The most savage Steelers-Browns rivalry moments
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Most savage Steelers-Browns rivalry moments

Browns, Steelers

The record has been one-sided since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, but the team’s rivalry with AFC North foe Pittsburgh Steelers is still as brutal as ever. Here are some of the most savage moments from the series.

5. Josh Cribbs’ 100-yard kickoff return touchdown – 2007

The Steelers were ultimately victorious in this Week 9 battle, but Cleveland legend Josh Cribbs gave his team the lead with an all-time return. Following a 30-yard touchdown run by Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh kicked off to Cribbs early in the fourth quarter. The kick was low, and bounced a few times before Cribbs attempted to field it around the 10-yard line. Cribbs misjudged the bounce, and the ball tipped off his fingertips before rolling all the way to the goal line. With his feet in his own end zone, Cribbs picked up the ball and dodged at least seven tackle attempts while tiptoeing the sideline before he even reached his own 15. 85 yards and an embarrassing amount of missed tackles later, the Browns were back in front.

Incredible plays like this are how Cribbs managed to finish his career ranked third all-time in kick return yards and tied for first in kick return touchdowns.

4. James Harrison’s hit on Mohamed Massaquoi – 2010

Over his 15-year NFL career, Pittsburgh’s James Harrison earned a reputation for being one of the league’s most physical (and dirty) players because of plays like this. After literally knocking out Josh Cribbs in the second quarter, Harrison wasn’t done. Less than 10 game minutes later, Harrison laid a brutal hit on the defenseless Mohamed Massaquoi.

A decade after that hit was made, the Steelers linebacker insinuated that head coach Mike Tomlin had rewarded Harrison financially for his deed. In an interview with Barstool Sports’ Going Deep, Harrison stated

“The G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that,” Harrison said on the podcast. “I’m not going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”

That wasn’t even the worst quote to come out of that interview.

“On everything I love, on my daddy’s grave, I hit that man with about 50% of what I had and I just hit him because I wanted him to let loose of the ball,” Harrison said. “If I had knew they was gonna fine me $75,000, I would have tried to kill him.”

We aren’t done talking about Harrison just yet.

3. James Harrison’s hit on Colt McCoy – 2011

It seems as if giving two Browns receivers concussions in the same game wasn’t enough for Harrison, so he took things to another level when Cleveland and Pittsburgh faced off on Thursday Night Football in 2011. Midway through the fourth quarter, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy scrambled to his left and got the ball away to his running back, but Harrison still launched himself straight at McCoy’s head.

Things get worse. McCoy obviously left the game to be examined by medical personnel, but then was somehow let back in to finish the game. Afterwards, it was of course revealed that he had suffered a concussion. This debacle of incompetency lead to the NFL heavily revising its concussion protocol.

2. Myles Garrett strikes Mason Rudolph with his helmet – 2019

The Steelers don’t have a monopoly on needlessly brutal hits in these games. In one of their most complete games of the campaign, the Browns dominated their rivals and were leading 21-7 with just 15 seconds remaining. The game was over, but Cleveland’s defensive starters remained on the field for the final play. QB Mason Rudolph barely got the throw off in time before Browns superstar EDGE Myles Garrett swallowed him up and took him to the ground. Rudolph then attempted to rip Garrett’s helmet off  and Garrett retailed, succeeding in removing Rudolph’s helmet before the pair were separated.

Garrett seemed to be done, but Rudolph ran after him in a rage, and Garrett slammed Rudolph’s helmet into his head, leading to Garrett’s suspension for the rest of the campaign. Known for his even-keeled demeanor and soft side off the field, it was stunning to see Garrett react in such a violent manner, and Rudolph is fortunate he wasn’t seriously injured or even killed. Garrett has since claimed that Ruldoph called him a racial slur, which is why he reacted uncharacteristically — an accusation that Rudolph has of course denied, and that the NFL has found no proof of, although it’s hard to believe the league’s claim that no audio from the incident exists.

1. Turkey Jones’ hit on Terry Bradshaw – 1976

Another Pittsburgh QB that thankfully avoided serious injury, Terry Bradshaw was sacked by Cleveland’s Turkey Jones in a manner that looked straight out of a wrestling ring.

Jones picked Bradshaw up and violently threw him down, slamming him into the ground head-first. Bradshaw had to be immobilized on top of a locker room door that was removed, as the medical crew lacked a suitable table. The Browns won this game, but eventually the Steelers would sneak into the playoffs over their divisional foe.