Ranking the Steelers’ top 10 NFL rivals

No, the Patriots aren’t No. 1.

NFL: AFC Championship-Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
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College football has rivalry week. The Steelers are about to have rivalry month. After taking on the Cincinnati Bengals this Monday night, the Steelers get the Ravens next Sunday, the Patriots the week after and then the Browns to close out the season. So let’s rank the Steelers’ top rivals while acknowledging that a team with a (WORLD RECORD!) six Lombardi Trophies* actually has no true rivals.

*Obligatory condescending mention of Steelers titles in hopes of making fans of all other teams feel inferior.

10. Cleveland Browns

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
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I know, I know. All of this column’s many elderly readers will be outraged to see the Browns ranked so low. “The Steelers had many meaningful tilts against them on the gridiron in the years following the Great War! Cleveland is Pittsburgh’s greatest rival!”

Thanks for reading the column, olds, but times have changed. And Steelers-Browns is not a rival vs. rival relationship anymore. It’s a bully vs. victim relationship and the Browns have been getting football wedgies for an entire generation.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars
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No, really. You know how the Jaguars have been a punchline for the vast majority of their existence? The Steelers are actually 11-13 against them all-time, including a home playoff loss to (David Garrard!) and the Jaguars in January 2008. More recently, there was that pathetic 30-9 loss the Jacksonville back in Week 5 when Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. And now the Jaguars lurk as a possible opponent in the divisional round of the playoffs at Heinz Field. (Duh-duh-DUHHHHH.)

8. Steelers fans

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
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Please know that the Steelers hate approximately half of all Steelers fans. Not you, though. They think you’re great.

7. Philadelphia Eagles

NFL: Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles
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Let me be the first Pittsburgh fan to ever mention that the cross-state Eagles have never won the Super Bowl and the Flyers haven’t won a Stanley Cup since most everyone you know was born.

Yes, it’s true: Philadelphia is a far inferior city in every way. Sad! That bit of obscure trivia aside, I have some terrible news: The Eagles might be good. And they may also have a legit franchise quarterback for the first time in their history. (More Fun Facts: Donovan McNabb wasn’t that good.)

Yes, the Eagles schedule is so weak this year that it would cause them to be left out of the College Football Playoff. But they’re not responsible for the teams put on their schedule. And they’ve been walloping all of their weak opponents, something the Steelers almost never do. There is a real chance the Steelers and Eagles could meet in the Super Bowl … and that the Eagles could win their first Super Bowl against the Steelers, something Philadelphia fans would never let us live down. START TO PANIC!

6. New England Patriots

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

I know the Steelers want to be the Patriots’ rivals. But the Patriots currently don’t have any rivals. Did you watch last year’s AFC title game? It looked a lot like Steelers vs. Browns.

[shameless self-promotion] By the way, if you’d like more on the Steelers and Patriots, I have a new Pittsburgh sports podcast — the Only Pittsburgh Sports Podcast — co-hosted by Dan Hopper, and this week we talked to David Todd about Steelers-Patriots and if Pittsburgh fans are insane. [/shameless self-promotion]

5. Time

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
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“Timing is everything,” a wise man or woman once said (at the absolutely perfect time because at that moment someone happened to be writing their words down for posterity). Time is an issue for the Steelers. They haven’t had only one losing record this century, but their run of success has coincided with the Patriots mostly – 2005 and 2008 excluded – being better. And now their franchise QB’s time in the NFL is winding down, meaning the championship window could close. It would be nice to see the Steelers win their battle with time this season and get a seventh Lombardi before it’s too late.

4. Cincinnati Bengals

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
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The Bengals are the Browns but slightly more competitive and appreciably more crime-y. They’re not an actual rival because they’ve never been a real threat. But it sure is fun to watch them fail year after year.

3. Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens literally used to be the Browns, and Joe Flacco is clearly trying to reclaim that Browns heritage by being exceedingly awful as a quarterback. He’s so bad now that you almost have to pity him. (Almost. You definitely never pity a Raven as a Steelers fan.) Baltimore hasn’t had a winning season since 2014, but the legitimate, high-stakes rivalry the Steelers and Ravens had from 2000 to 2014 means they’re still Pittsburgh’s biggest foe.

2. Olden-time Steelers

NCAA Football: USA TODAY Sports-Archive
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No matter what these modern Steelers accomplish, they’ll never be as great as the Steelers of the ’70s. Just ask your dad.

1. Newen(?)-time Steelers

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have three likely future Hall of Famers in Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on offense and maybe a couple more on the offensive line and a much-improved defense. Yet this team still lost to the Bears and struggles with teams like the Packers and Colts.

The Steelers are the Steelers’ greatest rival.