Defining and ranking rivalries is tough and sometimes pointless. Cleveland Browns fans hate the Baltimore Ravens and get annoyed by the Cincinnati Bengals but their feelings toward the Pittsburgh Steelers are different than the other two.
The Steelers are the Browns longest rivals, dating back to pre-merger with the AFL. The two helped form the AFC Central and then the AFC North together but, at least for most people reading this lifetimes, Pittsburgh has long controlled the matchup.
Historically, the Steelers are 81-63-1 against the Browns. Recently, there have been long stretches where Cleveland was lucky to win a game. From November 2003 to January 2012, Cleveland lost 16 of 17 matchups between the two.
Not only has Pittsburgh had the upper hand in head-to-head matchups but also in the standings. Until this year, the last time the Browns had a better record than the Steelers at the end of the year was in 1989:
The Cleveland Browns will finish the regular season with a better record than the Steelers for the first time since the 1989 season.— René Bugner (@RNBWCV) December 29, 2023
Here's a look at the win-loss record of the two teams over the last 36 NFL seasons. https://t.co/Y7dahWOUiz pic.twitter.com/GMSbSbhoaN
According to a quick search, the following things happened in 1989 to provide some context:
- The internet was invented
- The Berlin Wall came down
- The first Simpsons episode aired
- Game Boy came out
- The original Little Mermaid movie was released
- Taylor Swift was born
Now, in 2023, we have the Cleveland Browns sitting at 11-5 and the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8-7. The Browns are making the playoffs while the Steelers hope to have a chance at the postseason.
Interestingly enough, Cleveland fans could be rooting for Pittsburgh in Week 18.
If the Miami Dolphins beat the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, the Browns would need the Steelers to knock off the Ravens in Week 18 (along with the Dolphins losing and Cleveland winning) to wrap up the AFC North crown for the first time ever.
For now, we will celebrate that the Browns are on top of the Steelers for the first time in three decades.
Are you surprised how long it has been since Cleveland finished a season with a better record than Pittsburgh?