By John Seaburn, Akron Beacon Journal
That was almost double the number of games the Browns had played against any other team and if anything in pro football seemed to be a certainty, it was the yearly renewal of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry.
Bigger and better, season after season, decade after decade.
And now, it's back. Three years after the war was stopped by the Browns' move from Cleveland to Baltimore, it will resume at 8 p.m. Sunday in the new Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The rivalry began in 1950, when the Browns joined the NFL. Cleveland won the first eight games and 16 of the first 18. The Browns never lost at Cleveland Stadium until 1956.
Cleveland also won 15 of the 20 games played during the 1960s, when Pittsburgh was a struggling franchise.
But then the Steelers hired Coach Chuck Noll, drafted quarterback Terry Bradshaw and defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene, and moved into Three Rivers Stadium -- and everything changed. It took the Browns 16 years to get a victory on that artificial turf. Joe Gordon, the Steelers' retired vice president for communications, said:
``I think it became a mental thing for both teams. The Steelers never thought they could lose at home and the Browns got to where they didn't think they'd ever win over here.''
In a way, the rivalry peaked after the 1994 regular season, when Cleveland and Pittsburgh met for the first time in the NFL playoffs -- with Pittsburgh winning 29-9 in a second-round game at Three Rivers.
Yes, the teams played twice more in 1995, but both games took place after Nov. 6 -- the day Art Modell announced the team would move to Baltimore. On Nov. 13, the following Monday night, the Steelers won 20-3 on national television, and two weeks later in Cleveland, Pittsburgh won again 20-17.
Later, when Modell obtained NFL approval to move, he renamed his team the Ravens and left behind the existing Cleveland name and records.
That means the new Browns inherit a 52-40 edge in the series heading into a game sure to create new memories.
Here, in chronological order, are some of the old Browns-Steelers stories:
Greene vs. McKay
There were uneasy feelings when Mean Joe Greene and Browns offensive tackle Bob McKay were at the center of a nasty brawl on Oct. 5, 1975.
Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope also remembered the occasion, but for a different reason.
``When Greene got into a fight in front of the Cleveland bench,'' Cope said, ``the whole Cleveland bench jumped him. They got him down and were kicking him in the you-know-where.
``I happened to look downfield and there's a Cleveland player running a pass route and Jack Lambert covering the guy.
``When all hell broke loose in front of the Cleveland bench back up around the line of scrimmage, the officials and everybody ran to that scene. The guy running the pass route for Cleveland stopped and turned around to go back, whereupon Lambert hauled off and kicked him.''
Cope said he found Lambert after the game.
``Jack was in the showers,'' Cope said. ``I always called him Splat and I said to him, `I saw what you did, Splat.' He sort of cocked his head, looked at me with a wry grin, and said nothing.''
Who can forget Browns defensive end Joe ``Turkey'' Jones tangling with Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw on Oct. 10, 1976, in Cleveland?
``Turkey lifted him up into the air and spiked him head-first in the turf,'' Cope said. ``It was sickening.''
``I didn't hear a whistle, and I'd never do anything like that for the purpose of hurting a guy,'' Jones said after the game.
Cope was seated near Bradshaw on the plane ride back to Pittsburgh. ``They had him strapped prone in the plane. They feared a broken neck. There was no sign of a broken neck but until they got him home and hospitalized, they had to be sure, so they had him strapped down. Luckily, Bradshaw suffered only a severe concussion,'' Cope said.
The Browns won 18-16.
Lambert vs. Sipe
Then there was the Dec. 18, 1983, game in Cleveland, when Lambert was tossed from the game after he threw Browns quarterback Brian Sipe to the ground in front of Cleveland's bench.
Bob Labriola, editor of the publication Steelers Digest, said: ``Lambert was asked in the locker room after the game what he'd been thrown out for. Lambert replied that the official said that he'd hit Sipe `too hard.' ''
Asked if he agreed, Lambert said, ``Well, I hit him as hard as I could.''
The Browns won 30-17.
The no-fumble fumble
In 1978, the Browns' losing streak at Three Rivers continued yet again after a wild ending. Steelers kick returner Larry Anderson fumbled a kickoff in overtime. But, remembered tackle Doug Dieken: ``The official said the ground couldn't cause a fumble. But there'd been no contact by players so it had to have been a fumble. Anderson just dropped the ball.
The Steelers won 15-9, when Bradshaw hit Bennie Cunningham with a 37-yard flea-flicker for a touchdown in overtime.
Finally, a breakthrough
The losing streak at Three Rivers finally ended when the Browns triumphed 27-24 on Oct. 5, 1986. Gerald ``Ice Cube'' McNeil had two long punt returns for touchdowns, one for 100 yards, which ranks fourth in Browns history, and Earnest Byner scored a touchdown late in the game. The Browns went on to win four games in a row in Pittsburgh and won 11-of-18 regular-season games between 1986-94.