Steelers vs. Browns: Not what it once was

Michael Moses

This dying rivalry desperately needs a Cleveland win

This Sunday marks the first matchup of the season between two storied rivals. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns will meet for the 115th time at Heinz Field. The Steelers and Browns have been playing since 1950, but in 2009, it is the furthest thing from a rivalry.

Since 2000, the Steelers have won 17 of the past 19 matchups by an average of 14 points. That’s a full two-touchdown lead.

Of those 17 wins, three have been shutout victories by an average of 31 points, including a 41-0 blowout in 2005 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The last meeting between the two teams happened to be a 31-0 victory in favor of the black and gold. The Browns last beat the Steelers in 2003. That’s 11 straight losses. If you ask a Browns fan, they’ll still say that they’re up in the all-time series, which used to be their favorite excuse. The sad thing is, they can’t even say that anymore.

Pittsburgh took that away from them Sept. 9, 2007, which just so happened to be Mike Tomlin’s head coaching debut. The current series record is 59-55, in favor of the Steelers.

The rivalry needs something. It needs a Browns victory, and as a Pittsburgh native . I never, ever thought I’d say this .

I’m rooting for the Cleveland Browns this Sunday.

Yes. I am. Because, if there is a God, he will answer the NFL’s prayers and once again link the two cities in gridiron matrimony. Roger Goddell was even seen in church holding a Terrible Towel and a Dawg Pound mask.

Come on, Brownies! It’s your time! You can do this! The Steelers just almost lost to the Lions – as in the Detroit Lions. Even you guys never went 0-16! You just came off a win (a very ugly win, but a win’s a win), your first since week 10 of last year. Hell, if you beat the Steelers this Sunday, it’ll be your first winning streak since weeks 4 and 5 a year ago. (I can’t believe I’m typing this right now.)

Can you imagine if the Browns actually won? There’s enough chaos in the AFC North as it is with the Cincinnati Bengals beating both the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. If the Browns beat the Steelers, it would severely damage the postseason outlook for Pittsburgh, and that’s why I bite my tongue when I say I’m hoping for a Browns win.

I get even more worried thinking about their answer to Mighty Mike Tomlin. With the hiring of Eric Mangini, the Browns believe they have an answer for the future. Why? Well it’s because Mangenius has a career record of 23-30, that’s why. He prides himself in coaching the quarterback position – where he changes his mind more than Brett Favre. Brady or Derek? Derek or Brady? Let’s flip a coin.

Oh, and speaking of Favre, did you know that Eric promised Favre that he would name his son after him if the quarterback would sign with the Jets? Here’s the best part – he did. Zack Brett Mangini was born on Favre’s 39th birthday. Looks like that one worked out. Guess where Mangini is now? Cleveland. And Favre? Minnesota. How would you like to be that kid? Who’s coming next? Chansi Braylon Mangini?

Cleveland-Pittsburgh used to be the complete opposite as it is now. The Browns dominated the series through the 1950s and 1960s, going 31-9.

During the 1970s, however, the Steelers started to pull ahead. Pittsburgh won 15 of the 20 games, thanks to the Steel Curtain defense and four-time Super Bowl champion coach Chuck Noll.

The ’80s and ’90s were evenly matched overall, with the Steelers ahead by one game, 18-17.

And then came the new millennium. In a time when Cleveland is better known as a character on “Family Guy” (even he has his own show now!), the Brownies have managed just two wins over the Steelers in nine seasons. Sunday’s contest is one of the final two matchups of this decade, though the 10-year series will be dominated by Pittsburgh even if Cleveland runs the table.

I hope the Browns can improve for the future and re-establish arguably the greatest rivalry in the National Football League – because, by the way things look now, the Bengals and Ravens are much bigger rivals to the black and gold.

Contact sports columnist Michael Moses at [email protected].