TL;DR: In a historic shift within the AFC North, the Cleveland Browns have outperformed the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since 1989, marking a significant turn in their longstanding rivalry. The Browns' recent victory over the New York Jets ensures their superior season finish, with at least 11 wins, compared to the Steelers' maximum potential of 10. Reflecting on the 1989 season, the Steelers had a close playoff run, but this year, they face significant challenges to even make the playoffs, needing wins against Seattle and Baltimore and additional external factors to go their way.
A Turnaround from 1989: Browns Dominate AFC North
In a remarkable shift of fortunes, the Cleveland Browns have outperformed the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North for the first time since 1989. That year marked a significant beginning for the Browns, who delivered an unforgettable 51-0 victory against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The season concluded with the Browns holding a record of 9-6-1, slightly edging out the Steelers at 9-7. This year, the Browns' victory over the New York Jets has guaranteed them a superior position in the AFC North, ensuring they finish no lower than 11-6, surpassing the Steelers' potential best of 10-7.
The 1989 Playoff Scenario and Its Contrast with Current Standings
Reflecting on the 1989 season, the Steelers managed to secure a playoff spot as one of the two wild card teams, in the final season before the NFL expanded the playoff format. Their journey included a win against the Oilers in Houston and a close defeat to the Broncos in the divisional round by a slim margin of 24-23. If the Steelers had triumphed in that game, a face-off against the Browns in the AFC Championship would have been on the cards. However, the current season paints a different picture, with the Steelers facing considerable challenges to secure a playoff berth. Their path includes critical games against Seattle and Baltimore, coupled with the need for favorable outcomes in other matches.
The Uphill Battle for the Steelers and Browns' Rise
The Steelers' quest for a postseason appearance is laden with obstacles. Victories in their upcoming games against Seattle and Baltimore are crucial, but they also rely on external factors to advance. This scenario starkly contrasts with the fortunes of the Browns, who have demonstrated a significant resurgence this season. Their performance not only reflects their growth as a team but also signifies a notable change in the dynamics of the AFC North. The Browns, once overshadowed by the Steelers' historical dominance, have now emerged as a formidable force, reshaping the competitive landscape of the division.