Isn't it odd how each season typically sees both a blowout and a nail-biter contest between these rivals?
In 1999, the Steelers christened new Cleveland Browns Stadium with a commanding 43-0 victory. Later that season, Cleveland stunned Pittsburgh with a 16-15 win at Three Rivers Stadium (see video).
In 2000, Pittsburgh blew a shot at a late tying field goal, and time ran out during a 23-30 loss in Ohio. The rematch saw the Men of Steel win 22-0.
2001 saw an overtime contest and a 28-7 whooping.
After an exception in 2002 (the Steelers won all three games by three points, including a wild playoff affair), the Browns smacked Pittsburgh around on Sunday Night Football in 2003, 33-13. Later in the year, Pittsburgh avenged the loss in Cleveland, winning by a touchdown.
2005 saw a 34-21 finish (admittedly not as close as the indicated score) and a 41-0 Christmas Eve win for the 'Burgh in Browns Town.
2006? A Steelers comeback in Cleveland (24-20) preceded the Steel City rematch (27-7).
The Browns were competitive in 2007. It didn't show on opening day, when they lost on opening weekend at home by 27 points. In Pittsburgh, Joshua Cribbs worked special teams magic, and the Browns lost a tight contest after a tying field goal attempt came up just short.
The Steelers won 10-6 and 31-0 in their championship campaign of 2008.
In 2009, Big Ben threw for 400 yards during a win, then looked dreadful (mostly as he lied on the field) in a 13-6 loss.
Even last season, the streak continued. A 28-10 win in Ben's return game was a close contest late into the second half, but the rematch in Ohio saw a 'Burgh beatdown of the Browns, 41-9.
It's an amazing coincidence and a fun pattern to recognize.
If the script dictates that we must again have both a lopsided and tight score in the series this season, would it be better to get the close game out of the way at home, amidst supportive fans? Or, would it be best to put Cleveland away at Heinz, leaving the stress for a colder day in Week 17?
I propose to break the pattern! The Steelers need to settle in early, keep their foot on the gas and blow them out twice, starting on Thursday Night Football.
Who knows? Maybe the 2011 Steelers will finally show a prime time audience their actual potential.