Long after the game had finally ended, fans hung around FirstEnergy Stadium, taking selfies and photos of one another with the field in the background. This was a moment they’d been waiting for since the 2002 season.
“I’m really just happy for our fans,” said first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski. “They deserve this. And we’re happy to deliver this to them.”
The moment, however, didn’t come easily.
Pittsburgh’s Mason Rudolph tossed a touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 1:26 remaining to put the Steelers within two points of tying the score. Rudolph’s two-point attempt, however, sailed over the head of Chase Claypool.
Browns tight end Stephen Carlson then recovered Pittsburgh’s onside try, and quarterback Baker Mayfield dove for a first down to seal the win. Mayfield immediately jumped up and threw his fist with everything he had, before the crowd, restricted to 12,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, jumped around as “House of Pain” blared through the stadium speakers.
Mayfield, who three years ago at the NFL combine declared he could be the quarterback to finally turn the Browns around, was the last player to leave the field. He blew a kiss to the fans with both hands while exiting through the tunnel.
“It’s a moment I’ll definitely never forget,” Mayfield said. “The feeling of walking off the field, the energy in the stadium, they’re playing ‘Cleveland Rocks’ … for it to be that loud with a limited amount of fans, it was a special moment for us.”
Cleveland’s victory sets up a first-round rematch with the Steelers next weekend in Pittsburgh. Cleveland’s only other playoff appearance this century also came in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers won 36-33.
“We’re not satisfied,” Mayfield said. “We expected to be here. We worked extremely hard to get here and we’re excited to have the chance to be in the playoffs.”
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SOURCE: ESPN, Jake Trotter