Game pivotal for both Steelers, Browns
NFL week 13
Who: Cleveland (5-6) at Pittsburgh (6-5)
When: Today, 1 p.m.
The latest line: Browns by 1
By Will Graves
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Myles Garrett won’t be in the stadium. Barring injury, Mason Rudolph won’t be on the field.
While the absence of the central figures in the helmet-swinging brawl that marred Cleveland’s 21-7 whipping of Pittsburgh on Nov. 14 removes a topic for the rematch today, both sides believe it will do little to change the tenor of a rivalry that suddenly feels very much alive.
“We love being in hot-button games. We love being in hotly contested AFC North games,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “To be quite honest with you, we’re not a group that runs from these type of games. We’re the type of group that runs to these type of games. We view it as an honor to be the consistent team in these battles.”
Something that’s new for the Browns (5-6), who have ripped off three straight victories to save a season that seemed on the brink of careening out of control.
Garrett and Rudolph’s ugly altercation in the final seconds — which included Rudolph attempting to tug off Garrett’s helmet and the Cleveland defensive end responding by ripping off the Pittsburgh quarterback’s helmet.
Then, a national TV audience saw him slugging Rudolph with it; a sequence that earned Garrett an indefinite suspension and led to Rudolph fending off allegations he used a racial slur — overshadowed a dominant performance by the Browns that hinted at a shift in the balance of power in a series that’s been one-sided for decades.
Cleveland didn’t just beat the Steelers, the Browns beat them up long before Garrett and Rudolph went at it. Just 16 days later the teams meet again with the stakes — and almost certainly the emotions — even higher.
Pittsburgh (6-5) currently holds the last wild-card spot in the wide-open AFC. The Browns can leapfrog the Steelers by winning at Heinz Field for the first time since 2003. The players insist they’ll try to avoid a repeat of the anarchy in Cleveland that drew the kind