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Steelers vs. Cowboys: Are These Teams Really Rivals?

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Steelers vs. Cowboys: Are These Teams Really Rivals?
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
The Steelers' Andre Frazier and the Cowboys' Terence Newman have a conversation in a 2008 game at Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a poke at the Dallas Cowboys’ “America’s Team” moniker this week as the Steelers prepared to face the Cowboys Sunday in Dallas.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger said that if the Cowboys are America’s Team, then the Steelers must be the “World’s Team.”

Oh, it’s on now.

With or without Roethlisberger’s little verbal volley, any Steelers-Cowboys game automatically comes with some intrigue.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Ben Roethlisberger didn't tip-toe around the debate about whether the Cowboys are America's Team.

Both teams can claim a national following and suffice it to say they’ve played a few big games against each other over the years.

But are the Steelers and Cowboys really rivals?

This isn’t like the tug of war between the Steelers and Ravens, where seven of the last nine games have been decided by exactly three points.

This isn’t like the longstanding feud between the Steelers and Browns, who have played each other twice every year since 1950—Cleveland’s three-year NFL hiatus notwithstanding.

Sunday’s game in Dallas will be just the 31st time the Steelers and Cowboys have met since the Cowboys were born in 1960. Since the turn of the century, they’ve met once every four years. That makes it hard to build up the kind of vitriol that fuels a rivalry.

There was enough familiarity to breed contempt in the 1970s, however.

The Steelers defeated the Cowboys twice in the Super Bowl during that decade and Pittsburgh won twice in the regular season to sweep their four games against Dallas between 1976 and 1979.

When the Cowboys’ Cliff Harris taunted Steelers kicker Roy Gerela after Gerela missed a field goal in Super Bowl X, Jack Lambert slammed him into the turf. The Steelers trailed 10-7 at the time, but rallied to win 21-17.

The Cowboys’ Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson famously said (via Steelers.com) before Super Bowl XIII that Terry Bradshaw was so dumb he couldn’t spell “cat” if he was spotted the “C” and the “A.” Bradshaw and the Steelers responded by beating the Cowboys 35-31 for their third Super Bowl title.

There were no such extracurriculars when the Steelers and Cowboys met in the Super Bowl for the third time after the 1995 season, and somehow Super Bowl XXX didn’t seem to have the glitz and glamour of the first two Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowls.

Not only were the Cowboys such heavy favorites, but the game was played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., a one-and-done Super Bowl venue. The other two were played at the Orange Bowl in Miami, a football shrine.

The game did help state the case for Steelers-Cowboys as a rivalry. In a historical sense, the Cowboys’ 27-17 victory helped to provide the balance that a rivalry needs.

Counting the Super Bowls, the Steelers and Cowboys both have beaten each other 15 times.

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The Steelers and Cowboys also share the distinction of being the only NFL franchises with eight Super Bowl appearances, and while many teams have met each other twice in the Super Bowl, the Steelers and Cowboys are the only three-time Super Bowl pairing.

Steelers-Cowboys is the NFL’s parallel to Yankees-Dodgers and Celtics-Lakers. Their championship battles span multiple generations, so on the rare occasion when they meet, there’s a natural curiosity to it. Like some celestial phenomenon that happens once every few years, it has to be seen.

All this might not add up to the same black-and-blue, snot-inducing rivalry that the Steelers have with the Ravens, but if Roethlisberger has any trouble spelling “cat,” things could get interesting.

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