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The Rivalry of Cleveland and Pittsburgh

by J.T. Toth

Photo courtesy of WEWS.

This week, the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers renew a rivalry that has been played 138 times, and remains the longest and one of the most storied rivalries in the AFC. The two cities are only approximately 135 miles apart and twice a season fans get to travel down and up the Pennsylvania and Ohio turnpikes to witness the renewal of the rivalry that has been going on since 1950.

The Browns, born in the old All-American Football Conference in 1950, migrated to the NFL where they began to dominate the league. They appeared in 6 straight NFL Championship games from 1950-1956, winning the title 3 times while the Steelers were one of the NFL’s worst teams. Cleveland held a 31-9 lead in the series after the first two decades, highlighted by Browns running back Jim Brown who ran for 12,312 yards in 9 seasons between 1957-1965.

The decade of the 70’s was dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Steelers won 4 super bowls and took a 15-5 edge over Cleveland in the decade. Steelers Head Coach Chuck Noll and a couple of hall of fame drafts put the Steelers on the NFL landscape as one of the best organizations in all of football. The Steelers of the 70’s will always be on a short list of the most dominating decades by a team. The 1974 draft class of the Pittsburgh Steelers may be something we never see again as football fans. The Pittsburgh Steelers took 4 future hall of famers in the ‘74 class, selecting wide receiver Lynn Swann in the first round, linebacker Jack Lambert in the second round, wide receiver John Stallworth in the 4th round and center Mike Webster in the 5th round.

The 80’s and 90’s saw the teams on even playing field for the first time and the Steelers led the Browns 18-17 throughout the decades. The biggest news in the 80’s and 90’s was after the 1995 season when the Cleveland Browns and owner Art Modell left Cleveland to move to Baltimore to become the Baltimore Ravens, who some Steelers fans consider our biggest rival to this day. The Browns returned in 1999 as an expansion team and now gave the Steelers two big rivals each season.

In the first round of the 2004 draft, the Steelers selected a quarterback from Cleveland’s back yard in Findlay, Ohio named Ben Roethlisberger. No other Steelers player has dominated this series like “Big Ben." He finished 29-6-1 against the Browns, including an astonishing 17-1 at home.

Overall, the Steelers now lead the series 80-62-1, if you count the 2-1 lead they have in the postseason. This rivalry though at times one-sided as we saw early on, but it is still as fierce and competitive as any in football. Just like the Yankees and Red Sox, the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, or the Lakers and Celtics, you don’t have to be a fan of Cleveland or Pittsburgh to enjoy the battle.

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