I was reading some stories lately, written by fan sites of rival teams. I do that periodically in the offseason just to keep up with the rival population and how they view not only their team but also our beloved Steelers. During the regular season we also do a weekly feature, “behind enemy lines” where we link to the opponent that week to get an idea of what they think about the matchup on the docket. Plus a little friendly banter back and forth is always good to get the juices flowing for the game.
Anyways, during the hum drum offseason everyone is going through the same thing we are; a lack of football. This is a trying time for fans, you can see training camp on the horizon but it still seems like it takes forever to get here.
That doesn’t stop us though because no matter what time of year there’s one thing every AFC North fan has in common with their rival, we all still hate each other!
Hate, it’s such a tough word, one that normally is used in reference to the things that you absolutely cannot stand above all else. We can debate whether “hate” is an appropriate word to use in sports another time, but for the fans though, we toss it around quite frequently.
It’s almost become as common place as saying someone is a “great player”. One extreme or the other, perhaps the true meanings of either have been watered down over the decades but that doesn’t stop us from using them when talking football. I can’t even fathom the number of times I’ve said, “I hate the Ravens”, but for me it’s not just a word, it’s a downright fact of life. There is nothing good that comes out of Ravens football and every time the Steelers play the purple boys from the bay, it’s always a wild afternoon. I won’t get too much into that right now though but for those of you that have seen my forum posts during Ravens week or in the gameday threads, you know.
Middle of the season, post season, just after the draft, it doesn’t matter because when you talk football with a fan from another team in the AFC North, it’s a full on debate that can turn heated at the drop of the hat. Call it passion or love for the sport or just a flat our distaste for anything other than your home teams colors but it’s reality in our division. When you play against the same teams decade after decade it just breeds continued contempt no matter what the record.
One such article that talks about rivalries in the AFC North came from the Cincy Jungle, where Anthony Cosenza talks about who the fans in Bengal land feel is there biggest rival. This excerpt is about the Steelers of course but you can click here to see what he says about the Browns and Ravens too.
Speaking of records, the fact that the Steelers have owned the division for so long definitely adds fuel to the fire. One such article that I read recently came from the Cincy Jungle, where they were discussing this topic from the perspective of Bengals fans and who they despise the most in terms of rivalries:
Then, there’s the Steelers. Tell me how the phrase “Steeler Week” makes you feel. Nauseous? Angry? Scared? I wouldn’t blame you if you said all of the above. Aside from the obnoxiousness that their fans bring to nearly every NFL stadium around the country, the team itself brings Bengals fans to shake their fists to the heavens. Not only have the Bengals been wildly unsuccessful against Pittsburgh, but the team and then-quarterback Carson Palmer had to suffer through a cheap shot unfortunate injury sustained in Cincinnati’s first playoff game in 15 years.
Aside from the geographical proximity that automatically comes with forming a rivalry, there’s Bengals fans envy of the Steelers success. In the 1970s and 2000s, the black and gold have forged two dynasties and have the most Super Bowl rings over any other NFL club. And anyone associated with the team likes to boast that to everyone else. The hatred of Bengals foes could peak here.
Steelers week, Ravens week, Browns week, or Bengals week, if it’s a divisional game the fans intensity level goes up a few hundred notches. If you’ve ever been to Baltimore, Cleveland, or Cincinnati when the Steelers come to town, you also know how intense it can be. The Ravens especially, that’s as much a warzone in the stands as it is on the field for the players. Fans gets tossed out like clockwork, some even before the game starts. I’ve seen that first hand, not that I have been personally thrown out but I’ve been to Baltimore for a Steelers game and it’s anything but pretty that’s for sure.
The fact that the Ravens are originally the Browns certainly adds to the intensity for the fans. If there’s ever a thing that Ravens fans hate, it’s being called the Browns. They can’t deny it, which is great! Cleveland and Cincinnati being so close to each other, in the same state, is reason enough for them to despise each other but given the fact that both teams were so bad for so long it’s hard to really think they have the intensity that Steelers vs Ravens do. Perhaps that may change now that the Bengals seemed to be showing signs of life in the last couple of years. As for the Browns well, until they prove otherwise they are just still the same old “Cleve Brownies” ( to quote the late, great, Myron Cope”).
I could go on and on with stories about talking with rival teams fans both during the regular season and the offseason, but suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of the AFC Central and the AFC North, you know what a true rivalry really is.