Nov 28, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller (83) gets tackled by Baltimore Ravens safety James Ihedigbo (32) and linebacker Daryl Smith (51) during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers Rivalries: Does the Team Really Matter?


Before I started writing for Nice Pick, Cowher, I wrote a few articles for the Yahoo Contributor Network.  One of these articles was a mathematical realignment of the NFL’s divisions, with the goal being shorter average travel time throughout the league for divisional games.  One of the biggest arguments I received for my realignment scenario was that certain historical rivalries would be broken up such as the Steelers and Browns, and the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East. 

This made me wonder, how much does the team that your team has as a rival really matter?  As long as the games are exciting and competitive and fun to watch, does it matter which team it is against?  The Baltimore Ravens have been the Steelers’ biggest rival the last decade or so.  They are a relatively new team (even though, they are just a rebranded version of the old Cleveland Browns).  During the few years between trips to Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLV, the New England Patriots were a rival that the Steelers played (and normally lost to, curse you Tom Brady!) almost every year.  These rivalries aren’t historic, just good competitive games with some emotion behind them.

To some in Steeler Nation, the Steelers-Browns are still the biggest rivalry out there, even though it has grown stale and uncompetitive to some of us younger fans.  The history is certainly there, though, and early on the Browns dominated the rivalry.  Now the cleat is on the other foot.  Other historic rivalries include the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders.  The Steelers have played in three Super Bowls against the Cowboys winning two of them.  The Raiders were always in the playoff hunt during the 1970s Steelers dynasty, winning a couple of Super Bowls during the Steelers down years, and were victims of the Immaculate Reception.  Since the Raiders seemingly always find a way to beat the Steelers the past few years (or the Steelers find a way to beat themselves), you could say this is still a rivalry.

In my mathematical realignment, the Steelers were put into a division with the New York Giants.  I commented on how that would be a good rivalry because of the similarities between the two teams and the relationship between the Rooneys and the Maras that goes way back to the early days of the NFL.  I am kind of surprised with the success the two teams have had over the last few decades that there hasn’t been a sort of cross-conference rivalry between them, sort of like the Steelers-Cowboys.

My point here is that it doesn’t matter which team the rival is as long as the games are competitive and entertaining.  If you put a team up against a schedule, rivals will form and it could be any team, as long as there is some emotion there and it’s fun to watch.  What do you think, Steeler Nation?  Does it matter which team the Steelers are rivals with?

Tags: Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Donald Mclendon

    Thats a bunch of BS….I’ve been a Steelers fan since 69….If it was 49 games to 0 I wouldn’t care and any true fan wants to crush their so called rival without mercy……The Browns could never win a game never be close I and most True Steelers Fans would love it…..What a Idiot

    • http://nicepickcowher.com/author/richardlamarwhitejr/ Richard White Jr

      You are right that every fan WANTS to crush their rival. What I said was part of what makes it a GOOD rivalry is competitiveness.

      • Donald Mclendon

        I think those looking for the entertainment value need to go to the movies….The 70 Steelers used to crush teams… Break their spirit, dominate…Nothing better than stepping on opponent’s neck…..You call yourself a Steelers write….All great teams from the Patriots to the Seahawks to the Steelers from the 70′s to the 49ers of the 90′s and the Cowboys are the 90′s….They want to dominate with your attitude you need to go write for the Cleveland Browns

        • http://nicepickcowher.com/author/richardlamarwhitejr/ Richard White Jr

          Like I said, of course I WANT the Steelers to crush every opponent, but that is not realistic. None of the teams you listed ever went undefeated. Only one team ever did, the ’72 Dolphins. Therefore, none of those teams ever dominated their entire schedule. They had good hard fought games against good opponents. These days, the Steelers-Ravens games bring out more of an emotional response in me than a Browns game does, because I know it will be a tough, hard fought, close game.

  • Craig

    A rivalry is really born out of the consistency of facing off against a certain team. That’s why in MLB, NBA, and the NHL rivalries can be born out of no where – a minor tussle during play, a long hard fought playoff series, foul play that fires off arguments/fights, the 5th time in one season teams clash. That’s difficult in the NFL – if they aren’t in your division you see them once (at best) a season – there might be bad blood, but they have a full year to cool off. It’s still strange even with two times a year divisional teams.

    What you propose is interesting, but unless you can find a way for it to equal $$$$, then Goodell will never do it. If you can find a way for it to make lots of $$$$$, I’m sure you can find a good spot on Goodell’s support staff of “Crazy Ways to Change The Game.”

    • http://nicepickcowher.com/author/richardlamarwhitejr/ Richard White Jr

      Yes thats why new rivalries could form easily if the divisions were changed.

      I understand a major division change like that will never happen. It would be interesting though.

  • Kimmy

    There’s nothing entertaining about manufactured drama. If you change the divisions and say “here you go, these guys are your rivals now” that’s exactly what you create. I think it does matter on the team when it comes to rivalries. It’s not the only thing that makes it a rivalry because historical rivalries don’t always last like you said with the Cowboys and Raiders but it would take more than a divisional realignment to create a new rival for a team.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com/author/richardlamarwhitejr/ Richard White Jr

      Forced rivalries wasnt what I had in mind. With a realignment rivalries would naturally occur after playing games within the new alignment. The rivalry with the Giants was one that I would expect to happen if they were in the same division because of how similar and competitive the two teams have been.

      My question was how much does it matter which teams the Steelers’ rivals are as long as they are good rivalries?

      • Kimmy

        What would make facing the Giants a good rivalry as opposed to the Browns? Just because they have similar ownership histories? I’m just saying that you don’t just invent a new rival overnight with a new team so to me that means that the team does matter when it comes to making it a rivalry.

        • http://nicepickcowher.com/author/richardlamarwhitejr/ Richard White Jr

          Because the Giants are a better matchup. Basically it comes down to whether your view of a good rivalry is more based in historic context or competiveness. The Browns have the historic rivalry with the Steelers but is currently pretty uncompetitive whereas the Giants would be more competitive and has a little bit of history. No need to get stuck on the Giants though, that was just an example.

          • Kimmy

            I guess to me historic context plays a role just as competitiveness does. Saying a team could be a rival because they might be a competitive matchup feels like a manufactured rival as opposed to an authentic rivalry.

          • http://nicepickcowher.com/author/richardlamarwhitejr/ Richard White Jr

            I could see how that could be for a lot of Steelers fans considering the history the team has, hence the reason for the article and the question to create discussion. So would you say the Browns are a bigger rival than the Ravens?

          • Kimmy

            I’d say the Browns are the oldest rival while the Ravens are obviously the most competitive. Both are big rivals.

          • http://nicepickcowher.com/author/richardlamarwhitejr/ Richard White Jr

            Right. I wasn’t around for the Browns move to Baltimore and all of that. To me the Ravens are the biggest rival. I do know more about the history now, but to me the Browns are like the little brother team that I’m just waiting for them to become competitive again so that I can view it as a serious rivalry.

        • http://nicepickcowher.com/author/richardlamarwhitejr/ Richard White Jr

          If the divisions changed and any team such as the Jacksonville Jaguars became competitive and were bringing the heat to the Steelers every game and became a good rivalry would it matter that they lost the historic yet currently uncompetitive Browns rivalry?

          • Kimmy

            Yeah I think it would matter if the Steelers and Browns rivalry was gone, no matter who else they played. You have a team that is your rival for over 80 years it matters, even if it takes a dip in competitiveness at times.