Cleveland is Taking Control of the Steelers-Browns rivalry

By Joe Smeltzer

“I want to send a message. A message to everyone who ever made fun of Cleveland. A message to anyone who ever told a Cleveland joke or laughed at a Cleveland joke. You can now officially shut up!

– Drew Carey, Sept. 12, 1999

It took 21 years, but Carey is finally right.

The Steelers couldn’t win forever. The Browns weren’t going to lose forever. It’s just logic.

Yet, it was something that none of us believed. Not that there haven’t been unremarkable Steelers teams. For instance, the Pittsburgh squad that came to Cleveland the night Carey said those words— which marked the first Browns game of the post-Modell era— went 6-10.

Yet that team, with Richard Huntley leading the way, beat Cleveland 43-0.

If the Steelers are bad, the Browns will be worse. It’s been that way since 1989, the last time the Browns finished ahead of the Steelers in the standings.

Cleveland football died when Mean Old Artie moved the team to Baltimore, and the new franchise is comic relief for the rest of the NFL.

The new Browns are Dwayne Rudd turning a win into a loss by removing his helmet too early. Or Orlando Brown assaulting an official. Or Charlie Frye trying really really hard to play quarterback.

No more.

Sunday night’s massacre at Heinz Field will take years for to get over. It’s not that the Steelers team were poised to win a Super Bowl, but they were certainly not expected to get embarrassed at home by “little brother.” Well, they did, and unfortunately, it won’t be an aberration.

Baker Mayfield is on the rise. Ben Roethlisberger is on the way out, if not this offseason, then next.

The Steelers can’t run the ball, although help could be on the way in the draft should the team snag Alabama’s Najee Harris. The Browns pound the rock as well or better than anybody else.

The Steelers offensive line is old and, at times, incompetent. The Browns’ hosses up front made “Blitzburgh” look like a joke Sunday night.

Kevin Stefanski is a rock star. Mike Tomlin has people questioning his job security, and those who aren’t now probably will be if 2021 doesn’t go well.

The Browns might not be ready to win a Super Bowl yet. They may even get beat this week in Kansas City. But they’re a lot closer than the Steelers are. Pittsburgh is better off recognizing that it needs to rebuild. The sooner the front office does that, the sooner the organization can be successful.

If you’re under the age of 35, you don’t remember a time when the Browns were the Alpha Male of this rivalry. Well, we’re about to see it. I may still tell Cleveland jokes (Remember when the river caught on fire? Hehe.) If it’s funny, I’ll laugh at a Cleveland joke. But when the Steelers play the Browns, it won’t be a joke anymore. This is life in the AFC North now, and it’s not going to be fun.

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