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Since 1972, Steelers and Browns have gone in opposite directions

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Once the "Yankees of football", the Cleveland Browns have fallen on hard times, while the team they once dominated, the Steelers, have become the NFL's model franchise.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

"Never say you feel sorry for the Browns."

This warning, given to me 15 years ago by my mother, still rings so true.

"I almost feel sorry for them" I uttered as ESPN's cameras showed disgruntled Browns linebacker Jamir Miller. It was September 12, 1999, the Browns first game back following a four-year hiatus after former owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore. As an Ohio native, I understood how big of a deal this game was to the area. While two lost World Series titles by the Indians in the 90's were very tough pills to swallow, Cleveland fans could get over that. What they couldn't get over was losing their football team.

Four years of not watching pro football and killing time by watching "Countdown to '99" every NFL Sunday from 1996-98 was finally over for Browns fans. Their team was back in town. And they began their new era at home in a night game on ESPN against their most hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was an electric scene. Cleveland native Drew Carey was in the house, fireworks were ignited, and the crowd was at a frenzied pitch before the game even started. And with the Steelers coming off a 7-9 season, many Browns fans believed a victory in their first game was very much a possibility.

But it didn't take the Steelers very long to show the Browns that any victory over their rivals was going to be tough. Pittsburgh dominated in every single facet and shut out Cleveland, 43-0. The Steelers had 33 first downs while the Browns recorded only two. Pittsburgh piled up 464 yards, while the Browns managed to gain 40 yards for the entire game. The game truly served as a foreshadowing of things to come during the next 15 years.

It was near the game's end when the camera found Miller, obviously dejected by the imminent outcome. That's when I proclaimed my pity for the opposition, which drew the scolding from my mother.

"Never say you feel sorry for the Browns."

Fast forward two months later when my mother's warnings reached fruition. Ahead 15-7 late, my family and I watched as Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch rallied the Browns to their second of two wins in 1999. Phil Dawson (who is still playing) booted a 39 yard field goal to give the Browns their vengeance after their dismal showing in Week One. Needless to say, I learned my lesson.

It appears that the Steelers have as well. Pittsburgh is 18-3 against Cleveland since the year 2000 and have lost only five games against the Browns since 1993. Perhaps the most memorable game over the last 15 years occurred in 2002. Trailing 24-7 in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs, Tommy Maddox engineered a gallant second-half comeback victory against the Browns in their first playoff match up since 1994 (also a Steelers victory). Needless to say, this rivalry has become one-sided in the Steelers' favor. It's certainly a far cry from Cleveland's 31-9 record against the Steelers during the 1950s and 60's.

I remember my dad telling me stories about when his dad would take him to Browns-Steelers games in the 1960s, back when the games were played at old Pitt Stadium. My dad would marvel at Cleveland's Jim Brown and Paul Warfield, as the Browns enjoyed their finest moments in the NFL. That all changed in the 1970s and, with the exception of the 1980s and early 90's, the rivalry has been in the Steelers favor ever since.

To me, it meant something when Joe Greene decided to choose a Ravens and not a Browns game for his jersey retirement ceremony. This shows how diluted the rivalry has become.

Will the Browns and Steelers rivalry ever return to its prominent place among pro sports best rivalries?  I believe that it can but the Browns will have to string together some winning seasons, which might mean they'll need to keep a head coach longer than 13 months. Until then, enjoy this run of dominance by the Steelers over the Browns. As I tell my Browns buddies, everything that goes around comes around. But after 20 years of saying that, the whole coming-around thing might be just be taking its sweet time, which is fine with me.

Needless to say, I don't feel sorry for the Browns.