Wednesday, December 06, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Since they first played Cleveland Oct. 7, 1950, and lost, 30-17, the Steelers have tried -- fruitlessly -- to catch the Browns, who won the first eight games of the series and were 16-2 at one point.
Fifty-six years later, the Steelers have a chance to tie the series with the Browns for the first time since their second meeting in 1950 when they play tomorrow night in Heinz Field -- the 110th game of the series.
Cleveland leads 55-54, including two playoff games won by the Steelers.
The series has become lopsided lately. The Steelers are 19-3 against the Browns since their second meeting in the 1993 season and have won the past six, including 24-20 Nov. 19 in Cleveland.
Few have waited as long to see the Steelers climb back even in the series with the Browns than Dan Rooney, who first started working for his father's club as a ballboy in the 1940s.
"That's a big deal," Rooney said yesterday. "They've been our big rivalry and that will pick up again the same way. And this is an important game for us."
Rooney pointed out that while the great Steelers Super Bowl teams of the 1970s dominated the Browns in Three Rivers Stadium, that wasn't the case when they played in Cleveland.
"We only won five times there during the 1970s," Rooney said.
In the decade of the '70s, the Steelers were 5-5 in Cleveland. They were 10-0 at Three Rivers Stadium, where the Steelers won the first 16 games against the Browns.
The Browns and then-owner Art Modell tried to break their jinx in Three Rivers Stadium by doing something different every year -- flying to Pittsburgh instead of taking buses or changing the hotel where they stayed. Once, the Browns even brought some dirt with them from old Cleveland Stadium and spread it on the artificial turf at Three Rivers. It didn't prevent them from losing again.
Nothing worked until the Browns finally ended their futility Oct. 5, 1986, with a 27-24 win at Three Rivers Stadium. It was the start of a four-game winning streak for them in Pittsburgh. However, the Steelers have dominated the Browns at home, where they are 29-6 since the 1970 NFL merger.
Another footnote in what historically has been the Steelers' most bitter rivalry -- Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Noll, a Cleveland native who played for the Browns in the 1950s when they so dominated the Steelers, won his last game as Steelers coach Dec. 22, 1991, a 17-10 victory against the Browns at Three Rivers Stadium.