Browns safety Donte Whitner grew up in Cleveland and is aware enough of his team’s history with the Steelers to know that any talk of a rivalry with their AFC North foe has to wait “until both sides throw punches and win football games.”
The Browns haven’t done much of either since returning to the league in 1999. They are 5-26 against the Steelers in that span, something that has nothing to do with first-year head coach Mike Pettine. He’s not shying away from discussing the ugly record, though. He’s used it as a motivational tool for his players, pointing out that no one in Pittsburgh considers in a rivalry and challenging them to break the trend in the season opener.
“When you look at one win in Heinz Field in 14 tries, two wins in the last seven years, five wins in the last 36 times against them, it’s brutal when you truly look at it,” Pettine said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “But that’s something that’s a big part of our prep, understanding that that has nothing to do with us, that has nothing to do with this game and nothing to do with us moving forward. It was our message back in the spring when we said, ‘Hey, recognize the history, but break off the rearview mirror.'”
Sunday’s game is just one of 16 for Pettine and the Browns and winning it won’t guarantee them anything other than a couple of days of optimism about bright days to come, but that’s not such a bad thing for a team that’s spent so much time under dark clouds of late.