A Blast from the Past: Some Things Never Change

Although there was only one week between this and the previous set of Burning Questions, another game had occurred. And a fine one it was. The Steelers had beaten the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium a few weeks before, 24-17, and just to make sure everyone was paying attention, they beat them 35-7 at home.

Anthony Defeo wrote an article for Behind the Steel Curtain after the game titled Little Room for Complaint with the Steelers 35-7 Victory over BengalsIn it he went through the litany of complaints from fans about the 2011 team—too much passing, too little running game, Steelers don’t put opponents away when they have the chance, too few takeaways, red zone inefficiency, Ike Taylor dropping interceptions, you name it. It’s a fun piece—check it out.

Some of Hombre’s questions were specific to that particular roster, but there were several still worth considering. The first one is somewhat along the lines of the Anthony Defeo article:

1. The NFL is a passing league and the Steelers are a passing team. Ok, with that out of the way, did it or did it not stir something in your soul to see the Steelers pound in not one, but two runs from inside the red zone?

I suspect the answers to that question would still be just the same—some longing for the old days, and some happy to have points however they come.

I found this question to be another perennial subject of discussion:

4. A Cincinnatian and a true football visionary, having predicted Bill Belichick’s rise in 1996,  was incensed at some of the calls in the Bengals game. While I respectfully disagree with my friend in this case, we can admit that there have been times when the Steelers have been beneficiaries of questionable or incorrect calls. For just this once, can you put aside your Pittsburgh pride and fess up to some of the times when you think the Steelers have come out on the lucky end of wrong calls or non-calls?

No. I can’t. The refs are always prejudiced in favor of the opponent, whether we are at home or away. Next question:

5. The Steelers play the Browns this week, their historic rival. Although Cleveland has given Pittsburgh its worst loss ever as well as other heart breaking defeats, do you feel that the feud has cooled between the two teams? Why or why not?

I think this question might be interesting in light of the doings in Cleveland. For once it seems as if the team has made some savvy moves, particularly in the hiring of Hue Jackson. He is a guy who knows the AFC North really well. In fact, even better than I realized, when I looked up his career.

He was the quarterbacks coach for the Ravens for the 2008-09 seasons, which I had completely forgotten about, if I ever knew it. The Raiders then hired him first as Offensive Coordinator, then promoted him to head coach. And then fired him. Don’t you love the Raiders? Here’s the other peculiar thing—the Bengals picked him up as an assistant defensive backs coach. Seems really odd, since he was always an offense-type coach. They then made him the running backs coach for 2013, and promoted him to Offensive Coordinator in 2014. Obviously a versatile guy…

And his hiring, along with what seem to be some sensible moves, is perhaps turning around the league perception of the Browns.

If you don’t believe that, chew on this piece of information for a moment. Colin Kaepernick asked to be traded to Cleveland. Cleveland, the place where quarterbacks go to die. Or where, as the ESPN article linked above notes,

The Browns have lost five players through free agency this offseason, and some players over the past couple of weeks have said privately that they view playing in Cleveland like going to college: up to four years and they’re out.

Obviously Kaepernick is in a currently untenable situation in San Francisco, but still, there are a lot of places around the league who might be looking for a quarterback where Kaepernick might well wish to go. Like, say, the Broncos. Gives Steeler fans a pause for thought.

To return to the original question, somehow the Cleveland “rivalry” always seemed a bit one-sided to me, coming to the whole thing late as I did. It’s a bit like a little yippie dog dancing around a Rottweiler—the little yippie dog might consider itself and the Rottweiler to be rivals, and with all the dancing and jumping about and barking might actually manage to do some damage, but in the end the Rottweiler is going to be merely annoyed.

But let’s see what folks were saying back in 2011:

barnburner starts us off:

I think the rivalry moved when the old Browns became the Ravens. These new Browns have tried to retake the mantle and lore of the old Browns, but they’re just not the same franchise. They need to build a new history, rather than just trying to cling to the bygone days, and start by reviving their play on the field for Pittsburgh/Cleveland to become a proper rivalry again.

Mike Frazer had a slightly different take:

This rivalry is to the Steelers what Eagles/Cowboys is to the Cowboys, but for different reasons. In Dallas (I lived outside Ft. Worth for several years and then outside Philly for 17 years so I have seen both sides of this firsthand) the biggest rivalry is Washington, the the Giants. The Eagles are a distant third, because over the long history of the NFC East, the Eagles are very much a newcomer to success. In Philly, though, the Cowboys are Public Enemy #1 because of their successes in the 70s and 90s. For Cleveland, Pittsburgh is the biggest rivalry, always has been. For the Steelers, it’s Baltimore and then Cincy, until the Browns figure out how to win consistently again.

PixburghArn longed for the old days:

It’s cooled a lot, I miss the rivalry. I have a hard time with the Ravens “rivalry” because it just doesn’t feel right. I don’t like the Ravens because I just don’t like them. I don’t like the Browns because they are like a brother. It really hurt my feelings when the Browns left. I was hoping we would continue the knock down drag outs we had grown to love when they came back. It has not been that way. My Browns friends don’t even talk trash anymore. Even when they beat us they are lethargic . knowhatImean?

PaVaSteeler made an excellent point:

With the Bengals coming on, and the Ratbirds still being the Ratbirds, I don’t mind having a “non-rival” in a division already overcrowded with competitors for the crown.

From Ivan Cole, as you can tell by the length : ):

Something a little counter intuitive about this. This rivalry was just as lopsided competitively in the 50s and 60s (with the roles reversed) as it is now. What drove it then was the proximity of the two cities and the similarities of their fan bases. Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio were (are?) football country. Fans traveled to games from both sides. The Cleveland game was likely to be the only home game of the season that was a certain sell out. The teams fought figuretively and literally on the field (Check out a segment in the America’s Game series highlighting the 75 Steelers. Joe Greene kicks a Browns offensive lineman in the groin setting off a brawl). And that was happening the fans were going at it in the stands. It was glorious, and certainly by today’s standards decidedly barbaric and appalling. Nobody much cared about records and it may be questionable how much they cared about the eventual outcome of the game.

Unfortunately, much of the football savvy, institutional memory, passion and fire for the game moved to Baltimore with the Ravens. Perhaps that is for the best. If the past ten years or so of the Ravens rivalry had been played out between Pittsburgh and Cleveland someone might well be dead by now. Baltimore has similar blue-collar roots, but not the same football pedigree. Eventually, hopefully, this new franchise will catch up to its legacy and things will heat up again.

And remember Chuck Noll grew up in Cleveland and played for the Browns. Bill Cowher played for the Browns.

So what say you? Are you pleased or concerned that Cleveland might actually turn into a real rivalry again—or at least not two semi-automatic ticks in the W column, along with a lengthening of the injury list? I’m definitely conflicted myself…

4 comments

  • Laughed hard at the superbly succinct answer to question four. Will try to provide the same here to the last question: gimme the two semi-automatic ticks each and every year por favor. This squad plays four vicious rivalry games against Baltimore and Cincinnati every year, more than enough thank you, fully agree with PaVa. Less than zero conflict in this cruel heart who loves watch our team beat up on the Clowns as often as possible. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’m not sure I feel sorry for Cleveland’s sports fan base whatsoever. They allowed the Cleveland Barons hockey team to die after only two years of operations with pitiful attendance, whined like babies when LeBron took his show to Miami, don’t support the Indians very well when the team is not going well and somehow allowed the first incarnation of the Browns to pack up and leave to Baltimore overnight. Hhhhmmmmm.

    Yes, no pity here. 🙂

    But seriously, when free agents fly outta town en masse as we saw this spring with the Browns, squad so poorly run and drafted Johnny, ahem, Football when a lot of other teams would go nowhere near him and now have Griffin (I refuse to call someone who had one semi-decent year as a rook RGIII like he is some kind of demi-god) perhaps coming in to save the day, well, no pity. Ha ha! I really do respect Hue Jackson a lot though, good first step for the Browns. Great coach that the Raiders should never have let go.

    The sheer amount of misery Brown fans have had to endure does engender some empathy here though no doubt. They support their squad quite well even in bad times, and have gone through such horror year after year and decade after decade. The Drive, no Super Bowls EVER, fawning over stiffs like Bernie Kosar and on and on and on. And they have to live in, ugh, Cleveland! Ouch! There truly is no there there as a writer once wrote of Oakland. BUT at least Oakland has great weather and is in California! Sheesh! 🙂

    Yes, ya gotta feel for Browns fans. I know they had litle to do with the loss of their beloved Browns to Baltimore. Tough being a Browns fan no doubt. I guess it feels like being a Steelers fan before the rise of The Emperor or a Penguins fan before Mario. Or a Cubs fan since 1908 (shudders in horror).

    Like

  • Forgot to mention that Marvin and the Bungles are probably going to really miss Hue Jackson too. Great coach! Wish him all the best and hope the Browns have a good year(s), just not against our beloveds.

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