Joe “Turkey” Jones. Dave Mays. Chris Jennings. Gerald McNeil. David Grayson. Brian Hoyer. Trent Richardson. Tim Couch.
Most of the names on this list didn’t amount to very much during their Browns career. But their names are remembered because of the roles they played in victories over the team’s biggest and most bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lost in all the turmoil surrounding this year’s team – the seemingly impending dismissal of coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, the quarterback controversy between veteran Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel, the possible trade of veteran captain Joe Thomas – is that this is “Steeler Week.” And, with Browns nemesis Ben Roethlisberger’s status for the game doubtful due to a leg injury, this Sunday’s game at Heinz Field suddenly looks to be a winnable one.
The Browns have only won one game at Heinz Field since it was opened in 2001, and it was also the site of one of the Browns’ biggest heartbreaks since the franchise returned in 1999 – their 36-33 come-from-ahead playoff loss to the Steelers in early 2003. And, wins for the Browns over the Steelers, and overall for that matter, have been few and far between since the franchise was reborn in 1999.
But, once upon a time, it wasn’t always like that. From 1950-70, the Browns got off to a 32-9 start in this series, winning the first eight games and 16 of the first 18 games the two teams played against each other. In the 80s, the Browns won seven straight games and went 14-8 over Pittsburgh.
However, thanks to the Steelers’ 26-6 record since 1999 – 34-10 dating back to 1990 – Pittsburgh has taken control in this rivalry.
A Jaded Steeler fan may wonder how someone like me could find 25 winning Browns games against the Steelers. I would like to remind Jaded Steeler Fan that your team only leads the series 66-58, not counting two playoff victories over our beloved Dawgs.
So, in honor of “Steeler Week” and the 127th meeting between the Browns and the Steelers, here are my top 25 games between these two squads in this rivalry. Who knows, maybe what happens Sunday can crack this list.
25. Browns 17, Steelers 9 (Oct. 11, 1992): Before Mike Tomczak ended his career as a long-time Steeler backup quarterback, he spent one year backing up Bernie Kosar with the Browns. And, when Kosar battled injuries in 1992, it was the former Ohio State Buckeye and Chicago Bear who stepped up and filled that void. Under second-year coach Bill Belichick, Tomczak did just enough to lead the Browns past the Steelers at the old Stadium, throwing for 171 yards and a touchdown.
The touchdown pass, a 47-yard strike to Michael Jackson midway through the fourth quarter, turned a 10-9 lead into a 17-9 advantage. Kevin Mack added a 1-yard touchdown run to start that second half, turning a 6-3 halftime deficit into a 10-6 advantage they never relinquished. Pittsburgh wound up going 11-5, while the Browns slumped to 7-9.
24. Browns 15, Steelers 7 (Oct. 3, 1970): Let the record show that the teams’ first showdown as members of the AFC went in Cleveland’s favor. While the Steelers wound wind up being the NFL’s “Team of the 70s,” they began the decade just 5-9. And, rookie Terry Bradshaw’s introduction to Cleveland on this Saturday night at the old Stadium was not a good one. He was sacked for a safety and threw three interceptions, including a pick-six to Erich Barnes that was returned 38 yards in the third quarter that wound up being the final points.
Fellow rookie Mike Phipps relieved an ineffective Don Gault, who went 1-of-16 for 44 yards and two interceptions, and made his NFL debut a winning one. He went 3-for-5 for 86 yards and a touchdown, a 53-yard pass to Reece Morrison. Yep, the Browns just completed four passes against the Steelers and won. Gault never took another NFL snap, but yet is credited with a 1-0 record as an NFL starter. Bradshaw did rush for a touchdown in the loss.
23. Browns 21, Steelers 16 (Nov. 25, 1973): Less than a month before I was born, the Browns handed
the Steelers an ugly loss. With Terry Bradshaw not in the lineup – Joe Gilliam started and Terry Hanratty came on in relief – the Steelers scored the first points of the game and led, 16-14, midway through the fourth quarter. Gilliam found Ron Shanklin for nine yards in the opening drive and then he led three drives that ended in Roy Gerela field goals in the second, third and fourth quarters.
Mike Phipps, who only completed 5 of 17 passes with three interceptions, scored on a one-yard sneak and found Greg Pruitt for a 15-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to give the Browns a 14-10 halftime lead. Pruitt, a rookie, scored the winning touchdown on a 19-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly, who would retire following the season, was held to just 12 yards on 11 carries. Franco Harris, in his second year, was held to 48 yards on 22 carries. The Steelers went 10-4, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Raiders. The Browns went 7-5-2, their last winning season until they went 9-7 in 1979.
22. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Nov. 1, 1964): En route to their final NFL Championship, the Browns rebounded from a 23-7 loss to the Steelers at home by coming into Pitt Stadium and dominating their rivals from pillar to post. The Steelers rallied from a 10-0 deficit to tie the score at halftime, but the second half was all Browns. Ernie Green rushed for two touchdowns in the second half, en route to 86 yards on 17 carries, while Hall of Famer Lou “The Toe” Groza added two of his three field goals during that 20-7 second half.
Jim Brown gained 149 yards on 23 carries and added five more receptions, while quarterback Frank Ryan completed 15 of 28 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown to Clifton McNeil. The Browns defense intercepted Steeler quarterback Ed Brown twice – both by Larry Benz – and held him to just 8 of 23 for 128 yards. The win improved the Browns to 6-1-1, en route to a 11-3-1 finish and a championship.
21. Browns 17, Steelers 7 (Sept. 16, 1985): A new era of Browns football began with this Monday Night Football clash at Cleveland Stadium on the second week of the regular season. With Marty Schottenheimer in his first full-season as the head football coach and veteran Gary Danielson and rookie Bernie Kosar taking over at quarterback, the Browns needed to knock off their hated rivals after dropping a 27-24 overtime loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in last week’s season opener. Danielson, making his second start as a Brown, completed 18-of-30 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown and an interception. His 17-yard scoring pass to wideout Fred Banks in the second quarter opened the scoring for both teams, and an 18-yard field goal by Matt Bahr in the third made it a 10-0 Browns lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Mark Malone found John Stallworth for a 6-yard score in the fourth to cut the Browns’ lead to 10-7. But Cleveland put the game away on its ensuing possession with a 21-yard touchdown run by second-year running back Earnest Byner. Byner rushed for 82 yards on 18 carries, while rookie Kevin Mack added 40 yards on 12 carries. Both backs would go over 1,000 yards rushing –just the third time in NFL history a pair of running backs would accomplish the feat – and the Browns wound up winning the AFC Central Division with an 8-8 record, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and winning their first division title since 1980.
20. Browns 19, Steelers 13 (Dec. 26, 1987): Wins at Three Rivers Stadium could never be counted
on, especially since the Browns had just ended a 16-year losing streak the previous season. Yet the Browns needed to win at their perennial house of horrors in the 1987 season finale to clinch their second-straight division title over an 8-6 Steelers team. The Browns jumped out to a 9-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal from Matt Bahr and a two-yard touchdown pass from Bernie Kosar to backup tight end Derek Tennell, but a 39-yard field goal by Gary Anderson cut that lead to 9-3 at halftime. The Browns got a 30-yard field goal from Bahr to take a 12-3 lead heading into fourth quarter, and the Steelers cut that deficit to six with another Anderson field goal.
However, the Browns put the game away with two-yard touchdown run by Earnest Byner to take a 19-6 lead. Pittsburgh’s Cornell Gowdy made things interesting with a 45-yard interception return late in the fourth quarter to make it a six-point game, but the Browns were able to run out the clock and improve to 10-5. Hanford Dixon and linebacker Eddie Johnson each picked off Mark Malone once apiece, while Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome caught six passes for 94 yards to lead the Browns offense. The 10-5 Browns reached the AFC Championship game three weeks later, but lost a heartbreaking 38-33 game to the Denver Broncos when Byner fumbled on the 2 with just over a minute remaining in the game.
19. Browns 27, Steelers 7 (Nov. 20, 1988): The Browns, who had started four different quarterbacks during the season, were sitting at 6-5 with the hapless Steelers coming to town. If the Browns wanted to get back to the playoffs for the fourth-straight season, they needed to take care of business against Pittsburgh. With Bernie Kosar healthy and back under center, the Browns didn’t waste any time showing who the dominant team really was. After opening the scoring with a 32-yard field goal from Matt Bahr, Kosar found backup tight end Derek Tennell for a two-yard scoring pass to take a 10-0 lead into the second quarter. Frank Minnifield added to that lead when he blocked a Harry Newsom punt and returned it 11 yards to give the Browns a 17-0 lead that the Steelers cut to 17-7 just before the half.
Kosar, who threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, found Reggie Langhorne for a 77-yard touchdown bomb early in the third quarter to put the game away, and Bahr added a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. The Browns defense sacked Steelers starter Bubby Brister six times, led by rookie Michael Dean Perry’s two, and picked him off twice. Linebacker Eddie Johnson had a sack and an interception, while Minnifield had the other pick to go along with his huge blocked punt. The Browns used this performance to win five of their last six games and finish 10-6, qualifying for the playoffs as a wild-card team. This was also the last time the Browns swept the Steelers in a season series (until this year, perhaps).
18. Browns 23, Steelers 20 (Sept. 17, 2000): The Browns had just stunned the Steelers, 16-15, at Three Rivers Stadium in 1999 – one of just two victories for the expansion Browns that season – and had rebounded from a 27-7 thrashing by Jacksonville in the 2000 season opener to defeat the Bengals, 24-7, on the road to take a 1-1 record into Cleveland Browns Stadium and their next meeting with the hated Steelers. The Browns jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind two first quarter touchdown passes from Tim Couch to tight end Aaron Shea and fullback Mark Edwards, respectively. But the Steelers, behind former Ohio State quarterback Kent Graham, rallied to cut that lead to 14-10 at halftime with a field goal and a four-yard scoring run by Richard Huntley. A 23-yard field goal by Phil Dawson gave the Browns a 17-13 lead midway through the third quarter.
However, a 10-yard rush by Jerome Bettis gave the Steelers a 20-17 lead heading into the fourth. Instead of rolling over, the young Browns fought back with a pair of fourth-quarter Dawson field goals – the latter from 19-yards out with 2:48 remaining – to take a 23-20 lead. Graham had the Steelers marching into field goal territory on his final two-minute drive. However, with no timeouts, rookie No. 1 overall draft choice Courtney Brown sacked Graham for a four-yard loss with 13 seconds remaining, and the Steelers ran out of time before assembling the field goal team. It’s the last time the Browns have won two straight against the Steelers (hopefully, until this coming Sunday). The Browns couldn’t sustain that 2-1 start, finishing a dismal 3-13. Ironically, of Chris Palmer’s five wins as the Browns’ head coach in two seasons, two of those wins came against the Steelers. That loss dropped the Steelers to 0-3, but they rebounded to finish 9-7 (and missing the playoffs).
17. Browns 33, Steelers 13 (Oct. 5, 2003): This is still the only time the Browns have won at Heinz Field (until this Sunday, hopefully). More importantly, not only was this a nationally-televised Sunday night game, but this was the teams’ first meeting since the Steelers came back from deficits of 24-7 and 33-17 to escape with a 36-33 playoff victory. Tim Couch, playing arguably the best game of his short five-year career, completed 20-of-25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. William Green gauged the vaunted Steeler defense for 115 yards on 33 carries. Couch’s six-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis and a short Phil Dawson field goal gave the Browns a 10-0 first quarter lead, and a 9-yard scoring pass from Couch to Kevin Johnson made it a 16-3 advantage midway through the second quarter.
Jerome Bettis plunged in from the 1 to cut that lead to 16-10, but Couch capped a 9-play, 78-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left to give the Browns a 23-10 halftime advantage. Daylon McCutcheon’s 75-yard interception return off a Tommy Maddux pass early in the third quarter was the final nail in the Steelers’ coffin. The Browns improved to 2-3 with the win (same record as the Steelers). However, they would finish 5-11. It would be Couch’s final year in the NFL. This would also be the Browns’ last win over the Steelers for the next 12 games and six seasons.
16. Browns 45, Steelers 7 (Oct. 29, 1950): The rivalry made its first appearance on the shores of Lake Erie with the 4-2 Browns taking on the 2-4 Steelers. The Browns had beaten Pittsburgh three weeks prior, 30-17 (see No. 15 on this list) in a dominating effort, and actually were more dominant at home. Hall of Famer Marion Motley rushed for 188 yards on 11 carries and scored a 69-yard rushing touchdown and a 38-yard receiving touchdown from Otto Graham. Both scores helped the Browns open up a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter, and a 14-yard scoring run by Don Phelps made it a 31-0 lead after three quarters.
After the Steelers scored, the Browns put the game away with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Dub Jones and a 38-yard TD pass from backup Cliff Lewis to Horace Gillom. The Browns defense forced eight turnovers in this romp, and the Cleveland offense outgained Pittsburgh, 533-349. The Browns wound wind up going 10-2 in their first NFL season and won the NFL Championship – their fifth title in their first five years of existence.
15. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Oct. 7, 1950): This was the first-ever meeting between these two storied franchises, and the Browns – in their first year in the National Football League after dominating the All-American Football Conference from 1946-49 – quickly showed who the dominant force was.
Played at Pitt Stadium, Hall of Famer Otto Graham rushed for two one-yard touchdowns to give the Browns a 14-3 lead, followed by a Dub Jones 7-yard rush to make it a 21-3 halftime lead. Cleveland put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard touchdown run by Jones to make it a 30-10 advantage. The defense forced six Steeler turnovers, despite giving up 345 yards of total offense.
14. Browns 30, Steelers 17 (Dec. 18, 1983): This was Brian Sipe’s final game in a Cleveland Browns’ uniform, and he went out with a blaze of glory against their hated and bitter rival in this late-season showdown. With the Steelers at 10-5 and already clinched the division title, the 8-7 Browns needed to win just to get a chance at a playoff berth. Sipe completed 14-of-22 passes for 199 yards with four touchdowns
and no interceptions to lead this minor upset. Sipe opened things up with a 64-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Rocky Belk, and added a two-yard scoring toss to backup tight end Harry Holt and a three-yarder to wideout Ricky Feacher to give the Browns a 23-10 halftime lead.
The Sipe-Holt connection put the game away early in the third quarter with a one-yard scoring toss and a 30-10 lead. Belk would only play that season, finishing with five receptions and two touchdowns. Franco Harris, in his final game as a Steeler, would be held to just 56 yards on 20 carries by a Browns defense that picked off quarterbacks Cliff Stoudt and Mark Malone once apiece. Alas, the 9-7 Browns finished second in the AFC Central with the win, but missed out on the playoffs by tiebreakers. It would be the last hurrah of the Kardiac Kid-era Browns — head coach Sam Rutigliano would be fired midway through the 1984 season after a 1-8 start.
13. Browns 10, Steelers 9 (Dec. 19, 1982): This one landed on my ninth birthday (it’s still the last time the Browns have won a game on my birthday). However, a closer look shows just how important this win really was. The Browns, in the strike-shortened season, were just 2-4 heading into this showdown at Cleveland Stadium with Paul McDonald at quarterback replacing an injured Brian Sipe. A loss would have essentially ended their season. However, the defense picked off Terry Bradshaw four times — three of which by rookie Hanford Dixon — and sacked him three times. The Steelers led, 7-3, at halftime on a six-yard TD pass from Bradshaw to John Stallworth.
However, McDonald, who completed 19-of-40 passes for 227 yards, led the Browns on a third-quarter scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard plunge by fullback Johnny Davis. An intentional safety taken when punter Steve Cox ran out of the end zone in the final seconds made it a one-point game, but it wasn’t enough. The win improved the Browns to 3-4 and led to a 4-5 season. It was good enough for them to make the playoffs under the expanded eight-team format, and this win propelled them to that playoff berth. It was also the last time the Browns beat a Bradshaw-led Steeler team – he retired after just one game in 1983.
12. Browns 20, Steelers 14 (Nov. 25, 2012): Prior to last year’s 31-10 win at home, this had been the most recent victory for the good guys. With the Steelers down to third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, the Browns defense forced a whopping eight turnovers – three of which occurred in the final three minutes of play. They intercepted three Batch passes, but recovered five fumbles from five different Steeler running backs. Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who had a batted pass intercepted and returned for a 53-yard touchdown by linebacker Lawrence Timmons on the fourth play from scrimmage, recovered to lead the Browns to 20 points. He threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron late in the second quarter off of a turnover, but the Steelers led, 14-13, at halftime on a Chris Rainey 1-yard run in the final seconds of the second quarter.
Kicker Phil Dawson connected from 28 and 32 yards out in the first half. But rookie Trent Richardson’s 15-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter gave the Browns a 20-14 lead, which was good enough for the long-awaited ‘W.’ Richardson finished with 85 yards on 29 carries, while Weeden (who was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter) threw for 153 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
11. Browns 13, Steelers 6 (Dec. 10, 2009): This one cracks our list because of how out-of-nowhere it really was. The Browns came into this Thursday Night home contest with a 1-11 record, and new coach Eric Mangini was on the hot seat with the rumored hiring of Mike Holmgren as team president earlier that week. However, instead of rolling over to the vaunted Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champions, they hit them in the mouth.
Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times – a season-best for the Browns’ beleaguered defense – and held them to just two field goals. Brady Quinn only threw for 90 yards and was offset a lot by receiver Josh Cribbs, who ran for a team-best 87 yards out of the Wildcat formation. But, he led two first quarter scoring drives (both Phil Dawson field goals) and another just before halftime, capped by rookie Chris Jennings’ 10-yard touchdown run to make it 13-0. The game wasn’t over until linebacker David Bowens batted away a fourth-down Roethlisberger pass with just over a minute remaining, and Santonio Holmes was leveled after a short punt return with no time remaining to cap one of the most satisfying Browns victory during the “Expansion Era.”
10. Browns 24, Steelers 19 (Oct. 9, 1965): The Browns came into 1965 as the defending NFL champions (alas, they haven’t been able to do that since then) and picked up right where they left off, winning two of their first three games before hosting the hated Steelers (0-4) on a Saturday night. However, the underdog Steelers hung tough with the vaunted Browns, rallying from a 10-0 first quarter deficit to take a 19-17 fourth quarter lead on a Dick Hoak 15-yard run. Jim Brown (who Cleveland drafted just one pick after the Steelers selected Len Dawson in the first round of the 1957 draft) scored two touchdowns, one receiving, and gained 168 yards on the ground.
However, it was his backup Leroy Kelly (who also wound up in the Hall of Fame), who made the biggest plays of the game-winning drive, which began on their own 22 with 3:35 remaining, catching passes of 22 and 21 yards. Following a four-yard run by Brown to put the ball on the Pittsburgh 14 with less than a minute to go, Frank Ryan found Gary Collins on a post pattern in the end zone for the game-winning score. The Browns wound up going 11-3 and reaching the NFL Championship game for the second-straight year, but lost to the Green Bay Packers in what turned out to be Brown’s final game of his storied career.
9. Browns 16, Steelers 15 (Nov. 14, 1999): After three years without football, the Browns were reborn
as an expansion team in 1999, playing in a sparkling new stadium in the exact spot that the old Cleveland Stadium stood. In their first game back, the Browns were humiliated by the Steelers, 43-0, at home. Just a few weeks later, on Nov. 14, the Browns played like a totally different team, keeping themselves in the game. The Browns scored first on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson (both rookies), but the Steelers battled back to take a 15-7 lead on a touchdown and three field goals.
But, with 6:26 left in the game, defensive lineman John Thierry intercepted Kordell Stewart and was brought down at the Steeler 15, setting up a Couch to Mark Edwards touchdown pass a few plays later. Karim Abdul-Jabbar’s two-point conversion run was stopped, but the Browns had one more chance. Taking over with no timeouts at his own 20 with 1:51 remaining, Couch drove the Browns 58 yards in five plays. Without stopping the clock and with 18 seconds left, Chris Palmer ran the field goal team out on to the field. The Browns snapped the ball with two seconds left, and rookie Phil Dawson, into an 18 mph wind, calmly drilled a 40-yard field goal to give Cleveland the stunning upset win. It turned out to be the Browns’ second-to-last visit to Three Rivers Stadium and their first win there since 1989’s 51-0 blowout.
8. Browns 26, Steelers 24 (Nov. 19, 1972): The suddenly resurgent Steelers, after decades of ineptitude, took a 7-2 record into this contest at Cleveland Stadium, with the Browns at 6-3. The Browns jumped out to a 20-3 lead behind two TD passes from Mike Phipps, but the Steelers scored just before halftime to make it 20-10, then got two touchdown runs – the latter a 75-yard run from Franco Harris – to take a 24-23 fourth quarter lead.
Don Cockroft missed a 27-yard field goal with just under two minutes remaining, but he got another chance thanks to the defense forcing a three-and-out and a clutch drive led by Phipps. With 13 seconds remaining, Cockroft earned his redemption with a 26-yard field goal, giving the Browns a much-needed victory. Both teams made the playoffs that season, but both were defeated by the undefeated Miami Dolphins.
7. Browns 27, Steelers 26 (Oct. 16, 1980): This game virtually signaled the death of the first Steeler dynasty and helped propel the “Kardiac Kids” to their first-ever AFC Central crown and first playoff berth since 1972. Despite the Steelers missing most of their regular offensive starters, Pittsburgh jumped out to a 26-14 fourth quarter lead with backup QB Cliff Stoudt, an Oberlin native, at the helm.
But Brian Sipe and Co., despite blowing a couple of golden scoring opportunities earlier in the game, came to life in the fourth quarter. Sipe found Greg Pruitt for a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 9:21 remaining (Don Cockroft missed the extra point, keeping the Steelers ahead by six). Then, with 5:38 remaining, Sipe found a streaking Ozzie Newsome wide open for an 18-yard touchdown, sending 80,000 fans at Cleveland Stadium into a frenzy. Ron Bolton prevented Stoudt from making a late rally with an interception at the two-minute warning, and the Browns were able to run out the clock on this huge victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.
6. Browns 31, Steelers 10 (Oct. 12, 2014): What does Brian Hoyer have in common with Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden? They were all starting quarterbacks during the “Expansion Era” who manufactured wins over the hated Steelers. The Browns enter this Sunday’s game on a one-game winning streak over the Steelers thanks to this white-washing – the Browns biggest win over the Steelers since they went to Three Rivers and won, 51-0, in 1989. The Steelers took a 3-0 first quarter lead before Hoyer – a former Pittsburgh backup in 2012 – led three second-quarter touchdown drives to take a 21-3 halftime lead.
The biggest play was a 51-yard bomb to tight end Jordan Cameron with 9:35 left in the quarter, sandwiched between touchdown runs by rookie Isaiah Crowell and Ben Tate (who would wind up starting for Pittsburgh in a Wild Card game that year). Tate’s second touchdown of the season, a 1-yard plunge with 12:37 left in the game, made it a 31-3 lead. Hoyer went 8-for-17 for 215 yards and a touchdown, but the running game rolled up 138 yards on 38 carries. Defensively, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just twice, but threw an interception and was thwarted on two fourth-down conversions. It snapped a four-game losing streak to the Steelers and was, arguably, the most satisfying victory for the Browns since 1999.
5. Browns 18, Steelers 16 (Oct. 10, 1976): This game is famous for Browns defensive end Joe “Turkey” Jones’ sack of Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, where Jones slammed Bradshaw right on his head and knocked him out of the game. The Steelers had won Super Bowl X the previous season and were poised to try to win it again.
They knocked out Brian Sipe early in the game, which resulted in little-used rookie Dave Mays (the Browns’ third-string QB) making his NFL debut. Mays – who was Cleveland’s first black quarterback – earned his way into Browns lore by calmly leading the Browns to two third-quarter scores – a 1-yard run by Cleo Miller and a 50-yard field goal by Don Cockroft – which gave them a 15-10 lead. Following Turkey’s sack, Cockroft added the game-clinching 40-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining.
4. Browns 27, Steelers 24 (Oct. 5, 1986): Since Three Rivers Stadium opened up in 1970, the Browns had never won there. They would always seem to lose in bizarre fashion as well, which perpetuated the local myth of the “Three Rivers Jinx.” The previous season, the Browns had the Steelers on the ropes before Gary Anderson’s last-second field goal gave Pittsburgh a 10-9 win. The Browns tried everything; staying in different hotels, busing instead of flying, bringing dirt from Cleveland Stadium and sprinkling it on the field during warm-ups, you name it. And, this one wasn’t without its bizarre moments as well.
The Browns took a quick 10-0 lead, but back-to-back turnovers gave Pittsburgh a 14-10 lead late in the first half. That’s when Gerald McNeil, nicknamed “The Ice Cube,” became a permanent fixture in Browns lore when he returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, giving the Browns a 17-14 halftime lead. At the time, it was the Browns’ first kickoff return touchdown in 12 years! However, the Steelers regained the lead early in the third quarter, and the two teams traded scores which resulted in Pittsburgh leading, 24-20, to start the fourth quarter. But, Mike Johnson recovered a muffed punt, and Earnest Byner’s four-yard TD run with eight minutes left gave the Browns the lead for good. It got interesting though – Matt Bahr missed a chip-shot field goal with just under five minutes to play, but Mark Malone’s pitch to Earnest Jackson on a bizarre option call from the Browns 35 was botched and the Browns recovered.
3. Browns 37, Steelers 31 OT (Nov. 23, 1986): The Browns had just ended their 16-year “Three Rivers Jinx” earlier in the season (see No. 4) and had come off a huge win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night at home. Bernie Kosar and Mark Malone engaged in a wild shootout. Kosar completed 28 of 46 passes for a then-career-best 414 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, just two days before his 23rd birthday. The Browns had taken a 31-28 lead with 1:51 left on a Matt Bahr field goal, but lost Bahr for the season on the ensuing kickoff when he made a game-saving tackle on the Steelers’ Lupe Sanchez at the Browns 40.
Gary Anderson made a 40-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, and the Browns did not have a healthy kicker. After both teams went three-and-out in the OT, Kosar went to work. With 6:37 remaining and the ball on the Steeler 36, Kosar pumped once and fired deep down the left sideline for rookie Webster Slaughter. Slaughter caught the ball in stride and scored the walk-off touchdown. The Browns’ 536 yards offense was the most a Pittsburgh defense had ever yielded up to that point.
2. Browns 51, Steelers 0 (Sept. 10, 1989): The Browns were in the midst of a five-season playoff streak, where they qualified for the AFC Championship game three times in a four-year span. This season
capped off both streaks and began with question marks concerning new head coach Bud Carson. Carson, who was the architect of the famed Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970s, had never been a head coach before. But, in this season opener at Three Rivers Stadium, Carson’s attack 4-3 defense stunned Bubby Brister and the Steelers by forcing six turnovers and scoring three defensive touchdowns – two of which by linebacker David Grayson and the other by veteran Clay Matthews.
Rookie running back Tim Worley fumbled the ball at least four times, and two of them were returned for touchdowns. This rout catapulted the Browns to a 9-6-1 season and their last AFC Championship game berth. The Steelers rebounded to finish 9-7 and came within a point of meeting the Browns in that AFC Title game.
1. Browns 28, Steelers 23 (Oct. 24, 1993): Just two weeks after this game, Bill Belichick and Art Modell touched off mass furor when they released regional icon Bernie Kosar. However, all was right in the world with this game, simply remembered as the ”Eric Metcalf Game.” The Browns jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, thanks to a 62-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde to Michael Jackson and a 91-yard punt return by Metcalf, but the Steelers tied at 14 just before halftime. The Browns led again, 21-17, on a short TD pass from Testaverde to fullback Ron Wolfley, but the Steelers came back to take a 23-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
With Testaverde knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder, Kosar was poised to direct one his patented two-minute drives. However, Metcalf never gave him the chance, weaving through the Steeler special teams for a breathtaking 75-yard touchdown with 2:05 remaining. Metcalf became just the first NFL player to have two punt return TDs in the same game. Stevon Moore clinched the win by recovering a fumble with less than a minute remaining, but everyone remembers the Metcalf return as the winning play. The win improved the Browns to 5-2, but Kosar’s release deflated this team that wound up a disappointing 7-9. It was also the last time the original Browns beat the Steelers. The Steelers wound up 9-7 and reached the playoffs.
Here we go, Brownies, here we go!
Until next time, remember that Cleveland Rocks!