Anything left for Browns?

PITTSBURGH – It was supposed to be the game to decide the AFC North Division. Instead, the final game of the season, the Turnpike Rivalry game …

… between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, will be played for nothing more than pride.

For the 11-4 Steelers, who've locked up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and can't move up to No. 1, this afternoon's finale at Heinz Field is about regaining the momentum that was halted last week in Nashville.

For the 4-11 Browns, who gave the Steelers a run for the division title with a 10-6 record last season, it's a game to end a dreadful season.

These days, the Browns mostly appear in the gossip section of the newspaper, like last week when one of their defensive linemen, Shaun Smith, allegedly punched out injured quarterback Brady Quinn in the team's weight room.

What's going on up there?

"I think it's a product of the frustration of the season, a lot of tension," said former Browns and current Steelers defensive lineman Orpheus Roye. "They had high expectations and none of them were met. When you really don't have anything to play for, you overlook the football aspect of it and start nitpicking at other things. Losing can cause that."

The Steelers defeated the Browns, 10-6, in the second week of the season. The Browns lost their next game to fall to 0-3, but a win over the New York Giants on a Monday night rejuvenated hope.

It couldn't be sustained. Quinn took over the QB reigns of a 3-4 team, and two losses led to rumors that Coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage would be fired after the season. Quinn then injured his throwing hand, Anderson injured his knee, and third-teamer Ken Dorsey injured his ribs last week in a 14-0 loss to the Bengals. Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski will start this week at quarterback for the Browns, who've lost five games in a row and haven't scored an offensive touchdown in those five games.

Roye, who spent eight seasons in Cleveland before being released, understands the collapse.

"I ended up having three head coaches, four coordinators and five line coaches," he said. "They never built the foundation. Every year, you're trying to get something, and then somebody else comes in and you have to learn something new. I think they've never really gotten a good foundation. I think last year was the only year they were on the verge of having one. Now it's like they're in jeopardy of getting another head coach, so there will be another foundation out the window."

That's good news for Steelers fans, who've watched their team beat the Browns 10 straight times.

"It seems like when things go bad there, they just snowball," said Nick Eason, another current Steeler and former Brown.

"When things go bad in other places – like here – they find a way to play through it.

"I've heard all kinds of crazy things, like curses, being there. But the Browns are a good team. They've got a lot of talent. They showed that last year. They added some top-quality players this year, so it's surprising for me and probably a lot of other players in the division with where they're at right now. But it doesn't make them a bad team. The 10-6 Browns will show up Sunday for us. We realize that. Every team we watch on film, we don't see that same team on Sundays because, when you've been doing well, everybody wants to beat you. Those guys will be ready to play."

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