— The Cleveland Browns open the 2017 season against the biggest thorn in their side of them all: The Steelers.
Sure, wins have been few and far between over the last decade, but Pittsburgh’s dominance over the Browns has to be extra frustrated. Cleveland’s lost four-straight in the rivalry, and 24 of 28 since the 2003 playoff matchup.
But now the Browns are building momentum. Draft picks galore, a supposed offensive mastermind in coach Hue Jackson and exciting rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer have Browns fans wondering if contention is around the corner.
Five things to know for the Browns opener.
- Kizer debut: Kizer said he lost the first starts of his high school and college careers because he fell short on the last play. He’s hoping to get another chance. Kizer won the quarterback job outright in the preseason despite overtures that he’d need time to develop.
- Myles Garrett is out: Cleveland’s chances would be much better if No. 1 overall pick Garrett was in. He was injured in practice and is likely to miss the first couple games. Garrett was physically dominant in the preseason.
- Joe Haden returns: That didn’t take long. A little over a week since being cut by the Browns, Haden’s first game with the Steelers will be against them. Expect extra motivation from the now $9-million cornerback.
- Time to see the offensive line: The Browns’ biggest strength may be their offensive line after signing Kevin Zeitler from Cincinnati and JC Tretter from Green Bay. The key to Kizer’s success will be how overwhelming his line is – think Dallas last season.
- If Browns want to eventually contend, this is the team they’ll have to go through: Maybe it’s too early to mention this – the Browns are a season or two away from contention, it appears – but to be the best, you have to beat the best. Even a competitive loss could build momentum for a young Browns team. When you’ve lost as much to Pittsburgh as they have, it can become mental. Kizer and company can make it clear they’re not the same pushovers.