And just like that, the Pittsburgh Steelers rack up another win over the Cleveland Browns, this time in the first meeting after the Myles Garrett fiasco.
It was a game that both teams desperately needed. The Pittsburgh Steelers needed to do their best to keep pace with the soaring Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card race. The Cleveland Browns were looking to complete the season sweep of their division rival so that they could get back to .500 and contend for that last AFC playoff spot.
It was a close game, but it was the hometown Steelers who came out on top of the visiting Browns. Pittsburgh eked out a seven-point victory over Cleveland thanks to a solid, second-career start for third-string quarterback Devlin Hodges.
He had previously beaten the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football filling in for an injured Mason Rudolph. Now, he filled in for an ineffective Rudolph. While he only threw for 212 yards, Hodges did just enough in the passing game to get the best of Baker Mayfield’s bunch in the rematch of this biannual division rivalry.
No, this game won’t go down in the annals like Thursday Night Football meeting will just a few weeks ago. Rudolph, Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey were involved in an embarrassing on-field fight that saw Garrett swing Rudolph’s helmet on Rudolph’s head after the last play of the game. That only meant the rivalry was back on.
That primetime game perhaps best illustrated that Rudolph was no longer going to be the stop-gap answer in Pittsburgh in 2019, while Ben Roethlisberger works his way back from a season-ending elbow injury. Rudolph was benched last week vs. the previously winless Cincinnati Bengals. Hodges helped Pittsburgh win that game and this one, beating division rivals in both instances.
It’s not going to be pretty the rest of the way for Pittsburgh, but they are still very much alive for that last playoff spot in the AFC. No, the Steelers won’t catch Buffalo for the No. 5 seed, nor will they catch the Baltimore Ravens for the division crown. However, this team might be tough enough to get to 9-7 and earn that last playoff spot in the AFC playoff picture after all.
Going against a division rival who largely owned you just a few weeks ago is always tough. But the Steelers found a way to set the tone for this re-emerging rivalry entering next year. Pittsburgh is on top and will vie for a playoff spot the rest of the way, while Cleveland will miss yet another postseason since coming back into the league in the late 1990s as an expansion franchise.