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Browns Browns Archive The Year This Week Didn't Suck: Week 10
Written by Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight

browns steelers 1999As we struggle to survive another season with the new-era Browns, one way we can try to get through it (besides alcohol or heavy medication) is to look back at the best individual weeks of the Browns’ new era to remember times in recent memory when this particular week didn’t suck.

Just like you’ll never forget the time you fell chest-first onto a picket fence, you’ll never be able to forget how the new Browns debuted. What with all the scarring and psychological trauma in both instances, that is.

Though it didn’t start out that way on that September night in 1999. It was emotional, it was exciting, it was optimistic. Then the game began, and, like Mike Holmgren, all of those things very quickly went away.

Steelers 43, Browns 0 was the final, and it wasn’t anywhere near that close.

That night we learned just how pornographic expansion football is. What often gets forgotten in the bloody aftermath of that loss is what happened the next time the Browns and Steelers played. It was a miracle that ranked right up there with the Wedding at Cana, an experience that may have made the evisceration of opening night worth going through.

That first loss was the beginning of a seven-game losing streak to start the Browns’ 1999 season. And even after they picked up their first win, things only got worse. In the Baltimore Ravens’ first trip to Cleveland, the Browns played horribly - even by their mongoloid expansion standards - and lost by 32 points to a crummy Baltimore team.

Seven days later, in Week 10, the Browns embarked to Pittsburgh, where they had a history of being abused even when they were good. Considering the Browns had been annihilated by the now-5-3 Steelers on their own home field, Cleveland fans were cowering with the expectation of what would happen on the haunted plastic turf of Three Rivers Stadium.

The Browns showed a glimmer of improvement when they sprinted 80 yards in five plays in the game’s opening minutes and took a 7-0 lead on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson. But that was pretty much it for the offense for the next two-and-a-half hours as it took what we now call a “Shurmur Shnooze.”

Albeit not at the same drunken abusive stepfather pace as in Cleveland nine weeks earlier, the Steelers took control and led 15-7 going into the fourth quarter.

It wouldn’t be a blowout, but Pittsburgh was cruising to an easy victory. Until, that is, Kordell Stewart threw a hilariously bad screen pass from the Pittsburgh 23 that was intercepted by Browns’ linebacker John Thierry and returned to the Pittsburgh 15 with just over six minutes remaining. The Browns were still on life support, but they had a pulse.

It got stronger two plays later when Couch hit fullback Marc Edwards for a five-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion attempt to tie the game failed, but the Browns had pulled within 15-13 with 5:12 remaining. It appeared the ghosts of Three Rivers might have to trot out to help the Steelers seal the deal, just as they’d done so many times before.

The beleaguered Cleveland defense came up with a key stop on third-and-four at midfield, forcing a Steeler punt at the two-minute warning. The Browns took over at their own 20 and essentially repeated their opening drive, only this time it was what fans used to following actual NFL teams would call “clutch.”

A 23-yard pass to Darrin Chiaverini, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Pittsburgh linebacker Mike Vrabel pushed the Browns across midfield, then a quick pass to Terry Kirby and a couple of positioning runs by Karim Abdul-Jabbar got the Browns to the 22 as the clock ticked down under 30 seconds.

Everybody in the world expected the Browns to call time out and set up the field goal. But for reasons known only to Chris Palmer, they kept the clock running and quickly shooed the field-goal team out for a highly unnecessary Chinese fire drill.

Phil Dawson, in the first money situation of what was to become a money career, calmly pushed the ball through the greasy, grime-covered goalposts of Three Rivers Stadium to give the Browns their first win in their own personal Temple of Doom in over a decade.

It was a 44-point turnaround from their first meeting and the overall statistics were just as different, demonstrating how far the Browns had come in two months. Or how far the Steelers had fallen. Either way, happiness.

The Browns have only won one other time in Pittsburgh since then, but that was at the multi-million dollar septic tank known as Heinz Field. Fittingly, even in the depths of expansion hell, they managed to pull the rug out from under the Steelers to sneak away with a victory in the ballpark that had been the site of so much Cleveland misery over the years.

And a victory that remains perhaps the most vengefully satisfying since the Browns’ return, making those scars from the inaugural game a badge of honor.

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