There’s no other feeling like it: your favorite team has just beaten its fiercest rival, and you’re practically giddy with joy.
After all the trash-talk, dirty hits and bulletin-board material, your team has come out on top, emphatically proving their superiority for the time being. These games, whether they be last-second heartbreakers or ugly blowouts, are some of the most heavily replayed games in the home of any sports fan, and fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers are no exception to this rule.
Case in point: the 2015 Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 2015 iteration of the Bengals was the most competitive version of the team that Cincinnati has fielded in recent memory, and they were a great antagonist.
The regular-season battles were highly physical, dirty even, with multiple injuries sustained on both sides that eventually left the Bengals without their starting quarterback and the Steelers forced to rely on their backup running back.
Then came the Wild Card game.
The game was a nail-biter, and heading into the closing minutes, the Bengals seemed poised to finally step out of Pittsburgh’s shadow and escape the “little brother” label that had followed them for years...and then came one of the greatest meltdowns in NFL history.
I recently re-watched the highlights for the game, and even though I knew the outcome, I still got excited. Unfortunately, teams like the Bengals seem to be more of a seasonal variant style of rivalry, with the Steelers regularly beating up on them, minus a few years like 2005 or 2015, where the Bengals were actually a threat. Interesting as the rivalry with the Bengals was during those years, they would invariably revert to being the same old Bungles the very next season.
However, some of the Steelers’ other rivalries are much more consistent, and, as such, much more interesting. All of this brought an interesting question to my mind:
What team do Steelers fans actually consider to be the black-and-gold’s greatest rival?
What teams come to mind when you think of the Steel-City’s worst enemies? I think of four in particular: The Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Raiders. The Steelers have a few other rivals, like the Green Bay Packers (who I still haven’t fully forgiven for winning Super Bowl XLV), or the in-state Philadelphia Eagles. In my opinion, however, none of these other rivals really has a good case for being the greatest enemy of our beloved Steelers.
The Ravens, affectionately dubbed “the Ratbirds” by the black-and-gold faithful, are the main rival to the Steelers within their own division. Originally the Cleveland Browns before moving to Baltimore, the Ravens have always played the Steelers hard. Both teams are known for putting their primary focus on the defensive side of the ball, and the games between these clubs are often gritty, low-scoring affairs. Playing this team twice every season goes a long way towards inspiring the hate these teams hold for each other. The Ravens are a team that the fanbase actively roots against, and even if the Steelers went 2-15 this season, it’s possible that the fanbase could forgive them if those two wins come against Baltimore.
The Patriots are a team despised not only by the Steelers, but by a vast majority of fans across the NFL. Is this hatred born purely out of jealousy at the Patriots’ success, as the New England fanbase so frequently claims? Not quite. The Patriots are notorious for utilizing obscure rules to fuel themselves to victory, and they seem to be the favorite team of every referee in the league. What’s worse, however, is that they seem to be at their best when they face the Steelers. Including the playoffs, the two teams have faced off nine different times since 2010, with the Patriots winning seven of those games. However, with Tom Brady leaving, the days of the Patriots’ league-wide dominance seem to be over, and the rivalry between these two teams could start to cool down.
The rivalry with the Cowboys is a rather strange one, seeing as how the two teams are in different conferences and rarely play each other. This rivalry is based mainly on the fact that these teams are considered to be two of the most popular teams in the NFL, and that they seem to have a penchant for meeting up in the Super Bowl, having faced off on the NFL’s biggest stage on three separate occasions, with the Steelers claiming victory twice. Neither of these teams has been to a Super Bowl recently, but it’s always interesting to watch the two storied franchises take each other on.
The Raiders can arguably make the claim of being Pittsburgh’s first great rival. The Immaculate Reception against the Raiders spurred the Steelers to their first-ever playoff win, and the controversial ruling on that play have sparked decades of saltiness from fans of the silver-and-black. While their rivalry was fierce in 1970’s, the Raiders have spiraled into mediocrity, leaving the modern-day games between the clubs feeling a bit bland. That said, games against the Raiders seem to be a textbook definition of the dreaded “trap-games” that bite the Steelers so frequently, and the Raiders have actually beaten the Steelers in three of their last four meetings.
Personally, I believe that the Baltimore Ravens are the Steelers’ greatest rival. I think the two teams are consistently competitive, and playing twice every season goes a long way in building the rivalry’s legacy. That said, I don’t speak for everybody, and I’d love to see what the rest of the fan base thinks. Please vote in the poll below to help determine once and for all which team is TRULY the Steelers’ greatest rival.
Which team is our greatest rival?
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