One of the biggest stories during the late going of the 2023 NFL season has been the comeback of Joe Flacco. The nearly-39 year old quarterback has come off of the couch after Week 12 and led the Cleveland Browns to four wins in five games, and has the team at 11-5 heading into the final game of the season. They have an outside chance at catching the Ravens for the division lead and are somehow alive for the #1 seed in the AFC.
Browns Better Than Steelers For First Time In 34 Years
The #Browns will finish the season with a better record than the #Steelers for the first time in 34 years…. absolutely wild. pic.twitter.com/y2qJ5s2HTz
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) December 29, 2023
But there is one statistic that is related to another division opponent that makes this season for the Browns that much more impressive. For the first time since 1989, a 34-year stretch, Cleveland will finish with a better record than the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns have been one of the most down-trodden franchises in the NFL during the course of their existence, while the Steelers have been a pillar of consistency. This has been especially true since the 1990s, a stretch that has seen Pittsburgh finish under .500 just twice since 1992 (and never since 2003).
The Steelers will face a tough test in order to finish above the .500 mark for the 20th straight season. Their final two games will come against the Seahawks and Ravens, who are fighting for their own respective playoff implications in the late going and will be bringing their best against Pittsburgh.
Cleveland Has A Shot At #1 Seed
They’ll need help for it to happen, but there is a scenario this season in which the Lions and Browns — the only two teams in NFL history to go 0-16 — could end up with the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences. Times have changed.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 29, 2023
But the Browns might actually be rooting for Mike Tomlin and company during the final week of the season. Should the Dolphins upset the Ravens this weekend, and if Cleveland takes care of business against the Bengals in Week 18, then a Pittsburgh win over Baltimore that week would give the Browns the division.
Should the Dolphins lose to the Bills in Week 18, then Cleveland would be the #1 seed in the AFC.
The last time the Browns finished better than the Steelers was actually due to an outlier. They had a record of 9-6-1 in 1989, and won the AFC Central title due to the tie. Pittsburgh finished tied for second with the Houston Oilers at 9-7. 26-year-old Bernie Kosar was the team’s quarterback, and they were led by head coach Bud Carson.
Cleveland lost in the AFC Championship game to the Denver Broncos.