There are many notable rivalries across the sports world such as Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins, Duke v. North Carolina, Ohio State v. Michigan (even though the Wolverines haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since 2011), and of course, “The Iron Bowl” (Alabama v. Auburn) and still more.
The NFL’s Cleveland Browns’ fans still claim that there is a rivalry between the Steelers and Browns. However, Cleveland has only beaten Pittsburgh twice since 2013. One of those times was in 2014 when Ben Roethlisberger was under center for the black and gold. The other time was this past season – in a game headlined by the violent actions of Myles Garrett. To add on, both of the Browns’ victories against the Steelers have been in Cleveland. There must be some voodoo at Heinz Field when Cleveland comes to town. The Browns haven’t beaten Pittsburgh at Heinz Field since 2003. Thus, it doesn’t constitute a rivalry.
The real rivalry in the AFC North does not involve Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Instead, it is a rivalry featuring the Baltimore Ravens and the Steelers. When these two teams meet on the gridiron, it often turns into a street fight.
Unlike the Browns vs Steelers, when Baltimore and Pittsburgh get together there’s usually something on the line. The AFC North division title has been on the line most notably in 2008 and 2016 for games within this rivalry. The Steelers won the division title each time.
In 2008, the Purple and Black met the Black and Gold in the AFC Championship for the right to play the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl 43. Joe Flacco was a rookie QB for the Ravens at the time, while the Steelers had a relatively young fourth-year QB in Roethlisberger, who had already won a Super Bowl in his 2nd year.
The Steelers followed up their Super Bowl 43 championship with another appearance in Super Bowl 45 against the Green Bay Packers in 2010. The Steelers came up short in their quest for two championships in three years and seven overall, as they fell to the Packers, 31-25, at Cowboys Stadium. In 2012, the Ravens returned the favor by going on to win their 2nd Super Bowl, defeating the San Francisco 49ers
Since then, neither team has been to the Super Bowl, though both have made playoff appearances. In 2018, the Steelers and Ravens were fighting each other for the AFC North title. That season, they split their two games with each team winning on the road.
Fast forward to Week 17 of the 2018 season.
The Steelers had just defeated the Cincinnati Bengals at home and were now depending on their supposed rivals, the Cleveland Browns, to go on the road and beat their reincarnation, the Baltimore Ravens. If that had happened, then Pittsburgh would’ve gone to the playoffs. However, this didn’t pan out, as the Ravens squeaked out a 26-24 win. The Baltimore victory gave the Ravens the AFC North Division title and kept the Steelers at home.
As noted previously, when the Purple and Black meet the Black and Gold it usually turns into a street fight. The rivalry is built on defense, defense and more defense! The men who played for these teams over the past 20 years are some of the most fierce and competitive players ever to square off in the NFL. Some of the key figures in the Steelers v. Ravens rivalry are star defensive players such as Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, James Harrison, Terrell Suggs, Ike Taylor and many more.
Former Alabama head coaching great Bear Bryant famously said, “Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships.” Coaches Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh have created ferocious defenses that have powered both teams to the top of the AFC North.
This is precisely why the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens has become a grudge match and the number one rivalry in the AFC North.