One of things the Pittsburgh Steelers have historically been known for is having great rivalries. You have the Raiders. You have the Cowboys. You have the Oilers. Then, of course, there are the division rivalries (which the one with Houston was in the old AFC Central) of the present day. Games against the Baltimore Ravens are always appointment viewing. In the first half of the previous decade, the Cincinnati Bengals were always a slogfest.
Now, it seems, their biggest rival may be the Cleveland Browns, who knocked them out of the playoffs last year—in fact, beat them twice in as many weeks. And of course, there was the Mason Rudolph game from the 2019 season. That’s why Adam Rank included the two on a list of the best rivalries to watch in 2021, writing:
The Steelers have played some epic games against the Ravens over the years, no doubt about it. Pittsburgh even swept Baltimore last season on the way to an AFC North title. But lately, it feels like the Steelers’ games vs. the Browns have become more of a blood feud. The Steelers won the division thanks to an 11-0 start to the season. But Pittsburgh lost four of their last five regular-season bouts. And then the Browns embarrassed them with a 48-37 Wild Card Weekend shellacking that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
This feels like the Browns’ time to really take control of this AFC North rivalry. Like, if this were Mortal Kombat, the game would be yelling, “Finish him!”
While I don’t think this will ever get as heated and intense as the heydays of the Vontaze Burfict Bengals, which culminated in outside linebackers coach Joey Porter drawing a crucial fourth-quarter personal foul penalty in the waning minutes, there is some bad blood.
And it’s really not even from the Myles Garrett incident so many anymore. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s “the Browns is the Browns” comment at the end of last season didn’t help, regardless of what his actual intention with that remark might have been.
The Browns picked up on that phrase and use it as a rallying cry. They made sure to say it as much as possible, especially after beating the Steelers in the postseason. This is a team that is rounding a very long corner, turning from annual misery to a possible legitimate contender. Those Browns were those Browns. These Browns are these Browns. And they want to let the ‘big brother’ Steelers know it every chance they can get.