PITTSBURGH (AP)The Cleveland Browns have won in Week 1 before.
They’ve dominated opponents the way they dominated the Cincinnati Bengals last week before.
What they haven’t done – at least not in the past 20 years during the regular season anyway – is beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.
Coaches change. Quarterbacks change. Uniforms change. Cleveland’s futility at Acrisure Stadium – save for that cathartic first-round playoff win in 2020 – does not.
The Browns (1-0) will walk onto the field looking to win in Pittsburgh (0-1) for the first time since 2003. And they’ll do it under the lights of prime time with a chance to prove to a national audience their systematic beatdown of the Bengals in the opener was no fluke.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for us to be able to go out there and then show the world what we got, what we can be,” Deshaun Watson said.
Cleveland showed flashes of it while keeping Joe Burrow in check. Nick Chubb churned for 106 yards. Myles Garrett had a sack and debuted another in a seemingly endless supply of pass-rush moves – this one a p resnap crossover dribble with an invisible basketball – in the process.
Yet that was at home. In the rain. Against a rival whose star quarterback missed practically all of training camp with a calf injury.
That won’t be the case in Pittsburgh, which is smarting after getting its “teeth kicked in” by San Francisco.
The Steelers trailed the 49ers by 20 points before getting a single first down in a game that saw star defensive tackle Cam Heyward and standout wide receiver Diontae Johnson go down with injuries that will have them sidelined for several weeks.
Pittsburgh will use a mix of players at both positions to fill in as it tries to avoid the franchise’s first 0-2 start since 2019.
To do it the Steelers will need quarterback Kenny Pickett to look far sharper than he did against the 49ers, when he threw a pair of interceptions and never really got into a rhythm.
Asked what he needs to improve on and the second-year starter shrugged.
“Play better. I mean, it’s not a rocket science answer,” he said. “I can’t give you any magical answer there.”
The Steelers spent four quarters getting pushed around at times by the 49ers. They expect the Browns to try and do the same as it looks to end Pittsburgh’s 20-game home winning streak on Monday night.
The Steelers’ previous Monday night loss came on Oct. 14, 1991, against the New York Giants, or nearly four full years before Watson was born.
“We can’t focus on the past, and we have to try to break that tradition that they have going,” Watson said. “But it’s not going to be easy.”
HOLD THE LINE
The Steelers have spent the past couple of offseasons cultivating depth along the defensive line with Heyward approaching his mid-30s. That depth will be tested with Heyward out and the Browns almost certainly eying a chance to push Pittsburgh around the same way the 49ers did a week ago.
The new rotation will include rookie second-round pick Keeanu Benton and 2022 third-round pick DeMarvin Leal. Both lack Heyward’s resume but have shown an ability to be disruptive in small spurts. Time to see how they handle taking on a significantly larger role.
“I think these guys now have an opportunity to prove themselves and to see if they can step up to the challenge,” Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “We like what we have, but until they get into games for an extended period of time, we won’t know.”
Browns rookie tackle Dawand Jones is going from the proverbial football frying pan into the fire.
The fourth-round draft pick from Ohio State made an unexpected NFL debut last week, coming in to replace right tackle Jack Conklin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first half.
The 6-foot-8, 375-pound Jones managed to hold his own against Cincinnati’s defensive front, but he’ll have a tougher task this week going against Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, one of the NFL’s elite edge rushers and sack specialists.
Jones said he’s immersed himself in film of Watt and has been impressed by his relentlessness.
“He just does not quit,” Jones said. “He has a motor of just nonstop moves, and my major thing is if I get to limit him to some of them, using my length and my strength to my best ability, I can minimize whatever he has to throw at me.”
The Browns might not be unrecognizable Monday night.
With a nod to the franchise’s past, Cleveland will bench their traditional orange helmets in favor of white ones like the Browns wore in the 1950s.
They’ll also wear white jerseys and pants, perhaps a fashion faux pas after Labor Day but one the players are embracing.
“Super excited,” Watson said. “The unis are fresh, they’re pretty clean and it’s another excitement for us to go out there and perform.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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