December 20, 2014

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Browns kick off 2014 on the road vs. Steelers

CLEVELAND — New Browns coach Mike Pettine will make his regular-season debut as part of the franchise’s most storied rivalry.

Cleveland will kick off its 2014 season against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sept. 7, marking just the second time it will open on the road since returning to the NFL 15 years ago. The league announced its entire 17 week schedule Wednesday night.

“Browns at Steelers in Week 1 — in your first game as an NFL head coach,” Pettine said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. And I can’t wait to put our team out in front of the Dawg Pound on Sept. 14.”

The Browns’ initial home game occurs one week later against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 14, while its lone national television appearance takes place in Week 10 at Cincinnati on Nov. 6.

The latter game will air on NFL Network and is Cleveland’s one guaranteed prime-time game, as per the league’s broadcasting contracts with ESPN, CBS, NBC, Fox and NFL Network.

“Looking at the schedule, we’ve said we want to be the toughest team on the field,” Pettine said. “We’re building our team to compete in the (AFC North) division, so hopefully we can get off to a good start.”

The Browns’ third game is also against a division foe as Baltimore visits FirstEnergy Stadium on Sept. 21, while its Week 6 game on Oct. 12 has Pittsburgh coming to town to complete its home-and-home series.

Cleveland’s other AFC North games are in Week 15 against Cincinnati on Dec. 13 and in Week 17 at Baltimore on Dec. 27. The Browns will have an early bye, taking off Week 4 on Sept. 28.

“We’ll get a good taste of our division early on, with three of our first five,” Pettine said. “The AFC North has been for quite some time one of the NFL’s best divisions.”

Also notable is Cleveland’s trip to Buffalo on Nov. 30 in Week 13. Pettine served as the Bills’ defensive coordinator before being hired by the Browns to replace Rob Chudzinski.

“I look forward to returning to Buffalo in late November,” he said. “That late-season stretch also jumped out at me a little bit. The NFL is all about overcoming adversity, and we face a big challenge with four of our final six on the road.”

Cleveland travels to NFC South Division squads Atlanta in Week 12 (Nov. 23) and Carolina in Week 16 (Dec. 20), while it welcomes Andrew Luck and Indianapolis to the North Coast in Week 14 (Dec. 6).

The Browns’ other road games are at Tennessee in Week 5 (Oct. 5), at Jacksonville in Week 7 (Oct. 19). Their home schedule is rounded out by Oakland in Week 8 (Oct. 26), Tampa Bay in Week 9 (Nov. 2) and Houston in Week 11 (Nov. 16).

Fourteen of Cleveland’s games will start at 1 p.m., with the exceptions a 4:25 p.m. kickoff against the Raiders and an 8:25 p.m. start at the Bengals.

Many game times could change, however, as the NFL will utilize flex scheduling from Week 5-17 this fall.
Additionally, the Browns could have selected games switched from CBS to Fox — or vice versa — under the new format.

The Browns also used the occasion to announce their preseason schedule, including a change in their local television broadcast team.

Cleveland sports icon Bernie Kosar, whose erratic behavior — on and off the air — had become a source of controversy, has been removed from the booth for the games on WKYC (Channel 3).

Jim Donovan will now call the games with NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots, a former Bengals defensive back who lives in Cincinnati.

In a statement, the team attributed the move to, “The Browns and WKYC revamping their broadcast team,” but said it was “exploring more opportunities” to feature Kosar on ancillary programming.

Cleveland’s exhibition dates were announced as Aug. 9 at Detroit (7:30 p.m., Channel 3), Aug. 18 at Washington (8 p.m., ESPN), Aug. 23 against St. Louis (8 p.m., Channel 3) and Aug. 30 against Chicago (8 p.m., Channel 3).

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

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