This is unchartered territory for Browns’ fans. A playoff berth in January? These chapter Presidents remember when Cleveland was in the post-season, but younger fans do not.
It is up to the older generation to bring forth stories of Ye Olde Browndom and the success of players such as Brian Sipe, Lou Groza, Leroy Kelly, Otto Graham, Dave Logan, Bernie Kosar, Vince Costello, Dan Fike, Kevin Mack, Jim Brown, Eric Turner, Reggie Langhorne, Bill Willis, Phil Dawson, Michael Dean Perry, Marion Motley, Ozzie Newsome. Vinny Testaverde, Brian Brennan, Walt Michaels, Mike Baab, Hanford Dixon, Gary Collins, Paul Warfield, Frank Minnifield, Jim Houston, Earnest Byner, Frank Ryan, Bernie Parrish, Clay Matthews, Steve Everitt and Greg Pruitt, to name a few.
Browns Backers chapters are spread all around the world.
We invited five chapter Presidents to give their prediction on the Browns’ first playoff game in 18-years. Each President participated in DBN’s weekly Prez Sez column and offer their advice and analysis against the Steelers.
Charleston WV Browns Backers
President: Jim Workman
Charleston, West Virginia
Weekly prediction: “The amount of obstacles this team has had to overcome is nearly unprecedented. Where the slate starts clean – everyone is 0-0. Whether the Browns have the mental toughness, the stamina, the talent and the good fortune to advance deep into post-season remains to be seen.
While the Browns may not have played their best football yet, the Steelers certainly look like they have. The Steelers offense hasn’t performed like a Super Bowl contending unit lately - struggling to run especially. The Steelers are simply on the decline. But they have some good players like Chase Claypool, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cameron Heywood and T.J. Watt that are difference makers. Eliminating their effectiveness will be the plan for Stefanski and his coaching staff.
The Browns are vulnerable on defense. The linebackers and defensive backs have been ravaged by injuries. The way for Cleveland to beat the Steelers in the Wild Card round, and to have any chance of advancing even further, is to win the game of possession. That’s not the only stat however – the Browns must convert long drives into touchdowns and not commit any turnovers. Cleveland has the ingredients for establishing long drives, namely Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. More importantly is the offensive line, which has been dominant at times this season.
Expect another close game this week against Pittsburgh. It really seems momentum is in the Browns’ favor. A great offensive game plan will keep its vulnerable defense onthe field, and keep Mayfield and Company on the gridiron churning out first downs and moving the chains.”
Browns 28, Steelers 17
Browns Backers with a Twist
President: Jacob Amstel
Weekly prediction: “The Steelers present a big challenge as they are very well-coached and have a lot of talent. Pittsburgh will have T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward back to add to a pass rush that the Browns struggled to handle without them. Roethlisberger will also be coming back, but Rudolph made some terrific throws and this may be subtraction by addition, with how iffy Ben’s arm has been the last half of the season. The Steelers’ receivers are big and fast and present a challenge to cover. I think it is imperative that the Browns players that can be activated and perform on the COVID list produce at a high level (Ward, Goodson, Smith, Sendejo).
The defensive backs have to be able to keep the receivers in front of them, which may be easier playing against Ben, rather than Rudolph. The defensive line will also need to get a push and force Ben to get the ball out early. Offensively, the Browns will have to establish a run game. I’m hoping to see a bigger dose of Nick Chubb in this game. The offensive line minus Bitonio will have to buy just enough for Baker and I also would like to see designed plays to get him out of the pocket to avoid sacks.
The receivers have really come a long way and I am very confident that they can hold their own along with the tight ends. In the end, the odds are too stacked against the Browns without Stefanski, Bitonio, and company and the Steelers roll with this one. I hope that I am proved wrong.”
Steelers 24, Browns 10
Honolulu Hawaii Browns Backers
President: Lee Shellko
Weekly prediction: “While the Steelers are favored by 4-points for Sunday Night’s first round playoff game, this is not unusual because most hometown teams are favored by this amount. However, this is not everything that requires consideration. Mike Tomlin is a genius. He rested the majority of his first string players intentionally in order to make his “number ones” available on Sunday night and rally behind a defeat. Last week’s final game of the regular season was also used for the purpose of intelligence gathering. Know that Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff will develop a game plan to counter attack what is perceived as the abilities of the Cleveland Browns.
Despite being found “positive” for COVID-19, Kevin Stefanski’s “strictly business” approach to victory and especially defeat has led to an ability to focus the entire Cleveland Browns coaching staff and players on a “single game at a time philosophy” which has led them to an 11 & 5 record…unfathomable a few shorts years ago. With coaches and players out due to COVID-19, whatever form and game plan is pure Stefanski. His “brand” of NFL football will drive the Browns forward against the Steelers. One other note: all of Baker Mayfield’s “ghosts” may just disappear with a victory without his head coach. Watch for Baker to excel in all aspects of the game.
The main thing to remember is that if the Browns can win in Pittsburgh, the ghosts of the past will be swept away chiefly because we had to “go through Pittsburgh” to move further up in the playoffs. Look for subtle changes in Stefanski’s game plan to include a ground pounding running attack. Likewise, Tomlin will have Big Ben attempt to exploit the Browns secondary with short and long passes. The game will be “conservatism” along with some “magic” sprinkled in.
This is what we have wished for. This is what we have continued to be loyal Cleveland Browns fans for the past 18-years.”
Browns 17, Pittsburgh 13
Toronto Browns Backers
President: Bryan Loberg
Toronto, Ontario - Canada
Weekly prediction: “Let me start with, as The President of The Toronto Browns Backers (the largest fan club of any team anywhere in the country I might add) it’s my job to “guide our ship”, to bring members back down from the edge when following a closer than expected win, and ALL these nasty COVID situations. As you can imagine or your witnessing, a lot of people have lost sight of the goal or where we are right now. HEY!! WE MADE THE PLAYOFFS!!
The logic that SCREAMS sanity, which will help everyone in need is, we weren’t going to win the Super Bowl this year, HOWEVER, we are a young team that continues to gel and the future is VERY bright and this playoff appearance is simply the first stepping stone that will lead to a championship in 2022 and MANY years beyond!! So - enjoy the ride!!
As for this Sunday’s game. I honestly think that we will play better, we will bring our “A” game knowing they will do the same. It’s that old adage, the best in them brings out the best in us. We WILL rise to the occasion, the defense will smother Big (old and tired) Ben. As well, if they just happen to stuff our run game, a mighty task, Baker will roll left and Baker will roll right and Baker will hit his targets. Sure he’s had his “iffy” games but in turn, he’s had some amazing games as well. So, anything is possible.
I see this game as a pick ‘em. This will be a typical January AFC North grind ‘em out battle. The ultimate key to a Browns victory will be if we can stop their run game. If so - GAME OVER!! Divisional round here we come!!
FIRST DOWN PLAYOFFS!!”
Browns 20, Steelers 17
Susquehanna Valley Browns Backers
President: Howie Smith
Weekly prediction: “A playoff appearance drought of over 18 years (6580 days, 7 hours, to be precise) ends Sunday night. The Browns would’ve been heading into Heinz field as surprisingly moderate underdogs, until the news came that All-Pro LG Joel Bitonio, WR KhaDarel Hodge and HC Stefanski are all OUT due to COVID. What’s next??? Wrong question - ask “Who is the next man up?”
No excuses. It’s a team game, so treat it like any other injury. Missing the HC is important, but this comes down to executing an error-free, ball-control offense, with Baker rolling out of the pocket off play-action, and putting relentless pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Do that, and the Browns have a shot. If the Browns try to pass from the pocket, it’s game over. The Steelers will move the ball, despite having no discernible running game. Maybe not having Stefanski there will cause the staff to stick to the game plan.
No time to panic. Do not abandon the running game. That said, I expect the Steelers to wear the Browns down. Ben will slowly pick apart the secondary. The Browns hang around until early in the fourth quarter, but the Steelers receivers will prove to be too much for them. Hopefully, 2021 brings some more help for the back end of the defense. A +2 turnover margin could change this projection, but for now….”
Steelers 30, Browns 17