Mike Tomlin won't formally rehash January's playoff loss to the Browns in the days leading up to Sunday's rematch in Cleveland. But rest assured, time has not eased the pain most of the current Steelers felt after watching the Browns prance out of Heinz Field with a 48-37 victory in last year's wild card round.
Tomlin acknowledged that the game would likely come up "in some form or fashion" but added that it would not be the focus of any formal team meeting. Tomlin also alluded to the fact that many of his players -- specifically Pittsburgh's rookie class -- have no emotional attachment to January's game.
"You have to acknowledge in the game of football that things change year in and year out," Tomlin said, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "What seemingly is low-hanging fruit is oftentimes irrelevant to some of the people in the room, so we don't spend a lot of time talking about old stories or old news."
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Several Steelers players were asked about the game, a loss that unceremoniously ended Pittsburgh's 2020 season that started with so much promise. After a 12-0 start, the Steelers won just one of their final five games. And after nearly defeating the Browns in Week 17 despite several prominent players resting, the Steelers found themselves down 28-0 before rallying to make it a 12-point game at the end of the third quarter. But a decision to punt the ball from their own 46-yard-line on fourth-and-1 at the start of the fourth quarter ultimately came back to haunt the Steelers. Six plays after the punt, Nick Chubb took Baker Mayfield's screen pass and rumbled 40 yards for the game-clinching score. Down 41-23, the Steelers scored two late touchdowns to make the final score look closer than it actually was.
"I've been thinking about it a lot," defensive lineman Chris Wormley said. "I know a lot of guys have been thinking about it. We're trying to right that ship this week."
"They whooped our (butt) at home and sent us home," added tight end Eric Ebron said. "If you all can't get motivated for that, you probably shouldn't be playing football."
Ben Roethlisberger, speaking to the media on Wednesday, dismissed the notion that January's loss was the primary reason he decided to return for an 18th season. Roethlisberger, who owns a 24-3-1 career record against Cleveland, alluded to the fact that he is not "the most winning quarterback in their stadium history anymore." Roethlisberger, who grew up just down the road from Cleveland in Findlay, Ohio, is looking forward to the challenge of playing in front of the "Dawg Pound," as the Steelers-Browns rivalry is very much alive and well.
"It's a challenge," Roethlisberger said with regard to playing in Cleveland, via ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "Anytime your fans have a nickname, it's pretty cool. They like to get on us and it's part of the game. When you go there and you play well and you win, it has a little extra feeling of satisfaction, but it's not easy to play there."