There’s only one thing better than the Browns beating the Pittsburgh Steelers when they’re the best team in the league — beating them when the Browns are the worst team in the league.
Thursday’s night’s thrilling, shocking, improbable, inconceivable, chances-are-slim-and-none-and-slim-just-left 13-6 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs looks even better in the bright light of day than it did in the dark and cold of night. Sure, it might be the only good moment of the worst Browns season ever. Sure, Browns fans don’t have much good to remember from this dismal season. Sure, it would be an incredible feeling to someday knock off the Steelers when both teams are as good as they can be, maybe in an AFC Championship game.
To get this victory as perhaps the league’s worst team has lead to an all-time meltdown from Pittsburgh fans and media alike. If the Browns were to beat the Steelers for the division title, or in a playoff game, or even with the Super Bowl on the line, no one whose ever said “yinz” would be happy. They’d probably begrudgingly accept the loss and point to their six Super Bowl rings.
But this victory, with a team that allowed 38 points to the Detroit Lions and the guy who scored the game’s only touchdown playing for the practice squad a month ago and the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League a year ago? Not since Ben Roethlisberger drove his motorcycle into a woman’s windshield has Pittsburgh been in such an uproar.
“Losers,” Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls them. That’s the thanks Hines Ward gets when he toughs it out and can gain only 21 yards receiving against the Browns. “The most embarrassing performance in franchise history,” wrote his colleague Bob Smizik about a franchise that lost 51-0 to the Browns in the 1989 season opener and took nine years from its inception to post a winning season. Post-Gazette beat writer Ed Bouchette starts his game story by writing that, “the Steelers season sailed into darkness.”
You’ve got writers saying that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who guided them to a Super Bowl win in his second year, has given up on the season. You’ve got posts on the Steelers official team message board entitled, “Did the Team Quit?” and “Mike Tomlin in denial?” and, of course, “*** FIRE TOMLIN ***”. Because, you know, Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll won Super Bowls their first 10 seasons with the team and then single-handedly built the bridges that span the three rivers that meet in downtown Pittsburgh.
Of course becoming the first Super Bowl champion in more than 20 years to lose to a team with as bad a record as the Browns will do that to you. So will losing to the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. And becoming just the second defending Super Bowl champion to lose five straight games could send a deluded fan base over the edge.
Funny thing is, Steeler Nation actually thinks it’s hit rock bottom. That’s why it’s so much more fun that the Browns are the worst team in the league when they beat the Steelers rather than the best team. The rabid Steeler nutcases think that winning the Super Bowl twice in four years, then losing for a month means the team needs to be dismantled.
Hey, Pittsburgh, give us a call when you’ve had to start guys like Spergon Wynn and Charlie Frye and Doug Pederson as quarterback against the Browns. Give us a call when you go close to a year without an offensive touchdown. Give us a call when your team moves away, comes back, and gives you a decade of fruitless football.
Until then we’ll be happy to think of Thursday’s night’s absolutely thrilling, fantastic, wonderful, so good, very awesome victory over your Steelers as our personal Super Bowl. After all, you were the defending Super Bowl champions. Now all you are is worse than the Browns.