Top 10 Pittsburgh Steelers Rivals of All Time

Eric Dockett

Steelers wide receiver James Washington stiff arms Bengals cornerback B.W. Webb on a touchdown catch and run in the third quarter of an NFL Week 12 game, Nov. 24, 2019, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar, Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Pittsburgh Steelers' Biggest Rivals

NFL rivalries are part of what makes professional football so exciting. As fans, we circle the dates on the game schedule when our favorite team will face off against a hated rival.

The players look forward to these matchups as well. Of course, every NFL team wants to defeat every opponent they play, but not all games are created equal. Players and coaches feel the heat when an archrival appears on the schedule. They are constantly reminded by the media, fans, and former players on how critical it is to win.

The Steelers have been around for over 80 years. The franchise has existed during multiple versions of the NFL (including a merger with another league) and has seen several division realignments. This has given them plenty of opportunity to rack up a long list of enemies.

In ranking the top 10 Steelers rivals of all time, it is helpful to break them down into three major groups, from least-heated to most-hated:

  • NFC Rivals: The Steelers are in the AFC. That means NFC teams might see them in the regular season every few years, but they wont face off against Pittsburgh in the playoffs unless both teams make it to the Super Bowl. However, as the Steelers are a franchise from the old pre-merger NFL, they have a history with some NFC teams that date back to the early days of the league. In some cases, Super Bowl meetings have established a heated rivalry.
  • AFC Conference Rivals: As with NFC teams, whether or not Pittsburgh sees their conference rivals during the regular season depends on how the NFL schedule lines up. It is during the playoffs where these matchups become intense. Over the course of Steelers history, there have been a few teams that repeatedly get into Pittsburgh's way on their march to the Super Bowl. Sometimes the matchups come out in Pittsburghs favor, and other times not, but it is never boring.
  • AFC Division Rivals: Each division in the NFL is comprised of four teams who meet twice per year in the regular season and might even face each other in the playoffs. The Steelers compete in the AFC North against three divisional opponents who each have their own storied history. These are the most-despised Steelers rivals and the teams Pittsburgh must dominate each season in order to make it to the playoffs.

As a fan, you learn to hate your team's rivals, but there is also a level of respect and admiration for the teams the Steelers have done battle with over the decades. It is the struggle against a worthy opponent that makes NFL football so exciting.

Please note that all records here are current as of the 2019 season.

Steelers wide receiver Damoun Patterson (83) makes a touchdown reception against Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas (32) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. © Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

10. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles, the Steelers' cross-state rivals, joined the NFL in 1933, the same year as the Steelers (who were then called the Pittsburgh Pirates). Both were expansion teams, and both came from a state where football was, and still is, highly revered.

Today, when the Steelers and Eagles face off in the regular season, it is a rare but heated matchup. Back in the early days of the NFL, they both battled for the NFL East, along with New York, Boston and Brooklyn.

The Steelers-Eagles rivalry continued until realignment in 1967, when the Eagles were assigned to the Capitol Division and the Steelers the Century Division. With the NFL/AFL merger of 1970, the two teams found themselves separated by an even greater divide when the Steelers moved over to the AFC.

In an interesting footnote to Steelers' history, the franchises actually joined forces during World War II. With many players away at war, neither organization had the personnel needed to field a full team. In 1943, the Phil-Pitt Eagles-Steelers Combine team took the field with the unofficial moniker "Steagles." The hybrid team went 5-4-1, marking the Eagles' first winning season, and the Steelers' second in team history.

Pennsylvania football fans look forward to the day when the Steelers and Eagles finally meet in the Super Bowl.

All-Time Record

  • With 78 regular-season games played, the Eagles lead the series 4728 with three ties between them.
  • The Eagles defeated the Steelers once in the NFL playoffs.

Notable Games

  • 1947 NFL Playoffs: The 85 Steelers lost to the 94 Eagles by a score of 210 when Philadelphia quarterback Tommy Thompson threw for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) scores on a one yard touchdown run past Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant (56) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

9. Dallas Cowboys

In the history of pro sports, there have been few rivalries as epic as that between the Cowboys and Steelers of the 1970s. The teams battled on the field in two Super Bowls, but in many ways, they competed for the hearts and minds of an entire country.

The Cowboys were Americas Team, with a U.S. Navy veteran and Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, a linebacker called "Hollywood," a shining star on their helmets and pristine home whites. The Steelers were a blue-collar team, with a good ol southern boy at quarterback, a linebacker with no front teeth, the steelmark on their helmets and black jerseys.

The Cowboys joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1960. They had their first winning season in 1966 and continued with a streak of winning years that lasted through 1985. During the 1970s, they appeared in five Super Bowls (lost three and won two). A pair of those Super Bowl defeats came at the hands of the Steelers. The Steelers' victories over the Cowboys in Super Bowls X and XIII are among the greatest victories in Pittsburgh franchise history.

Fortunes fell for both the Cowboys and Steelers in the 1980s, but the rivalry rekindled in 1995 when the two teams once again met in the Super Bowl. This time the Cowboys had their revenge, defeating the Steelers 2717.

All-Time Record

  • In 29 regular-season games, the Cowboys hold a 1613 advantage.
  • In three Super Bowl meetings, the Steelers have won two.

Notable Games

  • Super Bowl X: The Steelers beat the Cowboys 2117. Pittsburgh wide receiver Lynn Swann hauled in four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown to take home the MVP award.
  • Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh handed Dallas another defeat by a score of 3531. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns, while wideouts Lynn Swann and John Stallworth both had over 100 yards receiving.
  • Super Bowl XXX: The Cowboys beat the Steelers 2717, and held off a Steelers fourth-quarter comeback. Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman threw for 209 yards and a touchdown.

Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowls

Super Bowl


Jan. 18, 1976



Lynn Swann


Jan. 21, 1979



Terry Bradshaw


Jan. 29, 1996



Larry Brown

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) is tackled after a reception Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) in the second half at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. © Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

8. Denver Broncos

The Broncos began as one of the original members of the AFL in 1960. When the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, they became part of the AFC, along with the Steelers.

It may not seem like the Broncos belong on a list of the Steelers' greatest rivals, but the Broncos have been a force to contend with in every decade. In the 1970s, it was their intimidating Orange Crush defense that stopped opponents in their tracks. In the '80s and '90s, it was elite quarterback John Elway leading them to victory. Even Tim Tebow managed to dash the Steelers' Super Bowl hopes during his short stint as Denver's quarterback.

It's true that this isn't the same kind of bitter feud that the Steelers have with some other teams around the league. However, the Steelers have faced the Broncos in the playoffs more than they have any other team, and more often than not the outcome has been heartbreak for the Steel City faithful.

All-Time Record

  • In 24 regular-season matchups, the Broncos have a 158 advantage, with one tie.
  • The Broncos have beaten the Steelers in five out of eight playoff games.

Notable Games

  • 1977 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Broncos knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs by a score of 3421 on their way to a Super Bowl XII loss to the Cowboys.
  • 1978 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Steelers returned the favor of the previous year, beating the Broncos 3310. The Steelers won their third Super Bowl that season by defeating another rival, the Cowboys.
  • 1984 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Steelers defeated the Broncos 247 in what would be the last hurrah for the Pittsburgh dynasty of the 70s. The Steelers lost the AFC championship the next week.
  • 1989 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Steelers lost a nail-biter to a Super Bowl-bound Broncos team by a score of 2423. Pittsburgh running back Merril Hoge ran for 120 yards and a touchdown and hauled in eight passes for 60 yards in the losing effort.
  • 1997 AFC Championship: The Broncos defeated the Steelers 2421 on the way to the first of legendary Denver quarterback John Elways two Super Bowl swan songs. The Broncos racked up their first-ever Super Bowl victory against the Packers two weeks later.
  • 2005 AFC Championship: An underdog Steelers team, led by second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and future Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, upset the Broncos 3417. The Steelers went on to win their fifth Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
  • 2011 AFC Wild Card Game: The Broncos came out ahead of the Steelers in a 2923 overtime contest. Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow went down in history as the unlikely hero of the game by connecting for a touchdown pass with receiver Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime.
  • 2015 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Steelers dropped a 2316 decision to a Peyton Manning-led Broncos team. Manning and a powerful Broncos defense brought home Denvers third Lombardi Trophy several weeks later.
Steelers free safety Sean Davis (21) defends against Raiders wide receiver Marcell Ateman (88) during the third quarter at Oakland Coliseum.© Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

7. Oakland Raiders

Few NFL teams have hated each other like the Raiders and Steelers of the 1970s. These were the two bullies of the NFL block, each believing they were the toughest around. When they came together, each team had something to prove.

Back then, and to some extent today, the Raiders had a reputation as the last stop for misfit football players that nobody else wanted. They were an original AFL team full of outlaws and outcasts and they liked it that way. The only thing owner Al Davis asked of them was to just win, baby.

The problem was, winning the Super Bowl back then usually meant going through Pittsburgh.

All-Time Record

  • Oakland leads the 23-game regular season series 1310.
  • The Steelers and Raiders have split playoff matches with three wins apiece.

Notable Games

  • 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Raiders have the privilege of being the first team the Steelers ever defeated in the playoffs, even if it did require a little divine intervention. Down 76, the Steelers faced fourth-and-10 on their 40-yard line with 22 seconds left on the clock. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw dropped back to throw, but the Raiders' pass rush chased him out of the pocket. He scrambled right and heaved a pass down the center of the field toward running back John Fuqua. Raiders safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua just as the ball arrived, sending it careening back toward the Steelers line of scrimmage. Steelers back Franco Harris plucked it out of the air and raced into the end zone for the touchdown as the clock ran out, giving the Steelers a 137 victory. The play is known today as the "Immaculate Reception."
  • 1973 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Raiders pummeled the Steelers 3314, but would lose the AFC championship the next week to the Dolphins.
  • 1975 AFC Championship: In a defensive struggle, the Steelers beat the Raiders 1610 on the way to Super Bowl X, where they defeated the Cowboys.
  • 1976 AFC Championship: The Raiders beat the Steelers 247. Two weeks later, the Raiders defeated the Vikings in Super Bowl XI.
  • 1983 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Steelers lost to the Raiders by a score of 3810, in a game where Raiders running back Marcus Allen ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Los Angeles went on to defeat Washington in the Super Bowl.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) lines up against the Steelers during the second half at Gillette Stadium. © David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

6. New England Patriots

The Patriots are in the AFC East division, and for the better part of two decades, they have stood like a stone wall between Pittsburgh and the Super Bowl. The teams have clashed five times in the playoffs, and only once did the Steelers escape with a win. For 20 years it has been one of the most heated rivalries in sports, though a bit one-sided for Pittsburgh fans.

These days, quarterback Tom Brady gets a lot of credit for New England's success, but Pittsburgh's problems with the Pats started long before Brady arrived.

Before Brady, the Patriots had a quarterback named Drew Bledsoe who was pretty darned good himself. In nine seasons with the Pats, he threw for 29,657 yards and 166 touchdowns, and even led them to a Super Bowl appearance.

Bledsoe missed most of the 2001 season with an injury, which opened the door for the Brady-era in New England. If not for that turn of events there is a good chance Bledsoe would be wearing a few more of those New England Super Bowl rings.

Drew Bledsoe went on to play for five more productive seasons with the Bills and Cowboys. You probably already know what became of Tom Brady.

All-Time Record

  • In 28 regular-season meetings, the Steelers hold a 1513 advantage.
  • In the playoffs, the Patriots have won four out of five games

Notable Games

  • 1996 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Patriots and quarterback Drew Bledsoe beat the Steelers 283 on their way to a Super Bowl loss against the Packers.
  • 1997 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Steelers squeaked passed the Patriots 76, only to lose the AFC championship to the Super Bowl-bound Broncos the following week.
  • 2001 AFC Championship: The Patriots and a young Tom Brady beat the Steelers 2417. Weeks later, Brady would win his first of many Super Bowl titles.
  • 2004 AFC Championship: Brady and the Patriots put up 41 points and beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh yet again.
  • 2016 AFC Championship: The Steelers dropped another championship game to the Patriots by the score of 3617. Several weeks later, New England staged the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history to beat Atlanta.
Steelers tight end Vance McDonald (89) makes a touchdown catch over Jaguars outside linebacker Telvin Smith (50) during the second half at TIAA Bank Field. © Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

A pair of expansion teams joined the NFL in 1995: The Jaguars and the Panthers. As the AFC Central division only had four teams instead of five like most of the other divisions, the league placed the Jaguars in the AFC Central. Thus began one of the most frustrating rivalries in Steelers history.

It makes sense to assume an expansion franchise would struggle for their first few years in the league, but that didnt happen with the Jaguars. They had a winning record their second season and made the playoffs. By their fourth season, they had won the division and by their fifth, they had made it to the AFC championship.

Needless to say, many Steelers fans were more than happy to see the Jags shipped off to the AFC South when the NFL realigned its divisions in 2002, but that hasn't stopped Jacksonville from irritating the Steelers in the playoffs.

All-Time Record

  • The Steelers and Jaguars have split 24 regular-season meetings 1212.
  • The Jaguars have gotten the best of the Steelers in the playoffs, 20.

Notable Games:

  • 2007 AFC Wild Card Game: The Steelers lost to the Jags 3129 in a game where Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions. Jacksonville lost to New England the following week.
  • 2017 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Steelers and Jaguars put up 87 points between them. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards and five touchdowns in a heroic but losing effort. The Steelers again came up short and lost, 4542.
Titans running back Akeem Hunt (35) dives for a loose ball during the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Steelers at Nissan Stadium.© George Walker IV /, Nashville Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC

4. Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans

The Cowboys werent the only dominant football team in Texas during the late 1970s. The Oilers, an AFC Central opponent of the Steelers, were a force to be reckoned with as well.

Powered by the legs of 230-pound running back Earl Campbell, the Oilers rolled to the AFC championship game in both 1978 and '79, only to be stopped dead by the Steelers.

The Oilers got their revenge throughout the 1980s and early 90s, with Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon at the helm of a crazy prototype of todays wide open offenses which was then called the run-and-shoot.

While they made it to the playoffs seven times during Moons tenure, the Oilers didn't appear in the Super Bowl until the 1999 season. By then the franchise had relocated to Tennessee and changed their name to the Titans.

The Steelers battled the Oilers/Titans in the AFC Central until realignment in 2002.

All-Time Record

  • In 74 regular-season meetings, the Steelers have a 4331 advantage.
  • In four playoff meetings, the Steelers are ahead 31.

Notable Games:

  • 1978 AFC Championship: The Steelers beat the Oilers 345 on their way to an epic Super Bowl showdown with the Cowboys and their third Lombardi trophy.
  • 1979 AFC Championship: Oilers running back Earl Campbell had rushed for 1,697 yards and an incredible 19 touchdowns during the 1979 season, but the Steelers defense held him to a paltry 15 yards on 17 carries in their second-straight championship-game matchup. The Steelers won 2713.
  • 1989 AFC Wild Card Game: The Oilers were hot in the late 1980s, and the Steelers were struggling. But Pittsburgh still had Houstons number and managed to pull out a 2623 win thanks to kicker Gary Andersons 50-yard field goal in overtime.
  • 2002 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Titans defeated the Steelers 3431 in another overtime stunner. Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns during the contest.
Bengals offensive tackle Cordy Glenn (77) pass blocks against Steelers inside linebacker Mark Barron (26).© Kareem Elgazzar, Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

3. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals started out as an AFL team owned in part by Paul Brown, the co-founder and first coach of the Browns. With the AFL/NFL merger of 1970, the Bengals landed in the AFC Central division with the Steelers, and they have been archrivals ever since.

Through the '70s, the Steelers handled the Bengals with little difficulty. In the early '80s, Cincinnati changed their helmets and, apparently, their attitude. They appeared in two Super Bowls throughout the decade but were unable to emerge with a win in either.

After struggling through the '90s, the Bengals had a resurgence in the 2000s, first on the arm of quarterback Carson Palmer, and more recently thanks to quarterback Andy Dalton.

The 2019 season marked the 50th year the Bengals and Steelers have butted heads in one of the most hard-nosed divisions of the NFL. Theyve only met twice in the playoffs, but the results were two of the most brutal and controversy-packed post-season games in AFC history.

All-Time Record

  • In 99 games, the Steelers lead the series 6435.
  • The Steelers have won both playoff matchups.

Notable Games

  • 2005 AFC Wild Card Game: The Steelers defeated the Bengals in Cincinnati by a score of 3117. The Bengals lost Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer to a severe knee injury early in the game when Steelers defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen hit him low in an attempt to make a sack. Bengals fans were outraged, but the hit was legal at the time. The NFL changed the rules in the offseason and made diving at a quarterbacks knees illegal.
  • 2015 AFC Wild Card Game: The Steelers pulled out an 1816 win in a game they should have lost. Cincinnati led 1615 with seconds left in a scuffle-ridden, hard-fought contest. While the Steelers struggled to move the ball as the clock ran down, Bengals defensive players Vontaze Burfict and Adam (Pacman) Jones rang up a pair of unconscionable personal fouls that gave Pittsburgh a free 30 yards and an easy field goal for the win.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (23) runs with the ball after a game-clinching interception against the Browns during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2. Cleveland Browns

Number two on my list of the Steelers greatest rivals is the Browns. Like the Steelers, the Browns are an old-school NFL team, with origins that trace back to the AAFC. They joined the NFL in 1950 and have battled the Steelers ever since.

In those early days, the Browns fielded some powerful teams. They appeared in six straight NFL championship games from 1950 to '55 and won the title three of those years. With the exception of a losing season in 1956, and '70 when they went 77, the Browns posted a winning record every year until 1974.

And that was right around the time when the Steelers Super Bowl dynasty of the 1970s was born. The Steelers dominated the 70s, but the Browns resurged with some strong teams in the late 1980s.

Today, excluding a 106 record in 2007, the Browns have not had a winning season since 2003. And, despite all of their early NFL championships, they are one of only four current NFL teams that have never been to the Super Bowl.

No matter their records, when the Browns face the Steelers, nothing is taken for granted. The Steelers have battled the Browns in the regular season more than any other opponent in history.

All-Time Record

  • In 134 regular-season games, the Steelers lead the series 7459, with one tie.
  • The Steelers met the Browns twice in the playoffs, winning both times.

Notable Games

  • 1994 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Steelers beat the Browns 299 in a game where Pittsburgh running backs plowed their way for 238 rushing yards. The Steelers lost the AFC championship game to San Diego the following week.
  • 2002 Wild Card Game: Pittsburgh won 3633 thanks to the arm of quarterback Tommy Maddox who threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns.
Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) runs past Ravens linebacker L.J. Fort (58) during the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium.© Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

1. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have only been around since 1996, so how could they possibly rank higher than the Browns and the Bengals on a list of the Steelers' greatest rivals? Because the Ravens are actually the Browns, sort of.

In 1995, Browns owner Art Modell made the fateful decision to move his team out of Cleveland. For many football fans, this was outrageous. (There are few fan bases in the country more dedicated than Browns fans). Even Steelers fans sympathized. It was heartbreaking to see your biggest rival and life-long nemesis disappear in the blink of an eye.

Modell moved the team to Baltimore, another city with a passion for football, a city that had watched its beloved Colts abscond to Indianapolis eleven years earlier. But an agreement was reached to leave the Browns team name, team colors, and franchise records in Cleveland. Thus, the Browns became the Ravens, a new franchise with old roots.

For three seasons, there was a Browns-shaped hole in the NFL, until the league awarded Cleveland an expansion team. The Browns returned to the field in 1999, an old NFL franchise starting anew.

It didnt take long for Steelers fans to hate the Ravens as much as they hated the Browns, if not more. While the Browns name may have stayed in Cleveland, the players were the same and the rivalry didn't miss a beat. When the Browns returned in 1999, the Steelers found themselves with two bitter rivals where before there was one.

All-Time Record

  • Pittsburgh has the edge in 48 all-time matchups by the score of 2523.
  • The Steelers hold a 31 advantage in playoff meetings.

Notable Games:

  • 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff: Pittsburgh beat the Ravens 2710 on a pair of touchdown runs by Amos Zereoue and a 32-yard touchdown pass from Kordell Stewart to Plaxico Burress.
  • 2008 AFC Championship: The Steelers defeated the Ravens 2314 en route to Super Bowl XLIII and their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
  • 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff: Pittsburgh beat Baltimore 3124 in a game where the Steelers defense held the Ravens to 126 total yards of offense.
  • 2014 Wild Card Game: The Ravens sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and beat the Steelers 3017.

Who Is the Pittsburgh Steelers' Biggest Rival?

The Ravens are currently the Steelers biggest rival in the NFL. Like the Steelers, the Ravens pride themselves on strong defense, intimidation and toughness. These are two teams that just don't like each other. They battle for first place in the AFC North almost every season, and whenever they meet you can bet you will see a hard-hitting contest (and possibly a fight or two).

Steelers vs. AFC North Opponents

Regular Season Wins
Regular Season Losses
Regular Season Win %
Playoff Wins
Playoff Losses

Cleveland Browns







Cincinnati Bengals







Baltimore Ravens







Steelers NFL Rivalries

Rivalries are part of what makes NFL football so exciting. As Steelers fans, our team gives us an identity. We weren't drafted, we never went to spring workouts, we didn't attend training camp, and we won't be stepping on the field this Sunday. Nevertheless, we put on our team colors and we feel like we are part of the team.

We are Steeler Nation.

If you have been a Steelers fan for long, you've seen some incredible games and some powerful opponents. While it seems like it would be fantastic to win every game by 70 points, that would get old soon enough. Super Bowl trophies are wonderful, but it is the struggle that forges the memories.

So, here's to the Steelers' greatest rivals. Let the Ravens, Browns, and Bengals remain worthy adversaries for decades to come.

Statistical Reference

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