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The BTSC Delorean: Looking back at the most memorable Steelers at Browns contests

BTSC takes a look back at the series history between the Steelers and Browns.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns

Do the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a long and storied history? Absolutely. The rivalry dates back to 1950 and started off 32-9 in favor of the Browns in the first 20 years. But since 1970, Pittsburgh has dominated the series 70-29-1. Despite the recent success of the Men of Steel, the Browns continue to be a challenge to the Steelers every single season. This week, BTSC only takes a look at the games that took place in Cleveland.

Here’s a brief tale of the tape:

Points: Steelers 2,950, Browns 2,719

Wins: Steelers 79. Browns 61

Home Record: Steelers 50-22, Browns 39-29

Shutouts: 9 (Steelers 5, Browns 4)

Steelers 31, Browns 0 (12/28/2008), Steelers 41, Browns 0 (12/24/2005), Steelers 43, Browns 0 (9/12/1999), Steelers 35, Browns 0 (12/23/1990), Browns 51, Steelers 0 (9/10/1989), Steelers 30, Browns 0 (12/3/1972), Browns 24, Steelers 0 (11/10/1957), Browns 28, Steelers 0 (12/9/1951), Browns 17, Steelers 0 (10/21/1951)

Biggest Win Margin: 9/10/1989 - Browns 51, Steelers 0

Closest Game: 09/09/2018 - Steelers 21, Browns 21

Overtime Games: 7 - Steelers 5, Browns 1, 1 Tie

Postseason Record: Steelers 2, Browns 1

November 22, 1959 - Steelers 21, Browns 20

The 1959 Browns were a team looking for their fourth NFL Championship of the decade and as winners of five straight looked to be a team that could do it again. Especially with eventual Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown leading the league for the third straight year as the NFL’s Rushing Champ. The Steelers, competitive in the Buddy Parker era, came in to Cleveland Municipal Stadium at 3-4-1 looking to establish hope for the future. Behind Tom Tracy’s two second quarter touchdowns, the Steelers took a surprising early lead. But the juggernaut Browns stormed back with three Milt Plum to Ray Renfro touchdown passes. Late in the contest, Bobby Layne reeled off a 72-yard run and added his third extra-point of the afternoon for a 21-20 lead. But the Browns had one more possession and the soldiers to march down the field and walk-it-off as time expired. But the legendary Lou “The Toe” Groza”, who uncharacteristically shanked an extra-point and was unsuccessful on a 46-yarder earlier, missed the game-winning field goal from 49-yards out as time expired. The loss dropped the Browns from first place and they ended up winning only one more time to go 7-5. The Steelers won again the next week, and twice in their last three games, to finish a respectable fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 6-5-1 mark.

October 10, 1964 - Steelers 23, Browns 7

There once was a time, before the Super Bowl era, when the Browns were the toast of the league and the Steelers were door mats. On a dreary October day in Autumn of ‘64. the heavily-favored Browns hosted their rivals from the Keystone State on a sloppy playing surface. 80,530 fans were in attendance in Week 5 to watch their undefeated gridiron heroes trounce their black-and-gold visitors. But legendary coach Buddy Parker used the poor field conditions to his team’s advantage and feasted on the ground to the menu of an NFL season high that year of 354 rushing yards, 200 courtesy of 35-year-old John Henry Johnson. The future Hall of Famer scored all three Steeler touchdowns on the day. Pittsburgh would ultimately only win two more games that season and Cleveland would go on to win the NFL Championship, but the bragging rights on that day belonged to the Men of Steel.

October 7, 1979 - Steelers 51, Browns 35

With the Steel City in an absolute frenzy with the Pirates just days away from the 1979 World Series, the defending champion Steelers were in a battle for first place in the division, the 4-1 Steelers went into Cleveland Municipal Stadium to face the 4-1 Browns for AFC Central supremacy. The Steelers finally had their starting offensive line quintet of Jon Kolb, Sam Davis, Mike Webster, Gerry Mullins and Larry Brown finally intact and healthy for the first time all season.

It looked like the day would be one of an absolute drubbing when the Browns fumbled on their first series and Dennis “Dirt” Winston’s recovery led to Terry Bradshaw connecting with Benny Cunningham on seven-yard scoring play. a punt set up a TB12 TD pass to Sidney Thornton, a Steelers stop of the Browns at the six and Don Cockroft’s subsequent miss of a 23-yard field goal made possible Franco Harris’ gallop of 71-yards for a score and a Dino Hall fumble led to Jim Smith hauling in a pass for a 27-0 lead (Matt Bahr missed the point after) in the game’s first 16 minutes. But the Browns had plenty of fight in them. Brian Sipe was excellent in this game though and got the Browns on the board with a 33-yard scoring toss to Reggie Rucker on play action. The Browns got down to the one right away again, but Donnie Shell intercepted Sipe to end the threat. Late in the half, Cleveland’s punter Johnny Evans surprised the Steelers with a fake and a first down to give Sipe another shot, which he converted into points on a TD pass to Ozzie Newsome. But every time their rivals got momentum, Pittsburgh squashed it. This time with a field goal right with seconds before the half to make it 30-14.

In the final 30 minutes, the Steelers went back to the ground game and Franco reached the end zone from 25 yards away. Then Sipe and Calvin Hill collaborated on a 4th and 14 for a touchdown and a 37-21 score at the conclusion of three. After Rocky Bleier cruised 70 yards to paydirt, the longest run of his career. The Steelers came up empty after Mike Wagner’s second pick of Sipe and then a few series later, Greg Hawthorne’s fumble led to a Cleveland run on points. Dave Logan caught a 13-yard scoring pass and then, after a swerve on the onside kick with Randy Rich kicking instead of Cockroft to cross-up the Steelers allowing the recovery, Logan did it again with a one-handed grab from 30 yards away to close-in at 44-35 with 9:10 left. The fired-up Browns and their fans were feeling it and it seemed like they would come back, but Bradshaw and company marched 94 yards in a 15-play, drive draining 8:34 off of the clock. Sidney Thornton capped off the drive with a one-yard burst to put out the Browns fire for good.

Sam Rutigliano’s team was a worthy opponent riding on the arm of Brian Sipe (351 yards, 5 TDs and 3 INTs) and amassing 688 total yards, but the Steelers piled up 611 of their own, including an extraordinary 361 yards rushing with Franco gaining 153, Thornton going for 98 and 81 from the Rock. Pittsburgh may have had World Series Fever, but the Steelers continued to prove their winning to be epidemic.

October 26, 1980 - Browns 27, Steelers 26

The Steelers, winners of eight consecutive games against Cleveland, stunted their division foe’s playoff hopes in 1978 and 1979. In a battle of two 4-3 teams, the Cardiac Kids were feverishly trying to catch their tormentors and turn the corner in the AFC. Two Greg Hawthorne scoring runs coupled with a pair of Matt Bahr field goals were instrumental in the Steelers taking a 13-point lead in the third. But the Browns would erupt after. Quarterback Brian Sipe’s touchdown passes to Calvin Hill and two to Greg Pruitt got the Browns to within six points of the visitors from the Steel City who only scored once in that barrage (Sidney Thornton’s two-yard plunge), but Brian Sipe iced the comeback with an 18-yaerd scoring pass to the incredible Ozzie Newsome. This game would serve notice to big brother Pittsburgh that little bro meant business in the 1980’s.

November 23, 1986 - Browns 37, Steelers 31 (OT)

1986 was a trying year for the Steelers as the Browns, not only won for the first time in Three Rivers, but swept the Steelers for the first time in 17 years. However, the Steelers fought valiantly in this contest and scored on the game’s first drive, that included a Mark Malone to Louis Lipps 44-yard hookup, that Walter Abercrombie capped-off with a one-yard TD plunge. The Steelers defense held birthday-boy Bernie Kosar and the Browns scoreless in the first quarter when a penalty wiped out a touchdown on a brilliant second-effort from Kevin Mack. The very next play, Brian Hinkle intercepted Kosar and appeared to have an 89-yard pick-six, but No. 53 was deemed down on the catch. It was the second quarter when the AFC Central leaders got on the board, but it wasn’t easy. Mark Harper’s interception of Mark Malone put the Brownies on the doorstop, but Kosar again threw the ball to the wrong Jersey, but John Swain’s theft was wiped out the turnover. The home team finally scored courtesy of Mack and Curtis Dickey’s short touchdown runs, but Abercrombie’s 38-yard jaunt tied it at 14. Getting the ball back before the half, Kosar’s then put the ball in the air to Ozzie Newsome for a 20-yard hookup for a 21-14 lead. The Browns were barely able to take that lead into intermission despite Lupe Sanchez’ 58-yard kick return because Gary Anderson’s field goal attempt went wide.

In the second half, the Steelers matched every score. Two Mark Malone one-yard scoring runs bookended a Curtis Dickey four-yard score, followed by Matt Bahr and Anderson trading field goals to make it 31-31 at regulation’s end. The clock struck midnight on the black and gold at the 7:38 mark in overtime when Bernie Kosar launched a 36-yd bomb to sensational rookie Webster Slaughter (6 catches for 134 yards). Chuck Noll’s Steelers battled to the end, but Kosar’s 414 yds and two touchdowns were enough to drop the Steelers to 4-8 on the very tumultuous season.

November 14, 2004 - Steelers 24, Browns 10

Ohio-native Ben Roethlisberger got his first-ever of many professional wins in the Buckeye State to remain perfect and win his seventh-straight to start his career despite being threatened by Cleveland defensive lineman Gerard Warren beforehand. But the real story of the game wasn’t Big Ben or Jerome Bettis’ 103 yards with two touchdowns attached, it was the emergence of James Harrison. During pregame warmups, Joey Porter bloodied the lip of Browns running back William Green in a pregame skirmish leading to both players’ ejections. Harrison, forced into emergency duty, had six tackles and one of the Steelers four sacks in the 24-10 triumph that raised our heroes in hypocycloid’s record to 8-1.

September 9, 2007 - Steelers 34, Browns 7

Mike Tomlin’s very-first, regular-season game of his illustrious career was very one-sided. If you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, then your side was the one that celebrated. Ben Roethlisberger threw (a then career high) four touchdown passes to four different targets, (Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth), while Willie Parker dashed for 109 yards. The defense was stifling by forcing five turnovers and sacking Cleveland QBs on six occasions. Tomlin received the game ball for his first, career victory, but in typical Coach T. fashion said to ESPN, “This win is not about me. This is the story of the 2007 Steelers.”

November 14, 2019 - Browns 21, Steelers 7

I don’t want to include this game in here, but it sure is infamously memorable. This will go down as a horrendous loss for the Steelers and even more career-crippling for Mason Rudolph who threw four interceptions and was sacked four times, but that wasn’t the most-embarrassing part of this debacle. The entire Steelers roster looked terrible in front of a Thursday Night audience in Cleveland, as the offense couldn’t get anything going and the defense didn’t do much to stop Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and company. But this game will always be remembered for the despicable ending when Myles Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet and proceeded to hit him over his exposed head with said cranial protective gear. A fight ensued, fines and suspensions were levied. nasty accusations were thrown about later to try and save face and football received a black eye. Make that a sore skull.