It goes without saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers as one of the NFL’s flagship franchise are among the league’s big-ticket items. They are among the most successful of the game’s commercial period, and have among the largest, most active, and most wide-reaching fanbases in the game. It’s the reason that they almost always area slotted with the maximum five primetime games every year. Last season, they even played in six after one late-season game was flexed into primetime.
So it’s not a surprise that the Steelers checked in twice on an NFL.com list of the top 10 rivalries in the league right now, with their intradivisional bouts with the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns both making the list. It wasn’t so long ago that their bouts with the Cincinnati Bengals were primetime viewing, but with the struggles of the latter in recent years, it has fallen to the back burner.
Adam Rank compiled the list, though he didn’t have either of the Steelers’ rivalries going in the top 10. In fact, the long-standing love-hate relationship they hold with the Ravens hardly made the list, coming in at nine. He writes:
Last year was pretty interesting for the Steelers. Saw Le’Veon Bell walk in free agency. Traded Antonio Brown to the Raiders. (Days after nearly trading “Mr. Big Chest” to the Bills.) Lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season in Week 2. And when it looked like they could end up with a top-five draft pick, they traded it to Miami for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Despite all of this, Pittsburgh barely missed the playoffs thanks to its reborn defense. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they also had to watch the hated Ravens secure the top seed in the AFC playoffs. (Granted, Steelers fans obviously took joy in seeing Baltimore go one-and-done in the postseason.) Now, heading into the 2020 campaign, the venom in one of the best rivalries in sports remains high — and I can’t wait. The Steelers look to get back to the top of the division, while the Ravens somehow managed to get even better this offseason by adding Calais Campbell — which kind of doesn’t seem fair — as well as Michael Brockers. (UPDATE: Brockers’ deal with the Ravens fell through, and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that the defensive tackle will be re-signing with the Rams.) This annual home-and-home series will be must-see TV, per usual.
Of course their rivalry with the Browns currently has a lot more controversy thanks to Myles Garrett, who has assaulted Mason Rudolph and accused him of making a racially derogatory comment toward him. Garrett has been suspended since that happened. I have a feeling the first Browns game against the Steelers will be in primetime. Rank on that rivalry:
I was really looking forward to this one last year … and it let me down worse than The Rise of Skywalker. But whenever they make another Star Wars flick, I’ll be in line for it. Similarly, I’m all in on Browns-Steelers this year. Both teams should be improved. The Browns began to address their biggest problem area — offensive tackle — with the signing of Jack Conklin, and they could add another OT with the No. 10 overall pick next month. And the additions of FB Andy Janovich and TE Austin Hooper are going to boost the run game (and offense, in general). The Steelers will be better with Ben Roethlisberger back under center, and free-agent signee Eric Ebron gives the quarterback another offensive weapon. But let’s be real: I’m burying the lede here. Myles Garrett vs. the Steelers. That was an ugly incident last November, but we all know as sports fans that we’re going to be thinking about that as these two teams face off twice in 2020.
With the Bengals expected to draft Joe Burrow, who knows? Maybe Cincinnati will become relevant again, and they can renew a meaningful rivalry with the Steelers, though it’s been a while since they’ve been able to lay claim to any kind of competition with them.
Meanwhile, Rank expects the biggest rivalry going forward to be the next Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning, and he sees that happening between the Ravens with Lamar Jackson and the Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes. The two have faced off twice so far, with Mahomes winning both games.