CLEVELAND – Long after the game was finally over, Browns The fans hung around the FirstEnergy Stadium taking selfies and photos of each other with the field in the background.
This was a moment they had been waiting for since the 2002 season.
“I’m really only happy for our fans,” said head coach Kevin Stefanski in the first year. “You deserve it. And we’re happy to deliver it to you.”
However, the moment did not come easy.
Pittsburghs Mason Rudolph threw a touchdown pass JuJu Smith-Cobbler 1:26 remain to place the Steelers within two points of tying the game. But Rudolph’s two-point attempt sailed over the head of Chase Claypool.
Brown’s tight end Stephen Carlson recovered Pittsburgh’s onside attempt to seal victory.
After that, the crowd began to breathe again and jumped around as House of Pain boomed through the speakers.
Cleveland’s win led to a first-round rematch against the Steelers in Pittsburgh next weekend. Cleveland’s only other playoff appearance this century was in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers won 36-33.
The Browns prevailed against the Steelers in Sunday’s make-or-break game, despite having had issues related to COVID-19 all week.
Cleveland had to close the exercise facility four times in the last eight days alone and had to cancel training on Thursday while the contact tracing was being carried out. On Friday, the Browns weren’t even allowed to use their locker room as the equipment staff turned the field house into a makeshift dressing area before training.
Last week linebacker B.J. Goodson, Harrison Bryant, security Andrew Sendejo and cornerback Denzel Ward – all starters – tested positive for the virus and were kicked out of the game on Sunday. The Browns were also without offensive assistant coaches Chad O’Shea and Bill Callahan because of the COVID-19 protocols.
But the Steelers rested several key players, including quarterback Ben Roethlisbergerafter winning the AFC North Division. The Browns did just enough to get the win.
The last time Cleveland made the playoffs, 38-year-old Stefanski was an All-Ivy League Safety Honorable Mention for Penn.
Before kick-off, Butch Davis, the Browns head coach the last time they made the playoffs, Tweeted support for the team.
These Browns finished the regular season 11-5, the franchise’s best record since 1994, when Bill Belichick was the coach.
This was also the last time Cleveland won a playoff game, although the Steelers knocked those Browns out of the playoffs in the second round.