BEREA, Ohio (AP) – The forecast is for cold, bitter and vicious conditions. The weather’s supposed to be bad, too.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns renew their heated rivalry and hatred for each other on Sunday, there is bound to be a few extra shoves, a handful of late hits and maybe even some illegal cheap shots.
It’s always that way.
“I expect it to be nasty,” said Browns running back Willis McGahee. “It’s a rivalry game, a division game.”
And for the first time in a while, a meaningful one.
With both teams at 4-6 and still in the hunt for a playoff spot, there’s more on the line than in previous years. But even when there’s nothing to play for, and although the rivalry has been one-sided toward Pittsburgh for years, there’s enough animosity between the Steelers and Browns – and their fans – to make it a chippy game.
“You could use the word ‘hate,’” Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin said when asked for his feelings about the Steelers. “A lot of people around here would use that word. At the same time, we just want to go out there and have a good game and make sure that we take care of what we’ve got to do and focus on our individual battles.
“This game’s going to be a crucial one and one that we need to win.”
The dislike between the Steelers and Browns goes back decades.
Earlier this week, Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski, a life-long Browns fan, referenced the infamous play in 1976 when Browns defensive lineman Joe “Turkey” Jones picked up Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and slammed the Hall of Famer on his head. The fact that Jones’ notorious sack was the first thing Chudzinski mentioned when talking about one of the league’s saltiest rivalries, underscores the angst between the Rust Belt cities.
Last year’s season finale between the teams disintegrated into a barroom brawl.
Although nothing as sinister as planting a quarterback head first into the turf, there was extra-curricular activities that drew personal fouls and thickened the bad blood between the AFC North neighbors.