The Steelers-Browns rivalry certainly gained some intensity in the past couple of years, with some return to prominence from the Steelers’ nearby foes from Cleveland, and the rivalry has been recognized as one of the hottest in the NFL for the 2021 season.
Things really started to simmer in 2019, even though both teams suffered below-expectation results from the season, as a late-game brawl in Cleveland saw Browns defensive end Myles Garrett assault Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with his own helmet and several players suspended, including Garrett, who missed the rest of the season.
In 2020, the Steelers won the first meeting between the teams easily, and in Week 17, let the Browns win a must-win game for Cleveland while leaving a handful of starters back home in Pittsburgh. The Browns finished 11-5 for the team’s best record since 1994 and with the Week 17 win, also made the postseason for the first time since 2002.
In that postseason, the Browns upset the Steelers at Heinz Field in the Wild Card round, Cleveland’s first playoff victory since 1994 and first postseason win at Pittsburgh ever.
That sets up a crucial 2021 for both teams, with each hoping to build off a return to the playoffs in 2020. When listing the league’s best rivalries for this coming season on Thursday, NFL.com’s Adam Rank said the Steelers and Browns are among the best.
“Lately, it feels like the Steelers’ games vs. the Browns have become more of a blood feud,” Rank wrote. “The Steelers won the division thanks to an 11-0 start to the season. But Pittsburgh lost four of their last five regular-season bouts. And then the Browns embarrassed them with a 48-37 Wild Card Weekend shellacking that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
“This feels like the Browns’ time to really take control of this AFC North rivalry. Like, if this were Mortal Kombat, the game would be yelling, “Finish him!””
While Steelers fans might disagree with Rank’s thoughts on the state of the rivalry, there’s no question the games against Cleveland this fall will be circled as soon as the schedule comes out.