clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Browns vs. Steelers falling back into bitter rivals again

It has been a long time since you could call the Browns-Steelers series competitive, let alone a rivalry. But given the improvement by the club from the mistake by the lake, Sunday's tilt in JP's mind is shaping up to be an old-fashioned donnybrook straight out of the 70's and 80's

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

For years, when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns met to play a football game, you knew it was going to be physical. You knew the game would keep you on the edge of your seat and the winner wasn't going to be decided until the very end.

For two decades, Browns vs. Steelers meant bone-crunching hits, dirty play (from time to time) and fans abusing the opposition in a way the Hatfields and McCoys would have approved.

But then Art Modell decided he wanted to pick up his team and move to Baltimore. That was 1995. Since they rejoined the NFL in 1999, it has been a one-sided affair, with the Steelers going 27-5 against the Brownies.

It has been a long time since a Browns-Steelers game had the feeling it once did many years ago.

And it's nice to say that feeling is back.

But is it back to the level we all remember? No, certainly not. But I get that feeling deep down in the pit of my ever-growing stomach that it's closer than it has been for a long time. You can sense the tension building all week between the two cities.

What has helped breathe life back into this series more than anything is the improvement of the talent on the Browns' end. Players like Josh Gordon, (suspension aside) Joe HadenJordan CameronJoe Thomas and Alex Mack are helping to make this version of the Browns a more-competitive one.

"I think they've been competitive,' said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "They've had a lot of good players. Even though the won-loss total may not be indicative of really close competition, if you look at those games if you are in those games and on the sideline for those games, you know that 99% of them were hard fought, tough contests because there isn't much love lost between these two teams."

Watch the back-and-forth on social media or what has played out on the local radio dial. People are talking Browns v Steelers again and that's good for business.

Do I expect a 'Turkey' Jones-type play on Ben Roethlisberger Sunday at First Energy Stadium? Not exactly. This NFL isn't like the one 40 years ago. There's far too much money involved today and, since the dawn of free agency, players hop around like June bugs on a lilly pad, so the animosity simply isn't there like in the old days.

But that doesn't mean players don't still feel a dislike for each other. There's a game to be won and it's critical for each side to come away the victor on Sunday. The Steelers would like to lock up a season-sweep, while the Browns need the W to keep pace in the uber-competitive AFC North.

"There's no question that they are much better and gonna get better yet." added LeBeau.

This should make for some entertaining football on Sunday. Bitter rivals tend to do that and it's nice to say the Browns and Steelers are approaching that level again.

John Phillips is a radio personality for 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and a columnist for Behind The Steel Curtain. Check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.