It’s that time again. Browns versus Steelers.
Two cities separated by 135 miles of turnpike, united by blue-collar grit and gridiron hatred.
The two cities are bonded by more than they’d like to admit. Both have strong industrial pasts and are looking to be born again as modern, thriving cities.
As the two major urban centers in the region, the two have battled off the gridiron as well.
Both cities are fighting for the same business landscapes in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
Do you shop at Marc’s or Giant Eagle? Do you bank at Key Bank or PNC? A true die-hard Browns fan wouldn’t dare complete a painting project with PPG Paints. They’d use Cleveland’s own Sherwin-Williams.
Even the teams themselves have shared personnel.
Legendary Steelers coaches Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher both played for the Browns and former Browns coaches Marty Schottenheimer and Bud Carson are native Pittsburghers.
Current Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is a former minority owner of the Steelers.
The two teams first met in 1950 as the Browns entered the National Football League from the All-America Football Conference.
On the way to winning three NFL titles by 1955, the Browns beat the Steelers the first 8 times they played them, with the Steelers not topping the Browns until 1954.
With Jim Brown leading the way, the Browns racked up a 31-9 record against the struggling Steelers through the first 20 years of the rivalry. That would all change in the ’70s though.
In 1970 the AFL merged will the NFL and nearly brought an end to the regional rivalry.
The Browns were placed in the Central Division of the AFC with the Baltimore Colts, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, Steelers owner Art Rooney initially refused to move to the new conference.
When Browns’ owner Art Modell volunteered to move his team to the AFC, Rooney relented.
This ensured the Browns would have an in-state rival, Cincinnati, and their traditional rival, Pittsburgh.
The 1970s saw not only the birth of a new NFL but a change in venue and fortunes for the Steelers. Pittsburgh opened Three Rivers Stadium, hired new coach Chuck Knoll and was off to the races.
You can argue it’s just a building, but the Steelers won their first 16 meetings with the Browns in their new stadium.
During the 70’s the rivalry became more competitive and hostile, the highlight of that fierceness of course coming in 1976 when Joe “Turkey” Jones tackled Terry Bradshaw with a piledriver that injured Bradshaw’s neck and took him out of the game.
Old School Browns/Steelers. Turkey Jones sacking Terry Bradshaw hard in ’76. This hit would be a penalty today. pic.twitter.com/7TYVXd6NfP
— 216 Sports History (@History_Cle) December 12, 2016
The 70s were not kind to the Browns, winning just 5 games against the Steelers in the decade.
The rivalry was much more even in the 1980s, with the Steelers have the advantage in the early 80s, and the Browns having success later in the decade.
Between 1986 and 1989, the Bernie Kosar-led Browns won 7 straight contests between the teams.
Unfortunately, the 90’s happened.
Not only did the Steelers dominate the early part of the ’90s, winning 6 straight at one point, but Modell moved the Browns and the rivalry was temporarily dead.
The Steelers organization, to their credit, did all they could to stop the move to Baltimore.
Owner Dan Rooney was one of just two owners to vote against the relocation of the Browns to Baltimore.
In a sign of mutual respect and sorrow for losing the rivalry, Steeler fans wore orange armbands to the last matchup between the two teams in 1995.
As everyone knows, the Browns returned in 1999, but the rivalry hasn’t been the same due in large part to the team failing to put together a quality product on the field.
Sure, there have been notable highlights over the last 20 years such as Phil Dawson’s game-winning kick in 1999, but the Steelers have dominated the last two decades.
Most of this success has come under star quarterback, and Findlay Ohio native, Ben Roethlisberger.
During Roethlisberger’s tenure, the Steelers have a record of 25-3-1 against the Browns.
Meanwhile, the Browns have trotted out nearly 30 different starting QBs in that time.
The domination has been so comprehensive that in 2007 the Steelers overtook the Browns in overall series wins.
They’ve only continued to extend the lead to where it stands today at 75-59-1.
Recently, the rivalry game has often been a source of dread for Cleveland head coaches, with the last 6 head coaches being fired after losses to their Black and Gold rivals.
This week the teams face off again, with the Browns in the unique position of being the favorites for the second time this season.
The previous contest this season culminated with one of the more memorable and ugly scenes in Browns-Steelers history when Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph started a brawl that was finished by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett hitting Rudolph with his own helmet.
As the Browns look to start a new era of success lead by young stars Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb, their success against Pittsburgh will be the biggest measuring stick for progress.