Heinz Field has been a house of horrors for the Cleveland Browns. Including their 2002 playoff loss to the Steelers, the Browns are 1-19 in Pittsburgh since the Steelers moved inside their new home in 2001. Cleveland's lone win in Pittsburgh over that span was in 2003, one year before the Steelers drafted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Since then, the Steelers have won 16 straight home games against the Browns, who have won just six games in Pittsburgh since the league's 1970 merger.
Sunday would certainly be a good time for the Browns to end their drought. After dropping their season-opener to the Ravens, the Browns have won four straight games and are 4-1 for the first time since 1994. On Sunday, they will face a Steelers team that is off to their first 4-0 start since 1979, a season that ended with Pittsburgh hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. This is the first of two meetings this season for the longtime division rivals, who have played each other at least twice a year since 1950.
Before we break down Sunday's game, here's how you can follow the action in real time.
How to watch
New head coach Kevin Stefanski has made a quick impact on Cleveland's offense, as the Browns are currently fourth in the NFL in scoring. The Browns have been particularly good in the red zone, where they are fifth in the NFL in scoring touchdowns.
While his completion percentage is still not stellar, quarterback Baker Mayfield has significantly cut down on his turnovers, as he has more than twice as many touchdown passes than interceptions through five games. Austin Hooper, a veteran tight end who was acquired via free agency, has turned into a reliable target for Mayfield in recent weeks. Mayfield has also continued to build on his rapport with receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (21 catches, 294 yards, three touchdowns) and Jarvis Landry (21 catches, 279 yards).
The Browns' offense has been anchored by their two-headed running back combo of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. While Chubb's recent injury will keep him out of Sunday's game, Hunt (who leads the team with 347 rushing yards and six total touchdowns) has proven to be more than capable of spearheading Cleveland's rushing attack. The Browns have also leaned more on fellow running back D'Ernest Johnson, who leads the team with a six yards per carry average.
While they've allowed the eighth-most points in the NFL through five games, the Browns' defense showed significant improvement during last Sunday's 32-23 win over the Colts. Cleveland's front seven, led by defensive end Myles Garrett, held the Colts to just 68 rushing yards. The Browns' defense also recorded a safety as well as a pick-six by safety Ronnie Harrison.
Cleveland's defense will have its work cut out for them on Sunday, as they will face a Pittsburgh offense that is averaging nearly 30 points a game through four games. Roethlisberger, who missed most of last season with an elbow injury, has thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception thus far. He has taken full advantage of a deep receiving corps that includes receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and tight ends Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald. Pittsburgh's rushing attack has also vastly improved this season, as James Conner, Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland have helped Pittsburgh improve from 29th in 2019 to 8th in the NFL in rushing heading into Sunday's game.
Mayfield will look to stay on his feet as he goes up against a formidable Pittsburgh pass rush that includes linebackers T.J. Watt (4.5 sacks) and Bud Dupree (three sacks) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt (3.5 sacks). While they are second in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed and 10 in red zone efficiency, the Steelers' defense has been vulnerable on third downs, as they are 27th in the league in that department.
Sunday's game may come down to which offensive line can do a better job protecting their quarterback. While Pittsburgh has to be mindful of Garrett, the Steelers' offensive has given Roethlisberger sterling protection so far, and there's no reason to think that will change on Sunday. On defense, the Steelers will likely stick to their 2020 formula of making offenses one-dimensional by stopping the run while applying consistent pressure on the quarterback. If the Steelers' defense can protect Big Ben, contain Hunt and keep Mayfield in the pocket, Pittsburgh should improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1978.
Score: Steelers 31, Browns 21