Can two teams represent the best rivalry in the game if one of the two teams involved has a record of 0-7-1 in its past eight appearance against its supposed rival? That is the question looking to be answered n 2019 with the Cleveland Browns getting hyped up for the first time since…I guess that one year they had a white running back who got on a Madden cover for some reason.
Adam Rank created a list for the league’s website recently counting down the best rivalries in the NFL right now, and he put the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Browns right at the top at number one. That seems a little bold, considering neither of them even made the postseason a year ago.
“Before you accuse me of just jumping on the bandwagon and supporting the Browns after a wild offseason, let me say a few things”, he started off. “For starters, you are absolutely correct. I love what the Browns have done. The trade for Odell Beckham Jr. was a masterstroke”.
“But this Browns team is going to be a lot of fun”, he continued. “The rivalry got some additional juice in Week 17 of last season. No, the teams didn’t play each other, but the Browns could have sent the Steelers to the playoffs with a win over the Ravens. Cleveland fell just short, leaving Pittsburgh out of the postseason tournament for the first time since 2013”.
The Browns scored their first non-loss against the Steelers last year since 2014 when they were able to force a tie. They scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, one off of a James Conner fumble. Chris Boswell had a chance to win from 42 yards out but missed. At the end of overtime, T.J. Watt was able to block a potential game-winning field goal attempt to preserve the tie.
“I understand that it would be fitting to have Browns-Ravens as the rivalry here — because Baltimore stole the Browns years ago, and the Ravens are the reigning AFC North champions — but there is something that just feels right about Browns-Steelers being the pick”, Rank went on.
“Because there will be no in between with these two. Either the Browns fulfill their destiny this season and win the division in convincing fashion, rollicking past the competition while the Steelers fall into further chaos. Or the Browns finish 5-11, while the Steelers claim the top seed in the AFC. I’m telling you: It’s one or the other”.
The Browns have only defeated the Steelers six times since 1999 when they returned to the league, and have only done so twice since 2009. Pittsburgh has had great success against both them and the Cincinnati Bengals, even when Cincinnati was recently good. Can they still have their way with Cleveland if they make good on their potential this year?