Whether it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers facing the Cleveland Browns on the gridiron, or the Pittsburgh Penguins dropping the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the energy throughout the stadium and beyond goes to a different level. As of late, teams in Pittsburgh have gotten the better of both Ohio cities.
“Steelers Week” has not gone well for the Cleveland Browns over the last nine seasons (2013-2022). The Browns have managed to win a grand total of four games against the Steelers in that time period. Two of those wins held more significance:
Cleveland defeated Pittsburgh in Week 17 of the 2020 season in the ‘Dawg Pound’ to secure a playoff spot for the first time in nearly two decades.
Seven days later, the Browns turned around and slayed some of their demons by defeating their arch rival again (this time in Pittsburgh) to advance to the Divisional Round of the postseason for the first time since 1994.
The other two wins for the Browns against Pittsburgh over the last nine years occured in Week 6 in 2014 and Week 11 in 2019, both in Cleveland.
The story is similar in the NHL, where the Pittsburgh Penguins have dominated the Columbus Blue Jackets in a matchup of Metropolitan Division foes. The Pens swept the four-game season series against the Jackets last year. In three of the four games, the Penguins scored five goals.
The Jackets last defeated the Pens in a regular season game on November 29th, 2019 by a final score of 5-2 at Nationwide Arena. The two teams did not play each other during the ’20-’21 season because of divisional realignment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Columbus and Pittsburgh linked up in Round 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Had the Jackets not won Game 4 in Columbus, the Penguins would’ve swept the series. Pittsburgh outscored Columbus 21-13 in the five-game series. The Penguins went on to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup and fifth in franchise history.
Pittsburgh's iron fist over Columbus and Cleveland goes from the NFL, to the NHL, to the AHL. Since moving to the Eastern Conference before the start of the ’18-’19 season, the Cleveland Monsters have matched up with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, affiliate of the NHL’s Penguins. Last season, Wikes-Barre took three out of four against Cleveland. The last time the Monsters defeated the Penguins was December 13th 2019 in a 4-0 shutout at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Monsters and Penguins also didn’t play each other during the ’20-’21 season due to the pandemic.
Despite not being in the same division, the Monsters and Penquins usually faceoff four times a year. The Steelers and Browns are AFC North division foes, so they meet twice a season.
Both Columbus and Cleveland franchises have retooled, hoping to fight back against Pittsburgh’s dominance.
The Browns are hoping the addition of quarterback Deshaun Watson, and the Steelers subtraction, longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, tips the rivalry scale in their direction moving forward.
Watson won’t get the full meal regarding the Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry this season. The former Houston Texan is suspended for the first 11 games of the season, meaning he will miss rhe first showdown between the Steelers and Browns during Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season on Thursday Night Football off the shores of Lake Erie. The grudge match between Cleveland and Pittsburgh goes down in Week 18 off the shores of the Ohio River. Watson will be thrown into the fire right away in a game that could decide who goes to the playoffs and who is forced to watch the playoffs on the couch with the rest of the millions of NFL fans. If the Browns want to get back to the postseason, they’ll have to go through the Steelers, who haven’t had a losing season since 2003.
The Blue Jackets made the most significant move of the offseason by signing left winger Johnny Gaudreau, formerly of the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, the Penguins were able to re-sign defenseman Kris Letang and centerman Evgeni Malkin as they look to keep their contention window open and capture their sixth Stanley Cup.
The Jackets will attempt to reverse their fortunes against the Pens this season. The two teams will see each other four times throughout the ’22-’23 season. October 22nd and April 13th, the teams will drop the puck in Ohio. On December 6th and March 7th, they’ll faceoff in Pennsylvania. It appears the Jackets are more interested in ending their two-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought rather than reversing the direction of the rivalry with the Pens. In order to get back to the playoffs though, Columbus will have to go through Pittsburgh.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Cleveland aren’t in the same division (The Penguins are in the Atlantic Division, and the Monsters are in the North Division). As a result, they don’t necessarily have to go through each other to claim a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs, so the impact of the matchups between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Cleveland is diminished compared to the Pittsburgh-Cleveland/Columbus rivarlies in the NFL and NHL, but it still holds significance. Last season, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton made it to the Calder Cup Playoffs while the Monsters missed out.
Like last year, the Monsters and Penguins will meet four times this season. On October 26th and December 9th, the two teams will be in Pennsylvania. They’ll come to Cleveland on March 4th and March 5th. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has controlled the season series against Cleveland, including taking three out of four games last season. The Monsters will look to turn things around this season against the Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are on a streak of 15 consecutive non-losing seasons. That streak could come to an end as they look vulnerable. The Pittsburgh Penguins always seem to find a way to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They come into this season as the oldest team in the league, so they could miss out on the postseason party. There’s no guarantee the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will be as good as they were last season because players are traveling back and forth between the NHL and AHL.
There’s an opportunity for Columbus and Cleveland to turn the tide in the rivalry against Pittsburgh. The Browns, Monsters and Blue Jackets muse seize that opportunity and run with it. They may never get a better opportunity than now to tip the scales back in their favor.
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