Browns-Steelers: Don's Game Preview

Don't expect the Browns to roll over in hopes of a better draft spot...

Entering the final week of the NFL's regular season, there are 14 teams within a game of one another at the bottom of the NFL standings.

At 2-13, the Carolina Panthers have a stranglehold on this April's No. 1 overall pick. Yet, two games separate the teams who reside in spots two through 14, and the Cleveland Browns are among that group.

This is a position the Browns and their fans are familiar with: A meaningless late December game is being played simply for draft position. If the Browns lose, their draft position creeps toward the top. A win and they fall back in the pack.

It seems, at least recently, the Browns tend to win that final meaningless game and their position in the upcoming draft isn't as favorable. As a result, you always hear a few Browns fans say the following each and every year, "I hope they lose on Sunday for a better draft pick."

Unfortunately for those fans, the Browns have won a majority of their regular season finales. Dating back to 2002 — the season the Browns made the playoffs — they are 6-2 in the final game including winning two of their last three and four consecutive from 2002-05.

As for this Sunday, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wants the Browns to purposely lose for a better draft positions. Why? The Pittsburgh Steelers are in town. A better draft pick be damned, a win over Pittsburgh would feel too good.

The Browns have not defeated the Steelers on a Sunday afternoon game in about a decade. Pittsburgh has won 19 of the last 21 meetings with Cleveland's two wins coming on a Sunday night (33-13 on Oct. 5, 2003) and a Thursday night (13-6 on Dec. 10, 2009).

Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy made his first career start against the Steelers in a 28-10 loss on Oct. 17. McCoy enters the rematch well aware of this rivalry.

"It was a Friday and (McCoy) went to the gas station," Eric Mangini said. "The father came over and he signed the hats and the two little kids are in the car seats yelling Steelers suck. It starts at birth. You get your Browns shirt and your I hate Pittsburgh shirt."

Since McCoy's first start, he has played relatively well helping the Browns to wins over New Orleans and New England, but he is coming off his worst performance in last Sunday's 20-10 loss to Baltimore. McCoy threw three interceptions, matching his season total.

"We still have got a chance to go out and win our last home game and that's enough motivation for all of us in here," McCoy said. "It's nice to be able to play a team for a second time. Hopefully I'll be able to improve, hopefully I'll work on things, but at the same time they have got a lot to play for too. It will be a tough fought game for 60 minutes."

One difference this time around is McCoy may not have to contend with Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who was limited in practice on Friday after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday with an Achilles tendon-related injury.

Although Polamalu missed the last two games and is uncertain for Sunday, the Steelers defense remains ranked first in the NFL allowing 14.9 points per game, first in rushing yards per game (64.1) and second in total yards allowed (280.3).

Sunday's game is a tough task for the 5-10 Browns against the 11-4 Steelers, but the team's mindset is in step with most fans, according to Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

"We're working our (tails) off all we're thinking about is Pittsburgh," Ryan said. "We know we're from Cleveland, we know how big of a game it is and we're going to get in there and get after their (behinds). That's all we've really got to say."


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