In his first season as the head coach of the Browns, Kevin Stefanski accomplished what nine brave men before him couldn’t do — lead Cleveland to the playoffs. Sunday’s wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be the Browns‘ first postseason game since 2002, but unfortunately for Stefanski, he won’t be on the sidelines for it.
Kevin Stefanski has done the impossible in his first year with the Browns
There have only been a few near certainties in the NFL over the past two decades. The Patriots reaching the AFC Championship Game, the Cowboys underachieving compared to expectations, and the Browns missing the playoffs. Cleveland hasn’t made the postseason since 2002, and the franchise has only posted one winning season in the last 18 years.
But Kevin Stefanski isn’t worried about the past. The head coach took over for the Browns last offseason and led Cleveland to an 11-5 record in the regular season. Stefanski did the impossible and clinched a playoff berth in his first season with the Browns.
The first-year head coach will try to reverse another troubling trend for the Browns this Sunday.
The Browns have a date with the Steelers in the wild-card round
Browns fans are ecstatic to be in the playoffs for the first time in nearly 20 years, but they cringed the second they saw who they have to play. The Steelers, who have had Cleveland’s number for Ben Roethlisberger’s entire career, will play host to the Browns in the 2021 AFC wild-card round.
It might sound impossible, but the Browns haven’t beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh since 2003. Cleveland has lost 17 straight games at Heinz Field. Earlier this season, the Steelers crushed the Browns, 38-7, at home to improve to 5-0. Baker Mayfield struggled to the tune of 10/18 passing for 119 yards and two interceptions in the game.
The AFC North rivals will cap off an action-packed wild-card weekend at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday with the game broadcasted on NBC.
Why isn’t Kevin Stefanski on the sidelines for the Browns’ playoff game?
Kevin Stefanski has led the Browns to a historic season in his first year at the helm, but he won’t be on the sidelines with his team in Pittsburgh Sunday night. On Tuesday, the Browns announced that Stefanski and two other coaches tested positive for COVID-19.
“The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, two additional members of the coaching staff and two players have tested positive for COVID-19,” the team said in a statement. “Our facility is currently closed while contact tracing is taking place. The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority. Our contingency planning calls for Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer to serve as the acting Head Coach.”
Stefanski is asymptomatic, but he won’t be available to coach this Sunday. Special teams coach Mike Priefer will serve as the Browns’ head coach against the Steelers, as Stefanski watches the game from his basement in Cleveland.