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Browns vs. Steelers named NFL’s top rivalry for 2019

Teams poised to battle for division supremacy, making annual meetings league’s best, according to

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Ask a Cleveland Browns fan what is the team’s biggest rival and the automatic answer is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Browns and the Steelers first faced each other on Oct. 7, 1950, with Cleveland rolling to a 30-17 victory. It was the first of eight consecutive wins for the Browns against the Steelers, part of a streak that saw the Browns go 31-9 against the Steelers from 1950 through 1969.

All told, the two teams have met 134 times, and the odd part about the rivalry is that it has been rare for both teams to be good at the same time.

The Steelers took control of the series starting in the 1970s and held it, with a few exceptions, until the Browns rose up in the mid-1980s. Since Cleveland’s return to the NFL in 1999, the series has been decidedly one-sided in favor of the Steelers, with the Browns only picking up three wins against Pittsburgh since the start of the 2004 season.

That should change this year, however, as the Browns are on the rise with quarterback Baker Mayfield and defensive end Myles Garrett anchoring both sides of the ball. The Steelers appear to be slowly crumbling from within, but they still have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is 23-2-1 in his career against the Browns.

With both teams expected to challenge for the AFC North title this fall, it is not a big surprise that’s Adam Rank selected Browns vs. Steelers as the league’s best rivalry for 2019:

Before you accuse me of just jumping on the bandwagon and supporting the Browns after a wild offseason, let me say a few things. For starters, you are absolutely correct. I love what the Browns have done. The trade for Odell Beckham Jr. was a masterstroke. (And hey, I kinda called it a year ago.) But this Browns team is going to be a lot of fun. I know we’ve seen some so-called dream teams fail in the past, but this one looks really good. And 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.

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. 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.

No matter their age, Browns fans have a good memory or two from a Browns game against the Steelers.

It might be quarterback David Mays coming off the bench in 1976 to lead the Browns to a win, or Brian Sipe’s four touchdown passes against the Steelers in his final game with the Browns in 1983.

It could be Cleveland’s first win at Three Rivers Stadium in 1986, the season opener in 1989 (a 51-0 beating of the Steelers), Phil Dawson’s game-winning field goal in 1999, or that October afternoon in 2014 - the Browns last win against the Steelers.

With both teams poised to actually be good this year, this season’s pair of games should elevate this long-time rivalry to a new level and create some more memories for Browns fans.