See you this weekend

As it turns out it'll be a best-of-three this season with Cleveland.

The Steelers' 24-22 loss to the Browns on Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium turned out to be a precursor to an upcoming rubber match this weekend. The Steelers will host the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field in the AFC Wild Card Round on Sunday, January 10. Kickoff for the game is set for 8:15 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC (WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh).

"I feel like we'll have a good gameplan going into it, especially since we first played them," rookie outside linebacker Alex Highsmith said following the regular-season finale, when a postseason meeting with Cleveland seemed likely but had yet to become official. "We're going to have a great week of practice. We're gonna be prepared and we're gonna be ready.

"We're excited for this challenge and we're gonna be ready to go to battle."

The Steelers beat the Browns, 38-7, in the first meeting between the teams on Oct. 18 at Heinz Field.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin maintained after Sunday's rematch a potential third meeting wasn't a factor in what the Steelers did or didn't do schematically.

"I wasn't worried about next week," he said. "I was worried about this game, and rightfully so."

Tomlin also said he hadn't yet contemplated a potential third meeting with Cleveland in the postseason in the immediate aftermath of the regular season coming to an end.

"It's too early for that, really," Tomlin maintained. "I am just assessing what transpired in that stadium today and making decisions relative to that.

"We'll have tomorrow waiting on us in the morning."

The Steelers are the No. 3 seed and will host the sixth-seeded Browns.

The two teams have met twice previously in the postseason.

The Steelers beat the Browns in an AFC Divisional Round game, 29-9, on Jan. 7, 1995 at Three Rivers Stadium and in an AFC Wild Card Game, 36-33, on Jan. 5, 2003 at Heinz Field.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium

RUDOLPH REVIVAL: It was an improved Mason Rudolph who quarterbacked the Steelers in Cleveland.

It was also the Rudolph the Steelers anticipated seeing.

"It was reasonable to expect improvement in his play," Tomlin observed regarding Rudolph. "This guy has been working extremely hard for 12 calendar months. At the quarterback position there are not many opportunities.

"This was his first extended action of the 2020 football season so we anticipated him being better, and he was."

Rudolph's 15th career NFL appearance and ninth career NFL start saw his record as a starter drop to 5-4 and the Steelers' record on the regular season fall to 12-4.

But he threw for a career-high 315 yards and a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns in a rally from a 15-point deficit that came within a failed two-point conversion of tying the game at 24-24 with 1:23 left in regulation.

"I was encouraged we got back in the game," Rudolph said. "Our defense did a great job getting us a stop there to get us the ball back, especially on a fourth down. Those guys on that side of the ball played well all day, gave us a shot. They gave us a chance to win the game.

"I'm really proud of the way we protected, proud of (guard) David DeCastro and (offensive tackle) Alejandro Villanueva and the way they led the offensive line with the absence of (center) Maurkice (Pouncey). I thought they did a great job of protection all day. It comes down to, really, a couple plays."

Rudolph was intercepted late in the third quarter and the Browns turned the turnover and 30-yard return into a four-play, 20-yard drive for a touchdown and a 24-9 lead three seconds into the fourth quarter.

But the next two Steelers' drives resulted in touchdowns, one on a 28-yard pass to wide receiver Chase Claypool and the second a 2-yard connection with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

In between, the defense came up with a stop on fourth-and-7 from the Steelers' 35-yard line with 3:37 left in regulation.

Rudolph responded by directing a seven-play, 65-yard march that came up two points shy of tying the game.

"I thought his performance the whole game was great," said center J.C. Hassenauer, who filled in for Pouncey. "I was so proud of him, the way he stepped up this week. He led our team. He set the tempo. He was a leader. I was really proud of Mason for that.

"Even (quarterback Josh) Dobbs, too. Dobbs came in the huddle, he commanded the huddle the way a quarterback's supposed to. I thought both of them did an excellent job. I was very proud of both of them."

DOBBS DABBLES: Tomlin had Dobbs replace Rudolph for snaps in five of the Steelers' nine possessions. Dobbs finished 4-for-5 passing but for just 2 yards, but also had two carries for 20 yards.

His 7-yard keeper on third-and-13 from the Cleveland 35 helped position Matthew Wright for a 46-yard field goal late in the second quarter.

Dobbs also rushed for 13 yards to the Cleveland 12 on a second-quarter drive that concluded with a 29-yard field goal by Wright.

"We thought his mobility could be an X-factor," Tomlin said of Dobbs. "It is a little-known trivia fact that Dobbs ran for 850 (yards) his last year at Tennessee, so running is an asset to him.

"We just wanted to infuse that into the game, particularly in some situational components of play, maybe third down and maybe red zone.

"I'm appreciative of his efforts, as well. He had an opportunity to put his hand in the pile and be a positive contributor to our efforts."

Dobbs appeared in a game for the sixth time with the Steelers and for the first time since Dec. 9, 2018 at Oakland.

Tomlin wouldn't rule out Dobbs playing a similar role in the upcoming postseason.

"It is a possibility," Tomlin said.