The Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns rivalry….
Before Ray Rice waving a Terrible Towel while exiting Heinz Field, before the AFC Championship Joe Flacco fumble that would seal a Pittsburgh victory, before a whiny John Harbaugh, before Joey Porter stepped on a Raven bus and wanted to fight Ray Lewis, before there was the Baltimore Ravens and the birth of one of the greatest rivalries ever in the NFL – there was the Cleveland Browns. Yes, there was a time that existed where the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns were hated and heated rivals.
That rivalry virtually disappeared when Art Model crafted “The Move” and stole away his self and the rest of the organization in the middle of the night. All the hate that developed over the years towards the Brownies manifested itself into some sort of super hate monster when the Baltimore Ravens were pooped out on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line in 1996.
But what of the ‘new’ Brownies?
Such a negative explosion of reactions it was out of Cleveland, that the NFL almost seemed to submiss on bended knee to the Mistake By The Lake (probably the last time the NFL would ever do such a thing for anyone) and bring back the Cleveland Browns in 1999, just three seasons after “The Move.” The city of doom and gloom rejoiced, but the majority of Pittsburgh and Steeler Nation seemed indifferent to the whole thing. When the Browns moved, so did the rivalry. The reinstated Browns of 1999 was for intents and purposes an expansion team with new players and new coaches. They’ve never been good (73-151, .483) since their return to the NFL. Sure they had one promising season going 9-7 and squeaking into the playoffs. But they were defeated by the Steelers in a thriller, 36-33. Wahhh wahhh.
The Steelers have essentially had it all over the Browns going 25-4 since ’99. Between essentially owning that team on the field for the last 14 seasons and the management being completely shoddy and suspect, it’s been hard as a Steelers fan and member of the AFC North to even respect a team like that. They are laughable at times with their personnel decisions, and certainly a three ring circus when on the football field (mostly). How does a rivalry become bred out of that? It really does it.
However, it seems like there’s hope yet for a hatred so pure to befall upon the city of Cleveland and their beloved welcome mat of a football team.
The acquisition and emergence of Johnny Manziel.
Did you happen to just reflexively crush your can of Iron City just by reading that name like I just did? Never has there been a football player that has been so polarizing before even taking a snap in the NFL. There are two camps to this guy, those that love him, want to be him, party with him or like him, and make a mess of themselves in their pants when performing his trademark ‘making money’ hand sign (when actually it’s an homage to Drake) OR you loathe this guy like he kills kittens and little old nuns for a living. He is the douchiest of the douche, and you either love that about him (very well suited for Cleveland) or wish that he would plummet straight into a pit of fiery hell.
For those looking for a catalyst to heat up (heck even BEGIN) a rivalry with the Browns – he’s perfect.
Johnny loves the spotlight, and can’t help but have himself plastered all over the internet with some abnormally skinny and oversized breasted ladies or doing something rather dubious (ehh? ehhhhh? See what I did there?). It irritates the crap out of people and certainly many Steelers fans I encounter. Nothing would please me (and them) more than to have Jason Worilds tear around the outside the light up Johnny Wonny Football and send him into Week 2… or 3…. or 4. Or how about Cortez Allen take a Manziel pass to the house for a pick six during his first offensive series as the Browns quarterback.
It is my belief that Manziel is the very thing that will kick off a rivalry between these two teams. He is the antithesis of Steeler Football. His airtime will rival that of LeBron James, and Steeler Nation will loathe every moment of his screen time and relish every failure and bone crushing hit received. For a change, Steeler Nation will look forward to a very punishing game against the Browns, rather than an assumed W in the column. On the other side of the fence or flaming lake, the Browns fans will love Johnny for every wink, money gesture, and venture to the bathroom. And they will hate us for hating the beloved savior (like so many a Browns rookie QB before him). The pot is ripe with ingredients for a special kind of rivalry that revolves around one 21 year old (going on 17). And that’s just fine with me.
The Steelers and Dick LeBeau will not shy away with going after this guy from the first snap onward. This is a faster and younger defense that has the potential of being very good, and being very good at making Manziel suffer two times every season for the next six years…. or at least until he’s washed up in a couple of years and shipped off to somewhere else in the NFL. (Cue Lion King Circle of Life Music)