Good rivalries, like the one between the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, are built on big, memorable wins on both sides.
So with that in mind, then, and with another chapter to that nearly 60-year rivalry set to be written on Thursday night when the two teams clash at Cleveland Browns Stadium before a national TV audience, let's look, in chronological order, at the 16 biggest games in the series from a Cleveland perspective – the Sweet 16, as we'll call them:
*Browns 17, Steelers 0 – Oct. 21, 1951 at Cleveland (32,409); Browns 28, Steelers 0 – Dec. 9, 1951 at Pittsburgh (24,299) – OK, so these are two games, not one. But we consider them one because they happened in the same year and have a common theme. The Browns not only won the season series from the Steelers, but did so by recording two shutouts. Pittsburgh was 0-for-1951 in terms of scoring against the Browns. The Browns won the first one on the strength of Horace Gillom's 38-yard fumble return for a touchdown and Warren Lahr's 27-yard interception return. In the second one, the Browns scored 21 points in the second quarter.
*Browns 30, Steelers 17 – Nov. 1, 1964 at Pittsburgh (49,568) – After getting run over – literally and figuratively – in their first meeting at Cleveland three weeks earlier when John Henry Johnson rushed for 200 yards in a 23-7 win, the Browns triumphed in the return match on their way to capturing the NFL championship. The Browns scored 10 points in each of the last three quarters, getting two TD runs from Ernie Green and three Lou Groza field goals.
*Browns 26, Steelers 24 – Nov. 19, 1972 at Cleveland (83,009) – The Browns jumped out to a 20-3 lead in the second quarter, but needed Don Cockroft's second-chance 26-yard field goal with eight seconds left to survive. He had missed from that same spot on the field two minutes before that. The Steelers were on the way to winning their first division crown, and the Browns used this victory to claim the AFC's lone wild-card spot.
*Browns 21, Steelers 16 – Nov. 25, 1973 at Cleveland (67,773) – Greg Pruitt scored two TDs, including the game-winner on a 19-yard run in the waning seconds. It came after a 42-yard reception from Mike Phipps just two plays before on which he deftly eluded a slew of Steelers.
*Browns 18, Steelers 16 – Oct. 10, 1976 at Cleveland (76,411) – Joe "Turkey" Jones did his famous spiking of Terry Bradshaw, knocking the quarterback out of the game after the Steelers knocked Brian Sipe from the contest with a concussion. Dr. David Mays stepped in at quarterback and rallied the Browns. Cockroft kicked four field goals, including three over 40 yards, and a 50-yarder.
*Browns 27, Steelers 26 – Oct. 26, 1980 at Cleveland (79,095) – Trailing 26-14 after three quarters, the Browns, in the typical Kardiac Kids fashion that would be their theme that season, rallied with two Sipe TD passes, first to Greg Pruitt and then to Ozzie Newsome in the final seconds, to record a victory that went a long way toward carrying them to their first AFC Central championship in nine years.
*Browns 10, Steelers 9 – Dec. 19, 1982 at Cleveland (67,139) – When the Browns selected Hanford Dixon in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft, a Steelers assistant coach chortled, "Oh, look, they took the midget." But the second-year cornerback stood tall, tying a team record by intercepting three passes to give the Browns a much-needed win as they pushed hard down the stretch to gain the last AFC playoff spot.
*Browns 30, Steelers 17 – Dec. 18, 1983 at Cleveland (72,313) – In what would turn out to be his final game as a Brown before bolting to the big money of the USFL, Sipe, in a game the Browns needed to win to have any hope of making the playoffs, threw four TD passes – to Rocky Belk, Harry Holt (two) and Ricky Feacher – to spur the club to a 30-10 lead after three quarters. The postseason berth didn't materialize, but Sipe nonetheless left his mark.
*Browns 27, Steelers 24 – Oct. 5, 1986 at Pittsburgh (57,327) – The Browns finally ended the 16-game "Three Rivers Jinx" when Clay Matthews stripped Mark Malone of the ball as the Steelers were driving in Cleveland territory late in the game. Gerald "Ice Cube" McNeil had a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD.
*Browns 37, Steelers 31 (overtime) – Nov. 23, 1986 at Cleveland (76,452) – The Browns swept the season series from Pittsburgh for the first time since 1969 when Bernie Kosar threw a 36-yard TD pass to Webster Slaughter. They used the victory as a catalyst to win the division with a conference-best 12-4 record.
*Browns 19, Steelers 13 – Dec. 26, 1987 at Pittsburgh (56,394) – The Browns triumphed at Three Rivers Stadium again to clinch their third straight division crown. They were so confident that during a TV timeout late in the game as they were trying to run out the clock and keep the ball away from the desperate Steelers, they played "Name That Tune" with the music being played over the stadium public address system.
*Browns 51, Steelers 0 – Sept. 10, 1989 at Pittsburgh (57,928) – The Browns won their fourth straight at Three Rivers and dealt the Steelers their most lopsided loss in history as former Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Bud Carson made his debut as Cleveland head coach. The Browns, who led 30-0 at halftime, had three defensive TDs.
*Browns 28, Steelers 23 – Oct. 24, 1993 at Cleveland (78,118) – Eric Metcalf set an NFL record by returning punts 75 and 90 yards for touchdowns – the shorter one being the game-winner – as Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, a former Browns special teams coach, stewed on the sidelines.
*Browns 16, Steelers 15 – Nov. 14, 1999 at Pittsburgh (58,212) – After the Steelers ruined the re-born Browns' return to the field following a three-year absence with a 43-0 win at Cleveland in the opener, the Browns ruined the Steelers' season with this win, achieved when Cleveland completed a rally from a 15-7 fourth-quarter deficit with Phil Dawson's last-play, 39-yard field goal into a stiff wind. The defeat started the Steelers on a six-game losing streak that knocked them out of playoff contention.
*Browns 23, Steelers 20 – Sept. 17, 2000 at Cleveland (73,018) – The Browns beat the Steelers in two straight meetings for the first time in over a decade. Tim Couch threw for 316 yards and Dawson kicked three field goals, including two in the fourth quarter, as the Browns rallied from a 20-17 deficit.
*Browns 33, Steelers 13 – Oct. 5, 2003 at Pittsburgh (64.595) – Couch played his best game as a Brown, completing 20-of-25 passes for 208 yards and two TDs, while running for another score, as the Browns won in a rout nine months to the day after they had blown a 24-7 third-quarter lead in a playoff game at Heinz Field and lost 36-33 to the Steelers.