Steel­ers, Browns renew ri­valry, plenty on line

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers AP Sports Writer

CLEVE­LAND (AP) >> Sep­a­rated by roughly 130 miles and six Su­per Bowl ti­tles, the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers and Cleve­land Browns have a hostile, his­toric ri­valry re­sus­ci­tated from be­ing heav­ily onesided to much more com­pet­i­tive the past few years. The ha­tred has never waned. “It’s a big game. It’s Browns vs. Steel­ers,” said Cleve­land run­ning back and na­tive Ka­reem Hunt, who is about to get his first on­field taste of the long-run­ning foot­ball feud. “I’ve been watch­ing this my whole life.”

The Steel­ers and Browns are get­ting to­gether again Thurs­day night for the 135th time, re­new­ing their deep dis­dain for each other in front of a na­tional TV au­di­ence in what have been un­ex­pected sea­sons for both teams.

The Steel­ers have sal­vaged theirs. Cleve­land has work to do. “Ev­ery­thing’s at stake, man,” said Browns cor­ner­back T.J. Car­rie. “We have no more time to waste.”

Their mar­gin for er­ror ex­punged by a flurry of penal­ties, turnovers, ques­tion­able plays calls by rookie coach Fred­die Kitchens in sev­eral dis­ap­point­ing early sea­son losses, the Browns (3-6) will try to keep their faint play­off hopes flick­er­ing against the Steel­ers (5-4).

Pitts­burgh, mean­while, leaned on its cham­pi­onship pedi­gree to re­group af­ter mov­ing on from

Le’Veon Bell and An­to­nio Brown and then los­ing quar­ter­back Ben Roeth­lis­berger in Week 2 to in­jury. Led by a ball-hawk­ing de­fense, the Steel­ers have wiped out a 1-4 start.

“We are still scratch­ing and claw­ing to make this thing hap­pen and to keep win­ning games and keep stack­ing vic­to­ries and let the chips fall where they may,” said sec­ond-year quar­ter­back Ma­son Ru­dolph, who has set­tled in af­ter re­plac­ing Big Ben. “We are not in the po­si­tion where we can take any­one lightly.”

Tal­ent and com­mer­cial en­dorse­ments haven’t been nearly enough in Cleve­land. The NFL’s most pub­li­cized team in the pre­sea­son has failed to live up to ex­pec­ta­tions.

How­ever, the Browns, who stopped a four-game skid with their first home win of the sea­son Sun­day over Buffalo, have a soft sched­ule ahead and haven’t given up on end­ing the league’s long­est play­off drought go­ing back to 2002.

Another loss would all but end their chances.

The key for Cleve­land will be ball se­cu­rity. The Steel­ers are sec­ond in the league with 26 take­aways, the most for a Pitts­burgh team through nine games since 1987.

“They are mak­ing a lot of plays right now,” said Browns quar­ter­back Baker May­field, who hasn’t thrown a pick in two games af­ter hav­ing a league-high 12 through seven.

Dur­ing their win­ning streak, the Steel­ers have forced 14 turnovers, with safety Minkah Fitz­patrick re­turn­ing two for touch­downs. Fitz­patrick came over in a trade from Mi­ami and al­ready has five in­ter­cep­tions and a fum­ble re­cov­ery in seven games.

Browns guard Joel Bi­to­nio isn’t sur­prised by the Steel­ers’ surge. It’s who they are.

WINSLOW TOWN­SON - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2019, file photo, Cleve­land Browns quar­ter­back Baker May­field passes dur­ing an NFL foot­ball game against the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, in Foxbor­ough, Mass.

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