The Cleveland Browns ended the NFL’s longest playoff drought on Sunday with a 24-22 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns improved to an 11-5 record with this victory, clinching the postseason spot for the first time since 2002.
The Browns entered the Steelers’ game as an overwhelming favorite thanks to the fact that Pittsburgh rested some of their starters, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Cleveland’s job, however, turned out to be much harder than expected.
The Browns put up a good show in the first three quarters and had a 9-24 lead early in the fourth. Still, the Steelers didn’t have any intention to give up.
Led by backup Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions to cut into the Browns’ lead. After the second TD, they opted for a 2-point conversion to make it level, but Rudolph couldn’t find anyone open in the endzone.
The Steelers tried to get the ball back with an onside kick but failed to recover it, which gave Cleveland a chance to put an end to the game with a first down. And that came soon enough with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield taking the ball past the marker and giving his team an enormous win.
“I’m really just happy for our fans,” said Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski. “They deserve this. And we’re happy to deliver this to them.”
“We’re not satisfied,” Mayfield added. “We expected to be here. We worked extremely hard to get here, and we’re excited to have the chance to be in the playoffs.”
The Browns will play the Steelers again on Sunday, this time in the first round of the playoffs. Curiously, the Browns’ last postseason appearance also came against Pittsburgh, with the Steelers getting the 36-33 win.