Been Waiting All Week For Monday Night
An extra day to figure out how they’ll get by up front without Cam Heyward for the Steelers, an extra day to figure out if they can do in Pittsburgh what they did in their home opener against the Bengals for the Browns, and an extra day of preparation for both teams.
Now, it’s here.
For the Browns, it’s an opportunity to show that win over Cincinnati was no fluke, that they’re capable of doing it on the road in the division as well as at home, and to sit in a 2-0 tie atop the AFC North with Baltimore.
Not to mention, the added bonus of burying their hated rivals two games back in the standings.
For the Steelers, it’s an opportunity to dodge that dreaded 0-2 mark (which we’ll get in to in a moment) and get back on track with two games on deck in Las Vegas and Houston that -at least when the schedule came out- looked like lead pipe locks.
2-0 vs. 0-2
Above and beyond the rivalry and the Steelers’ home Monday Night winning streak that stretches back to Chuck Noll's final season, this game means a lot.
Since 1990, only 31 of the 270 teams that started 0-2 in the NFL regular season have reached the playoffs. That’s a statistically significant sample size. And only one team has done it since the playoffs expanded to seven teams in each conference in 2020: Last year’s Cincinnati Bengals.
Conversely, starting 2-0 since 1990 conveys a 64% chance of making the postseason.
A Steelers victory would do a lot for making this a wide-open, four-team race for as much of the regular season as possible.
A Cleveland win starts to stratify the division early on between the haves and the have-nots.
Without the Steelers in action, many football fans were focused on Saturday night and the latest edition of the Backyard Brawl between Pitt and West Virginia.
It seemed a good opportunity for the Panthers to right the ship after an ugly home loss to Cincinnati.
Instead, the ship is now in a full list, the captain is trying to a get a hold of the wheel, and everybody on board wants to throw what was once precious cargo -QB Phil Jurkovec- overboard in order to get things back on track.
For a second week in a row, Jurkovec looked awful. Going just 8-of-20 for only 81 yards and throwing three interceptions, Pitt’s offense looked better when they didn’t let Jurkovec throw the ball. Their 11-play opening drive that ended in a field goal was highlighted by Rodney Hammond and C’Bo Flemister combining for 54 yards on nine carries. On their only other scoring drive, a 12-play effort that also ended in a field goal at the end of the first half, Jurkovec went just 2-for-5 for 27 yards.
In the second half, Pitt managed 73 yards of offense.
Meanwhile, West Virginia fought through an injury to their starting quarterback, Garrett Greene, to produce just enough offense to capitalize on Jurkovec’s graciousness in handing them the football.
Head Coach Pat Narduzzi says he believes in Jurkovec and is going to stick with him as his starter.
And Pitt is left to, once again, live and die by their quarterback. Which is great when you have a Heisman nominee, future 1st Round pick under center.
Not so much when you have a Kedon Slovis or a Phil Jurkovec.
Is Christian Veilleux much better? Maybe. Maybe not.
But he sure as hell can’t be worse.