeff approaches picks carefully and it shows in the results.

We also welcome Alex Squires back to the podcast.  Alex focuses on Fantasy Football for More Than a Fan, but he is truly a jack of many trades, and wears whatever hat he’s asked to wear.  Alex and Jeff Rich discuss a few Fantasy stars from Week 15, analyze a few players you might want to have in your Fantasy Championship, and then just go wherever the wind takes them in the conversation.  Note to fans, Johnny Manziel might not be your option at quarterback, but you never know.

The Players

Jeff Rich (host) – @byJeffRich

Mike Burgermeister – @603_brown
Jeff Geisinger – @HitTheHorns
Alex Squires – @ASquiresFF