PITTSBURGH — It’s a “win and you’re in” situation for the Cleveland Browns as they play their last regular season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday—and they’ll be doing it against Pittsburgh’s backup quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced Tuesday that the team would be resting Ben Roethlisberger for the Week 17 matchup against the Browns, starting Rudolph in his place.
“Given an opportunity to airmail a player or two to the postseason, we will. Ben will not be playing this week, we’ll turn toward Mason Rudolph and our young quarterback positional group and give those guys an opportunity,” Tomlin said. “We’ll look potentially at resting some other guys in terms as making them inactive but the number of those guys and who those guys are will be determined as we push through the week.”
While Rudolph has a history in Cleveland after the events that transpired last season with defensive end Myles Garrett, the Browns aren’t focusing on the past.
“The only element right now as far as the game is concerned is we win and we are in. That is it. We are trying to keep it strictly about winning. Whatever is done is done. I understand the emotions and all of that kind of stuff, but I feel like Myles’ maturity level and the team’s maturity level as a whole is that we understand that this is bigger than one incident and bigger than one situation,” said Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. “Right now, it is about doing something that has not been done in a very long time, and it is about playing for each and every one of us, our brothers, and finding a way to win. That is the most important thing. That is my take on it.”
The Steelers had already clinched a playoff berth but clinched the AFC North division with a win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Pittsburgh didn’t have a traditional bye week, with their time to rest sprung upon them due to COVID-19 rescheduling issues after already holding practice throughout the week, so it’s no surprise the team would want to rest players in Week 17 as they prepare for the postseason they’ve already been guaranteed.
The Browns, however, are still fighting for their first playoff appearance since 2002. After losing to the New York Jets on Sunday, the Browns have one simple way to make a postseason appearance—beat the Steelers on Sunday.
If the Browns beat the Steelers, they’re in the playoffs plain and simple. If the Browns lose, they still can make the playoffs if the Colts lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars. If the Browns lose and the Colts win, the Browns can still make it in if the Tennessee Titans lose, the Miami Dolphins win or tie and the Baltimore Ravens win or tie.
There are several other scenarios that can play out if the Browns tie the Steelers, which has recently happened, but relying on other teams is not something the Browns want to do.
“As I understand it, next week, you win and you are in so all of the work that the guys have put in the season, we still control our own destiny, so to speak,” said Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski after the loss to the Jets.