A playoff-bound Big Ben and the Steelers add to a frustrating year for the Browns
This season didn’t go the way the Cleveland Browns envisioned. Not only did they finish with a losing record (8-9), but their divisional rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are headed to the playoffs.
Terry Pluto says it’s a big blow to the team and their fans who thought the tide was finally turning.
Gum under your shoe
"[The Steelers] are like this glob of gum on the bottom of your shoe. You can’t rid of them!" Pluto said.
January 10, 2021, the Browns beat the Steelers in the playoffs, 48-37. It was their first playoff win since 1994.
"Supposedly, that was the end of the empire in Pittsburgh, and the Browns were storming the castle and they were going to claim the throne," Pluto said.
But Ben Roethlisberger, 39, returned as quarterback for the Steelers this season, and beat the Browns in both of their matchups, improving his record to 26-3-1 over the Browns in the regular-season and playoffs.
"In his 18 seasons, they've never had a losing record. This is their 12th trip to the playoffs. And he's been together with coach Mike Tomlin for 15 years," Pluto said.
"Supposedly, was the end of the empire in Pittsburgh, and the Browns were storming the castle and they were going to claim the throne."Terry Pluto
A dynamic duo
Roethlisberger and Tomlin have won 136 games together. That's second-most in history to the duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who won 219 games together in New England.
Pluto says that kind of consistency in winning is what the Browns are looking for.
Reflecting back on this season, Pluto said, "I watched those two games when the Steelers beat the Browns, and there is no way Pittsburgh has more talent."
A missed opportunity
Browns fans can't help but think back to the 2004 draft, when their team ended up picking 6th, while the Steelers picked 11th. That means the Browns could have selected Roethlisberger.
“Tim Couch was all beat up, and they were moving on to Jeff Garcia, an aging veteran quarterback they brought in. Butch Davis was running the team as coach and basically acting as general manager. He drafted Kellen Winslow, a tight end from Miami. And then he had injury problems and personal problems," Pluto said.
And in the NFL where there is a tight salary cap, it's all about drafting smart.
"You’re basically going to the table with the same amount of cards. It’s set up to punish good teams and to help bad teams and to be totally blind of the marketplace," Pluto said.
And, as for the Steelers, Pluto said they have the "blueprint."
"You’re getting your quarterback and your coach together. And I remember when they had some so-so seasons and they just dug deep and thought, no we are not changing this."
Pluto says on the bright side, he believes Ben Roethlisberger will retire at the end of this season and that the Browns will be the better team next year.
"The Steelers were 9-7-1. The Browns were 8-9. If they had just beat the Steelers once, they’d be in the playoffs. The Browns have a lot of issues and problems to talk through, but this isn’t 1-15 or 0-16. But we are talking some frustration with Cleveland, and Pittsburgh just added to it," Pluto said.