Myles Garrett was definitely paying attention to Monday's game between the Steelers and the Washington Football Team. After leading 14-0, the previously undefeated Steelers fell to the Football Team, 23-17. In the process, the Steelers failed to clinch a playoff berth while also giving away ground with their race with the Chiefs to win the AFC's No. 1 seed.
Garrett, the Cleveland Browns star pass rusher, understands the significance of Pittsburgh's loss as it relates to his team. While the Steelers still have a two-game lead over the Browns in the AFC North, Garrett clearly believes that the Steelers' loss has given the 9-3 Browns a chance to win their first division title since 1989.
"Steelers might have opened the door," Garrett write via Twitter while including an eyeball emoji.
While the Steelers may have opened the door, the Browns have some work to do before they could potentially kick the door down. Cleveland, who lost to Baltimore in Week 1 by a score of 38-6, will host the Ravens on Sunday. And while Baltimore is hovering just above .500 this season, the Ravens will be getting back Lamar Jackson, who will start Tuesday night's game against the Cowboys after missing Baltimore's Week 12 loss to the Steelers. Cleveland will then head to New York for consecutive games against the Giants (who have won four straight to move into first place in the NFC East) and winless Jets before hosting the Steelers. Pittsburgh will now begin preparations to face the 9-3 Bills in Buffalo on Sunday. The Steelers will then head to Cincinnati to take on the 2-9-1 Bengals before hosting the 8-4 Colts.
The Steelers won the first matchup against the Browns, jumping out to a 24-0 lead en route to a 38-7 victory. James Conner rushed for his third career 100-yard game against the Browns, while the Steelers' defense took full advantage of a Browns' offense that was playing without running back Nick Chubb. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield and receiver Jarvis Landry were also playing through injuries, as both players were pulled well before the game's final whistle.
While their defense is still a work in progress, the Browns' offense has found a clear identity that's based on the talents of Chubb and fellow running back Kareem Hunt. And while Cleveland's offense is centered around its running backs, its success has helped open things up for Mayfield, who threw four first half touchdown passes in last Sunday's 41-35 win over the Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers, meanwhile, are trying to get their running game going after gaining just 21 yards on 14 carries in Monday's loss to Washington. Pittsburgh is also suffering from a major case of the drops, as the Steelers have dropped a league-high 31 passes. These issues largely contributed to the Steelers' first loss and, if they don't get fixed soon, it could cost Pittsburgh a division title if the Browns continue to win football games.
One thing that seems certain is that the Steelers-Browns Week 17 showdown will mean something for both teams, something that was not the case in recent season-finales between the two teams. That's certainly a good thing for a rivalry that has been anything but one over the past two decades. And after a quarter century of futility, the Browns are on the doorstep of their first playoff berth since 2002. But the Browns are trying to enter the playoffs as a division champion, not merely as a wild card team.
"They need to reset their expectations," Mayfield recently said to the team's fan base, via the New York Times. "We all need to reset the standard, and that's what I've been saying. There's a new standard, there's a foundation we have to continue to build on and improve. That's just the way we need to handle things."