April 23, 2014

Can the Browns rivalry with the Steelers ever return?

brownssteelersstripingBill Polian said that he and Tony Dungy had an understanding that he could get his team up to play with just a little bit more intensity just a few times per year. It makes sense. Football players are human and their effort is likely to be somewhat consistent to their abilities most of the time with a little bit of fluctuation up or down. To think that you can get a team up to play at maximum level every single Sunday is unrealistic. Will Rob Chudzinski be able to do that this weekend with his team? Is there any way to make a modern NFL player feel a rivalry the same way fans have been raised to respect it? I’m not so sure.

Of course it helps that the Steelers are a divisional opponent. Competing in the division is important to any NFL player simply because it is the easiest gateway to the NFL playoffs. If you can’t handle your business against the guys who are all scheduled twice per season, year-in and year-out, how are you ever going to make meaningful strides toward winning a Super Bowl? Even then though, does that put the Steelers on any different level for players on the Cleveland Browns roster than when they play Baltimore or Cincinnati?

I think a lot of this has to do with free agency. I listened to Hanford Dixon talking to Kylie and Booms this morning about the Pittsburgh rivalry and how much it meant to him and his peers when he played for the Browns. He played his entire career with the etam from 1981 to 1989. One of the city’s favorite Browns of all time, Clay Matthews played for 19 season and all but his last three were in Cleveland. Can you imagine any player sticking around Cleveland for 16 seasons? Joe Thomas seems like he’s been in Cleveland forever at this point, but even he isn’t halfway to Clay Matthews’ tenure.

The rules changes don’t help either. I’m not complaining about that, necessarily, but new safety rules take some of the volatility and targeting out of the game. There’s a reason that we all remember Turkey Jones, but if a play like that happened today, the suplex of an opposing team’s quarterback might draw an indefinite suspension equal to a complete ban. Plays like that certainly don’t hurt a rivalry any, but take a look below and tell me what would happen if that play happened in 2013.

So, we’ll obviously see if the Browns have a rivalry game in them. We’ll see if Barkevious Mingo can rise to his coach’s challenge to get after Ben Roethlisberger. We’ll see if Phil Taylor gets a little bit mean and nasty when given the opportunity to do so within the rules.

I know the rivalry will be alive and well in the stands where there will likely be a mix of both Brown and Orange and those putrid Steelers colors. What is so obnoxious and annoying to us in the stands though, might not seem nearly as contentious on the field. We’ll see what Chud can conjure up in his first Steelers game as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

  • LesFleursDuMal

    With a sweep of the Steelers this year, it will have to become a rivalry again as both the Steeler players and fans will have to recognize the Browns as players in the division.

  • Jay

    I fail to see the penalty in the video.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    It was pretty clear. When Bradshaw hit the ground he was OBVIOUSLY leading with the crown of his helmet….

  • FearTheRoo

    Pretty sure the Browns will get swept by the Steelers this year. We are playing seriously awful right now. I don’t see how we have any chance on Sunday.

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    As Browns fans we are conditioned almost from birth to hate the Steelers because they are the Browns “biggest rival.”

    Craig raises an interesting question when he asks if the rivalry can ever return. That got me to thinking: Has Browns vs. Steelers EVER been a rivalry?

    If you look at the on-field results, the answer would easily be no. Both teams have rarely been good at the same time and, for the most part, the series has always had one-sided swings to it:

    *From the time the Browns joined the NFL in 1950 until the AFL/NFL merger, Cleveland 31-9 vs. Pittsburgh

    *The 1970s saw the Browns go 5-15 vs. the Steelers

    *The ’80s were the only time with any real balance, as the Browns had a 12-7 lead in the decade.

    *The ’90s switched back to the Steelers, with the Browns going just 5-10.

    *Since 2000, the Browns are just 4-23 vs. Pittsburgh.

    So if the on-field results don’t support it, what makes this a rivalry, other than one of simple geography?

    Maybe the answer is a rivalry is what the fans determine it to be. Maybe the rivalry doesn’t have to return because it never left.

    I may turn this into a longer post on my site tonight and I’m interested to hear what other fans think. I may use some of the comments as well, if that is OK with Craig and the lads.

  • MrCleaveland

    The rivalry absolutely can return. All we have to do is get good. Then you’ll see some of the ferocity of old.

    On a sour note, back when Gerard Warren was a young Brown, he made a statement about taking the Steeler QB’s head off prior to a game here. And I remember our wimpy Plain Dealer columnists all acting shocked and disgusted by such a barbaric thought. Bunch of touchy-feely pansies.

  • MrCleaveland

    Well, Tom, like they say, you can throw out the record books when these two teams meet. At least prior to the move.

    The rivalry was pretty intense in the ’70s, even though we went only 5-15. But back then, the Steelers were beating EVERYBODY, not just us. But the Kardiac Kids had some great muddy knock-down drag-outs against Mean Joe and the boys. And Jack Lambert always said he loved coming here to play us.

    Even in the ’90s, the games were generally close, and the feeling was pretty intense.

    So despite the swings, the rivalry remained pretty good up until the move, and the fans were into it.

  • bossman09

    You must be fairly young.
    I’m 42 and started watching football in the late 70s and every single week the Browns played the Steelers, all everyone talked about was beating them. Every joke told for 7 days was about hairy pittsburgh women. It pains me that people from cleveland even question that the rivalry existed.
    Remember that a rivalry isn’t about both teams being excellent – Its about one team stopping the other from being successful. The browns could be 2-14 EVERY YEAR but if both of those wins were pittsburgh, it would be a rivalry. That’s why the records are irrelavant.
    Think of it another way – “that team up north” hasn’t been good for years, but one win against Ohio State would throw the world into a tailspin and it’s happened several times both ways, keeping the other team out of the rosebowl or a national championship.

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    That’s good. I think that speaks to the fact that it’s the fans, more than the teams (per se) that make the rivalry.

    And FWIW, I’m older than you. I remember listening to Pete Franklin get the town worked up in the week leading up to the Pittsburgh game.

  • mgbode

    yes, Pitt has been amazing this year. they are an unstoppable force.

    note on NFL game-to-game. Jets lose 9-49 v. Cinci. The next week they beat NO 26-20. it’s a crazy year in the middle this season.

  • CB Everett

    I agree with your hypothesis, Tom. Just because one side has the might (temporary or long term), it doesn’t mean a “rivalry” ceases to exist. Maybe the Hatfields get the upper hand over the McCoys, or maybe not, but the competitive fire still burns.

    In fact, one could argue that an imbalance stokes the fires even more so. Think Boston’s hatred for the Yankees. Between 1918-2004, how many championships did Boston win vs, New York? And yet, it was still accepted as a quintessential rivalry because the fans deemed it to be for all those long years.

  • mgbode

    yep and that starts this Sunday when we make Ben look like Bubby.

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    Good stuff. I think this is an extension of how, because of free agency, we have become fans of the name on the front of the jersey in many respects, rather than fans of the name on the back of the jersey.

  • CB Everett

    Roo, I’m really second-guessing your invite to the New Year’s party.

  • Kildawg

    With how annoying Terry Bradshaw is, can we get Turkey Jones to drag him down again?

  • scripty

    A rivalry is decided by the fans. The players, coaches, front offices and management change. Fans are around for the duration. If the fans decide it is a rivalry, so be it. There are ebbs and flows. Owners and players get rich off the backs of the fans. This is one thing they own. To tie it to players, rules, etc is foolhardy.

  • Rudy

    It’s only gotten worse. Much worse.

  • Rudy

    It’s not a rivalry when only one team wins. That being said, the people who have run and played for this expansion franchise never indicated that they knew anything about what was once the best rivalry in pro football. Hopefully, this is something Chud brings with him. It is time this team becomes the ‘Browns’ in more than their uniforms. To an old timer like me, 2-14 is a successful season as long as both wins come against the Steelers.

  • Rudy

    The best part of that sack is Bradshaw’s semi-conscious twitching.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    he ain’t young.

  • http://www.redright88.com/ Tom_RedRight88

    Hey!

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    i can say that because i’m about the same age no?