Pittsburgh Steelers' Top 10 Most Intense Rivalries of the Super Bowl Era
Every team has a distinguishable identity. The Steelers are a franchise with rich tradition, a framework established by the character and dedication of the Rooney family.
They are known for great Super Bowl era success, largely buoyed by defense and a blue-collar physicality that makes fans proud members of "Steelers Country."
Like Pittsburgh, fans in other NFL cities and across the world cherish their respective teams' personality, built on years of exciting tradition.
When two teams play each other and rival fan bases enter each others' radar, it's personal. Fans become vocal, making boastful claims and waging a war born from superiority complexes that are only natural. After all, this isn't just a team they defend: it's an identity!
Sometimes, the two sides work like David and Goliath, only the version of the story where Dave gets the exact bloody nose that everybody would expect.
However, occasionally the games are classic affairs, epic contests that make both teams more renowned for having taken part in them. Those are the games that keep the fiery coals of NFL disdain fully and truly hot.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and football makes the adage come to life. Being the most popular American sport, fans are most familiar with the historical intricacies of NFL franchises. No cluster of loyal fanatics want to be second best, and the only way to eclipse all others is simply winning.
In NFL history, some teams have crossed paths more than others. These fateful occurrences with the right mix of ingredients, such as stakes, proximity, and contrasts in style, are the laboratory from which rivalry is born!
With enough intensity and the proper circumstances, instant ire is created. This is what happens when fates collide, and every fan knows the best collisions are between teams that both know success!
As an example, the Steelers had a rivalry in the 1970's whose intensity pales by comparison today. Yet, four decades later, both sides of the fence still see the opponent far differently than they view themselves.
In Oakland, the silver and black (lower-case letters, please!) are considered to be of classic mystique and born of a commitment to excellence.
In Pittsburgh, those Raiders were and will continue to be "the criminal element," a band of misfits made to be beaten and battered.
Not every set of teams are given the opportunity for this type of intensity, their paths not crossing in a manner conducive to sheer, utter abhorrence.
Granted, they'll always hate the Bengals, Ravens and Browns. But even those rivalries have peaks and valleys with respect to their intensity. This countdown celebrates the team's greatest rivalries at the height of their emotion.
The following are the Black n' Gold's 10 most hated rivals of the Super Bowl era.
Honorable Mention: Early 1970's Dolphins
In 1971, Pittsburgh was not yet the team that would win four Super Bowls. The Miami Dolphins were every bit of a squad capable of winning repeatedly.
The 'Phins were as strong as Steel. In Pittsburgh, something seemed fishy. The Steelers...were winning?
One season prior to their undefeated campaign, the Dolphins trailed 21-3 at the Orange Bowl on the strength of three Terry Bradshaw touchdown passes. They were to Dave L. Smith and Ron Shanklin.
Again, this was not the dynasty Steelers fans now remember with such fondness.
The lead would not hold. Brian Griese threw three touchdowns to Paul Warfield from 12, 81, and 60 yards. Miami's comeback win was largely anchored by two Terry Bradshaw interceptions at critical junctures of the contest.
Suddenly, in 1972, Pittsburgh was 11-3. They were the toast of the Steel City, and they were hosting the undefeated Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game. In those days, playoff hosts were rotated based on division.
Three Rivers Stadium and Steelers success were both in their infancy, and the town was rife with excitement and anticipation for their new craze: football.
The Steelers had just completed one of the most unbelievable comebacks, a 13-7 victory over the Raiders via a certain historic reception made by Franco Harris. Emotions were high, and hope filled the air.
In the second half, the Steelers led 10-7. Their offense struggled, but a defensive touchdown gave them an early lead against a Miami team that hadn't lost a game.
Then, it happened late in the third quarter. With no momentum, a fake punt by Miami gained long yardage on fourth-and-5.
The Dolphins scored to take a 14-10 lead. Another score widened the margin to 21-10.
The Steelers had many opportunities to even the score, but two fourth-quarter interceptions killed critical drives as Bradshaw's Steelers fell.
Knowing their potential, Pittsburgh saw Miami as the necessary hurdle for proving their place among the league's great.
A third chance to defeat the Dolphins came in 1973, but a legendary performance laid waste to their plans to avenge the prior season's heartbreaking loss.
Defender Dick Anderson continued the Miami trend of heckling Bradshaw, intercepting the quarterback four times for two touchdowns! The Dolphins built a 30-3 lead.
Sadly, though they were 10-1 heading into the contest, Pittsburgh displayed enough mettle in the second half to provide argument that they should have won the game.
They lost 30-26 after a valiant rally, proving an NFL adage as very true. Turnovers kill.
While Miami was viewed as the brick wall that had to be broken, it was the Raiders who would fall at the hands of mighty Pittsburgh, absolving the Steelers of their previous identity as lovable losers.
Eventually, in 1976, Bob Griese and the Dolphins would finally fall victim to a Steel Curtain they had frustrated earlier in the decade in a 14-3 loss that seemed long overdue.
No. 10: Tennessee Titans of the McNair Era
At the turn of the century, the Steelers had lost their grip on an AFC Central Division they'd dominated. "Cowher Power" was coming at a premium for the first time in the coach's tenure. At the same time, the Tennessee Titans were finding greatness.
Steve McNair was drafted by Houston Oilers and coach Jeff Fisher in 1995, watching from the sidelines as the Black n' Gold easily dispatched of their division foe and quarterback Chris Chandler.
By 1997, "Air" McNair supplanted Chandler for the starting job. His tenure as a starting quarterback came as the franchise left Texas, moving to Tennessee. In fact, McNair's first season technically came as a starter for the Tennessee Oilers.
In two games against Pittsburgh, the quarterback showed little sign of his future brilliance against the Steelers. In the season finale, a 16-6 Oilers victory, he completed only 10-of-26 passes.
As if by the snap of a finger (or a snap from center), everything changed in 1998. It was the season when a five-game losing streak would break Cowher's bid for seven consecutive playoff seasons to start his head coaching career. The campaign also marked McNair's newly acquired penchant for breaking hearts in Western Pennsylvania.
Proving his nickname as accurate, "Air" threw for three touchdowns to give the Titans a 34-7 lead in Pittsburgh. Two weeks later served as a preview for the future of the rivalry, as the Titans drove for a late field goal and the lead in an eventual 23-14 win.
As the Steelers began to improve and regain their old form, a change of identity correlated with the Tennessee franchise's most successful season ever.
In 1999, the team officially became the Titans, continuing to improve behind the workhorse play of both McNair and running back Eddie George. A well-rounded squad, Tennessee made it to the Super Bowl, yet not before two more wins against the Steelers.
It had become as obvious as the fact that Kordell Stewart was not an elite quarterback: McNair owned the Steelers.
It was never more obvious than on Sept. 24, 2000.
The Steelers hosted the Titans with vengeance on their mind for both Tennessee and former quarterback Neil O'Donnell. An injured McNair looked on as the Titans offense struggled. Pittsburgh led 20-16 late in the fourth quarter. O'Donnell's ineffectiveness prompted a quarterbacking change for the final drive.
McNair completed three straight passes in well under a minute to give the Titans a 23-20 win.
He would lead his team to another rally, a defensive 9-7 victory in Nashville weeks later.
In Steelers Country, fans pondered what would have to be done to overcome the "McNair flair," a habit of pulling off dramatic comebacks.
At long last, Pittsburgh would attain a measure of vengeance in 2001, destroying the Titans on Monday Night Football, a 34-7 win that marked the Titans' first trip to Heinz Field. The Steelers swept the season series at Adelphia Coliseum when Chad Scott intercepted the riddling quarterback that had so perplexed the team. Scott's late touchdown return gave the Black and Gold a 34-24 victory.
The Steelers would become the last team to win the AFC Central, and the two squads separated into different divisions in 2002.
Fittingly, fate wouldn't keep them apart for long.
If Pittsburgh had any momentum from 2001, it was temporary. Tennessee won a regular-season meeting in 2002, knocking Tommy Maddox from the lineup in a 31-23 victory.
In the playoffs, McNair passed for over 300 yards as the Titans won a 34-31 overtime shootout.
In 2003, the Steelers statistically dominated their foes, but a 16-for-17 passing afternoon for McNair coupled with inopportune turnovers by Tommy Maddox led to a 30-13 defeat.
After years of frustration, Pittsburgh welcomed Tennessee to Heinz Field to begin their 2005 campaign. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers trounced the Titans in a 34-7 blowout.
For fans in the Steel City, it was a well-deserved beating for a team that had more than its share of success against a proud franchise.
With time passing, the rivalry has lost its original intensity. Yet, for those who experienced the disdain between these two squads, there is an understanding about why Jeff Fisher referred to any week leading up to a game between the squads as "Steelers Week."
Respect. After years of hard-hitting division games, the respect remains.
No. 9: Belichick's Browns of the Early 90's
By the 1990s, both teams could claim a decade in the rivalry.
The Browns of the 1960's dominated football, including Pittsburgh.
In the 1970s, the Steelers won more often than not against Cleveland, an era of the rivalry with a great deal of bad blood.
In their dynasty days, Pittsburgh owned the Browns in the 'Burgh.
28-9, 26-9, 30-0, 33-6.
What do those numbers represent? They were the scores of Steelers wins during Cleveland's first four trips to Three Rivers Stadium, which was christened in 1970.
The 1980's saw Bernie Kosar and the Cleveland Browns achieve great success, narrowly missing three Super Bowls. During this time, they handled the Steelers in a number of meetings, though neither team saw the type of domination one had over the other in the previous two decades.
After John Elway's heroics cost the Browns championship glory, much of the team disbanded. By 1991, the Browns were a shell of their former selves, and Bill Belichick was hired to coach them back to greatness.
Despite his horrible reputation as a coach up by Lake Erie, Belichick did not do an awful job.
Disliked as a character, Belichick was easy to hate. Steelers fans will still occasionally reflect on the day that Eric Metcalf essentially cost Pittsburgh the AFC Central. Leading 23-21, the punt returner electrified the Cleveland crowd with his second touchdown return of the late afternoon.
Instead of a home playoff game, the Steel City would watch their team travel to Arrowhead Stadium. A late loss in overtime to Joe Montana and the Chiefs did not sit well with fans who felt the team was a tackle away from winning a mediocre division.
Fittingly, the Browns, who had three losing seasons to start the Belichick era, returned to prominence in 1994. By then, Bernie Kosar was gone and Vinny Testaverde was at the helm for Cleveland.
Despite winning two close games, 17-7 and 17-10, experts picked the Browns to win a divisional playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium.
They felt it was too difficult to defeat a team three times in one season, especially one that was regarded as an AFC heavyweight.
With all of their unearned confidence fully intact, the Browns waltzed into Pittsburgh with swagger and left with a dagger. A 29-9 Pittsburgh victory was markedly dominant.
The next season, Art Modell announced his plans to move the team to Baltimore. In an odd scene, Steelers fans wore orange arm bands during a Monday Night game against Cleveland as a show of support for their rivalry.
Cleveland, amidst distractions of the greatest magnitude, finished with a losing record. Belichick left as coach, and the rivalry still has yet to return to its original emotional level.
No. 8: Chuck Noll vs. Jerry Glanville and the Houston Oilers
Before the menacing McNair, another "M" quarterback graced the sidelines for the Houston Oilers.
Warren Moon was a critical figure in NFL history, a gunslinger with a cannon arm that continued the fine work of showcasing the skills and abilities of the African-American quarterback.
Unlike McNair, it was not Warren Moon at the forefront of the teams' rivalry during Chuck Noll's latter seasons.
It was Jerry Glanville and Noll himself that made the headlines, stirring the pot and creating the heat for anger to boil over. The two teams were not that far removed from a rivalry in the late '70s, and both franchises were provided ample fuel for disdain from their enthusiastic leaders.
Enthusiasm would seem an ironic term for Chuck Noll, but he perceived Glanville as a shameless grandstander.
By the 1980s, the Steelers were a winning team but a shell of their former dynastic selves. The Oilers had an abundance of talent, and the wisecracking coach who toughened them up was accused by Noll of also having them take cheap shots.
Noll, a proud man whose team finally reached a lull, had to hate every moment of losing to Houston, all the while knowing the sassy Glanville was more than prepared with a quip or 20 to irritate him at the podium.
By 1987, after years of losing to the Steelers, Houston swept the season series five days before Christmas. They were largely buoyed by two touchdown receptions by receiver Drew Hill, both long strikes from the arm of Moon.
After the game, Noll extended the customary expectations of the obligatory handshake, replacing rhetorical notes ("Good game, way to go, 'atta boy!") with a finger to Glanville's face and a brief lecture. The message was simple, telling Jerry that his team was engaging in cheap shots.
Naturally, the men did not see eye to eye.
After years of dominating Houston, the great talent in Pittsburgh dwindled. The run-and-gun Oilers offense was in full flight, and the Steelers lost five out of six games to their rivals from 1987-89.
For their talent and improvements, Glanville's Oilers were expected to win playoff games.
When Chuck Noll brought his Men of Steel back to the playoffs in 1989, they traveled to Houston to play a squad that boasted no major postseason victories despite a roster full of potential. Earlier in the season, the Steelers lost at the Astrodome decisively, 27-0.
In the end, the battle of animosities went to Noll. Gary Andersen kicked a 50-yard field goal to end the game in overtime.
The Oilers lost another playoff game, and the quotable Jerry Glanville was promptly fired.
A famous line from Vince Lombardi states, "If you're not fired with enthusiasm, you'll be fired with enthusiasm."
Jerry Glanville never had to worry about that first part.
No. 7: "Luv 'Ya Blue" Oilers of the Bum Phillips Era
Everybody knows about the legendary "man in the funny hat," Tom Landry.
Who remembers the "other man in the funny hat?"
Bum Phillips was as unique a sideline character as an organization could ever expect, the type of eccentric profile that garnered affection from the locals and ire from all rivals.
With his over the top cowboy hat, tight jeans, and boots, he was the football equivalent of the Marlboro Man. He was large and in charge, both literally and figuratively.
His Houston Oilers featured the dangerous running of Earl Campbell. Quarterback Dan Pastorini got the job done, largely due to the timely playmaking ability of his teammate, wide receiver Mike Renfro.
By 1977, Phillips had transformed one of football's most unaccomplished teams into a winner, largely illustrated during a 27-10 win over Pittsburgh in the season's early weeks.
The next year resulted in a 10-6 finish and improbably playoff run to the AFC Championship Game. The team was simply outmatched, losing 34-5 in Pittsburgh. They still had some confidence after splitting the regular season series.
That belief in themselves manifested into a great 1979 campaign. Much of football regarded Houston as the second best team in football.
The fans in Texas, proudly holding their "Luv 'Ya Blue" signs in support of the team, rallied excitedly as their team traveled back to Pittsburgh for a championship rematch in the AFC.
For the third straight year, both teams split the regular season series. A win over the Steelers would mark a crescendo for the franchise as its finest moment.
A loss would assure their place in history as an unfortunate squad in the same division as a dynasty.
The hated rivals squared off, and it was the latter that would unfold for history to remember.
Trailing 17-10, Pastorini hit Renfro in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The play was nullified on a blown call by the officiating crew.
The Oilers, who would subsequently surrender 10 unanswered points, still claim that the bad call cost them a trip to the Super Bowl.
At best, it affected the momentum.
The city of Houston congregated for a return rally for their fallen heroes. It would be the closest sniff of greatness for the franchise until 21 years later, when Kevin Dyson would fall one yard short of football immortality.
No. 6: The Banes Named Boston and Brady
While this matchup evokes more emotion from Steelers fans than most others, the one-sided nature of the affairs keep it from being higher on the list.
In fact, a Pittsburgh loss to New England in 2011 would make it very difficult to classify this series as a rivalry.
The prideful fans of Pittsburgh hate Tom Brady, from his supermodel spouse to his soft locks of hair and all the way through to his domination against the Steelers.
The California kid is the envy of NFL quarterbacks. He makes the game look simple, slowing it down to its most basic principles and acting on these odds with precision and confidence.
This inherent quality of a man who has ice water for blood and a flat line for a pulse is likely the largest reason for his success against the Steel City.
Against a defense predicated on forcing miscues from opposing offenses, the Boston quarterback patiently waits for opportunities, avoids mistakes, and makes the crispest of throws when his receiver comes open.
He studies the game and understands it with a fluidity that makes his skills practically inherent.
At this point, I'm engaging in Brady worship. It's hard to avoid.
Every Steelers fan knows how the story goes:
The "kid" comes in during 2001 season. Exits the AFC Championship Game, and the Steelers lose a winnable game due to special teams gaffs.
In the process, they handicap Mr. Brady, giving him a win in the series that he hardly had any role in earning.
In 2002, a revenge-minded Steelers team heads to Boston to christen Gillette Stadium. They get shaved by Brady's razor-sharp passing, as the Patriots employ a spread offense for most of the night and earn a blowout victory.
Halloween 2004 sees the rising of a great rookie, and Roethlisberger's Steelers beat Brady's Pats to end a 21-game New England winning streak.
Brady merely responds with a flawless performance and wins the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh for a second time.
With every reason to dominate Brady, the Steelers simply cannot find the means to contain him.
He completes 12 straight passes to end a 23-20 win over Pittsburgh in 2005.
He follows up with a clinic against loudmouth Anthony Smith and his guarantee.
And, most recently, he embarks on his best performance since a 2008 knee injury, a 39-26 win at Heinz Field in 2010 that catapulted New England to a 14-2 regular season record.
For Tom Brady, there is a clear understanding of how history remembers the men who have played in the NFL. With every great team he beats, his legacy absorbs another nugget.
It's a bloated legacy!
In Pittsburgh, fans await another rematch in 2011, hoping its not just another one of "those games" in a series of many of "those games" against "that guy."
That guy that all of Steelers Nation abhors.
No. 5: 1990s Jaguars
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In 1995, the storied Steelers saw the Browns leave town. With the newly formed Baltimore Ravens off to a slow start in 1996, it was an absolutely unexpected set of circumstances, but the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hardly earned their stripes for such successes, would be their new arch-rival.
Losing in 1995 in the clubs' first-ever meeting, the Steelers wrote the defeat off as an aberration, defeating the Jags later in the season, 24-7, during a classic win streak that propelled them to their first Super Bowl since 1980.
The tried and true tradition of Pittsburgh would seemingly be no match for the inexperienced Jaguars, who went on record as saying they chose to design themselves after the Steelers, hoping to meet and exceed their rivals as the king of the AFC Central Division. The fast track to NFL legitimacy would be to dethrone the storied Steelers.
Immediately, Jacksonville held true to their belief that beating Pittsburgh was critical to their success. The Steelers lost all of their first five games against the Florida rivals, assuring the seeds of NFL rivalry would be planted and properly cultivated: balance of power....and hatred!
The Jaguars viewed the Steelers as "beating big brother," while the Men of Steel saw their ego bruised with losses to the young franchise.
By 1997, the most classic season of the rivalry, both teams had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. Yet, the Steelers, for superiority or pride or both, fended off Jacksonville in their pursuit of the division title.
Nevertheless, like the car of the same name, the Jaguars wasted little time in clinching the division, winning it by 1998.
Realignment in 2002 separated the Steelers from their hated impersonators, but the ire of a heated rivalry continues to feed both teams when they meet for occasional inter-divisional battles to this day.
It's probably less intense for Pittsburgh, but nevertheless, memories of the late 1990s still burn in the fans old enough to remember!
No. 4: The Browns of the 1970's
The 1970's marked a turning point for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.
The Browns had known a storied history. Quarterback Otto Graham led a dynastic squad and running back Jim Brown, who retired after 1965, was widely regarded as the greatest player in league history.
Meanwhile, the Steelers were the lovable losers, led by "the Chief" Art Rooney. In all of their years, they had never won a playoff game.
For all of their black seasons, Pittsburgh was about to realize a gold era. The Browns would continue to be competitive, but the shift in the balance of power between the rivals would create intense animosity.
Choosing to mutually join the AFC when the AFL and NFL merged, the squads shared a division. The AFC Central was their home, a house of brutal tactics and black and blue football.
The early decade saw a division championship for Cleveland (1971) and a playoff berth (1973) that preceded the Browns' descent.
At newly christened Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers were becoming an NFL power. The Browns never won at Pittsburgh's house of horrors until 1986, compiling an 0-16 record that only added to their ire.
As the squad began to improve again under coach Forrest Gregg and quarterback Brian Sipe later in the decade, the Steelers vs. Browns affairs took on an element of brutality that bordered on bloodshed.
A famous moment in the rivalry occurred in 1976. Cleveland defender Joe Jones ignored a blowing whistle that ended a play, picking up Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and pile-driving him onto the field head first. Bradshaw was injured, and the event set off a series of violent confrontations between the clubs.
In 1977, Jack Lambert injured quarterback Brian Sipe, regarded by many as the perfect retaliation for the events of the previous season.
And perhaps it was....
The 1970's Browns vs. Steelers series was as much fisticuffs as a rivalry.
No. 3: America's Team?
The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers were the finest teams of football's 1970s. Their success resulted in crossed paths throughout the decade, most notably at two Super Bowls.
The two franchises were polar opposites.
The blue collar physicality of the Steelers was in absolute contrast with the glitzy popularity of the Cowboys.
Steelers fans and players viewed Dallas as white-collar prima donnas predicated on narcissism and self-promotion. Resentful of their label as "America's Team," Pittsburgh always took the contests with the Cowboys very seriously.
Adorned with that flashy star upon their helmets, Dallas had the look of a cocky and confident champion alongside Pittsburgh's steely resolve.
As much as they were different, the two teams had much in common.
Both squads were led by dominant defenses of the era, the "Steel Curtain" and "Doomsday."
Two elite Hall of Fame players quarterbacked the offenses.
The teams boasted mutually dynamic runners in Franco Harris and Tony Dorsett (later in the decade).
The franchises met on the NFL's biggest stage for the 10th anniversary of the Super Bowl. During the game, a 21-17 Steelers victory, Cowboys safety Cliff Harris mocked Pittsburgh kicker Roy Gerela after a missed field goal attempt.
Jack Lambert took matters into his own hands, as well as Harris. Tossing the instigator to the ground, Lambert made a statement to his team that would give them the momentum needed to pull out a close win.
By their second Super Bowl contest, both teams had won two championships in the decade. The historical legacy available for the victor was obvious, and both squads understood they were competing for the title of "team of the '70s."
The Steelers won again, driving a stake through the heart of the despised Cowboys.
Remembered as one of the finest inter-conference rivalries of all-time, the teams competed in two of the finest championship games to that point and helped continue the growing popularity of the NFL brand.
Today, remnants of the old rivalry still carry over, such as during the more modern Super Bowl XXX.
The Cowboys victory over Pittsburgh in Tempe, Ariz., prompted Roger Staubach, Dallas's quarterback in the aforementioned era, to respond publicly about his pleasure with the result.
Staubach made no secret about his pride in the team, noting his elation over the squad finally overcoming the team that had prevented him from perhaps anchoring an NFL dynasty.
No. 2: John Madden, Al Davis and the "Criminal Element"
The Silver and Black.
The "Criminal Element," according to Chuck Noll.
The Autumn Wind. After all, according to a famous poem, it is a pirate!
These are synonyms for one of the most storied (and currently fallen from grace) franchises in the league's annals. In the 1970's and early 80's, Al Davis' Oakland Raiders were one of the finest organizations to ever compete in professional sports.
They carried an aura of brash disregard, an anarchist manifesto for winning football games and not giving a damn how it was done.
Incredibly identifiable, the classic franchises entered into a rivalry in the 1970's. According to many, it's the greatest rival at any specific point in the history of the either franchise.
It all began with a ball that bounced off of the pads of Jack Tatum, arguably touching Frenchy Fuqua and ultimately landing in the hands of Franco Harris. The historic play ended Oakland's 1972 season and marked the Steelers' first-ever playoff win.
After attaining a measure of revenge in 1973, a blowout playoff victory anchored by a Willie Brown touchdown, the Raiders entered the next season as a favorite to reach Super Bowl IX.
Following a victorious postseason affair with the defending champion Miami Dolphins, coach John Madden made a comment regarding the game.
He dubbed the two squads, Miami and Oakland, as the NFL's best teams. The public sentiment echoed his remarks, as even the cover of Sports Illustrated dubbed the contest as Super Bowl 8 1/2.
Noting the disregard for their team, Chuck Noll announced to his Pittsburgh players that the best team in football stood proudly in their own locker room. The Steelers would travel to Oakland and upset the favored Silver and Black in a 24-13 comeback victory.
The following season, a rematch at Three Rivers Stadium was mired in controversy. Coach Madden and owner Al Davis felt that the grounds crew in Pittsburgh intentionally froze the majority of the field to negate the strength of Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff.
To their chagrin, Pittsburgh won 16-10 on the icy plain of hot debate. During the game, Jack Tatum viciously hit Lynn Swann in the head, a blow that caused the receiver's status for the Super Bowl to be questionable. Swann would play against Dallas, earning MVP honors.
By 1976, the Raiders were labeled as a group that couldn't win "the big one." A great part of this stigma resulted from losses to Pittsburgh, and they would obtain vengeance.
They opened the season with a comeback victory against their hated rival, rallying from a 28-14 deficit late in the fourth quarter to win 31-28. The season culminated with a dominant 24-7 victory over Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game.
To date, it is still the only time in league history that two teams have met in three consecutive conference championships.
No. 1: Baltimore Ravens, 2001-Current
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While the Raiders and Browns of yesteryear have given the Steelers’ Black n’ Gold a little bit of extra blues, their competitiveness has since feigned. Leave it to the old Browns, Modell’s Movers, to have more than picked up the slack.
Hundred-yard rushers and West Coast precision: that isn't Steelers-Ravens. If you're a real fan of real football (and these fans know exactly what that means), you have a stake claimed in each contest, all of them a chapter in the clear precedent set for modern ballgame battery.
Steelers-Ravens is as much your mother's football game as a Cadillac is your janitor's mode of transportation.
The flame was ignited 17 years ago, when the former Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore, making Art Modell the most ire-inspiring man in the state of Ohio, narrowly beating John Elway and heftily out-menacing the devil himself.
While the “new Browns” stake claim to the old record book of Cleveland Browns lore, the true fans know that with the original Browns moved the Steelers’ greatest foes.
As history builds onto the tradition, the heated glare from either side will continue to be enough to put the letters of c-h-a-r into arch-rivals. Steelers fans know the fiery ire that burns bird feathers!