Browns-Steelers: Turnpike Series turns train wreck

Flashback to October, 1976.

I’ve scored prime seats in the Dog Pound for a Browns-Steelers’ game of actual significance.

Over 76,000 jammed into historic Municipal Stadium where Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mean Joe Greene and Jack Lambert were favored against a Cleveland team under second-year head coach Forrest Gregg.

These Browns were off to a 1-3 start but featured some prime timers in their own right, including quarterback Brian Sipe, running back Greg Pruitt and receivers Reggie Rucker and ageless Paul Warfield.

The Brownies also had a fearless defensive end by the name of Joe “Turkey” Jones who was to execute a pivotal play, many of whom credit with turning Cleveland’s season around.

Involved in a tight second half defensive struggle, Bradshaw drops back to pass deep in his own territory when Jones breaks through, delivers a jolting hit on the Steelers’ QB, then lifts Bradshaw off the ground and ‘spikes’ him head first to the turf.

Despite a 15-yard personal foul call, the old house is up for grabs as trainers first attend to Bradshaw, then quickly beckon an ambulance onto the field.

The end result – a sprained neck for Bradshaw followed by an 18-16 Browns’ upset with hundreds of fans flooding the field in a wild postgame scene. Talk about the glory days!

Cleveland went on to win seven of its next eight games and finish off a successful 9-5 season.

How long ago does that seem in this once-classic series which has been reduced to basically another date on the calendar?

While the Steelers’ organization is recognized among the most viable in all of pro sports, the Browns have not won an NFL Championship since Martins Ferry’s Lou Groza kicked two field goals and three PATs in Cleveland’s 27-0 title winning conquest of Baltimore in 1964.

Though the Steelers may not be at peak mental efficiency tonight, they should have more than enough to knock off an offensively inept Browns outfit. The teams meet again New Year’s Day on the lakefront.

Last week, this column posted a so-so 10-6 ledger to remain in the wild card hunt. Carry on.


CLEVELAND AT PITTSBURGH. It would take a monumental meltdown for the Steelers to cough this one up on a frosty December evening in the Burgh. Steelers, 20-6.


KANSAS CITY AT NEW YORK JETS. Gang Green looking to embark on late season roll. Should be a done deal vs. wounded KC combine. Jets, 31-14.

INDIANAPOLIS AT BALTIMORE. Colts appear serious contenders to achieve 0-16 status. Indy figures to be history here by halftime. Ravens, 27-7.

NEW ENGLAND AT WASHINGTON. Pats seeking 10th win but may have to play all four quarters before prevailing. Patriots, 20-17.

ATLANTA AT CAROLINA. Despite 4-8 mark, Panthers have been in practically every game. They’ll make it difficult on Atlanta which is in must-win situation. Falcons, 27-23.

TAMPA BAY AT JACKSONVILLE. Absolutely nothing on the line in this must-to-avoid matchup. Bucs, 14-10.

PHILADELPHIA AT MIAMI. An inter-conference battle of 4-8 teams. However, discounted tickets should be plentiful. Eagles, 24-20.

HOUSTON AT CINCINNATI. Bungles aren’t nearly as bad as their Pittsburgh loss reflects. They should prove that today in our Upset Special. Bengals, 30-23.

MINNESOTA AT DETROIT. Not too late for Lions to recover and earn a postseason berth. Lions, 28-13.

NEW ORLEANS AT TENNESSEE. Titans hanging around at 7-5 but will need supreme defensive effort to contain Drew Brees. Saints, 33-20.

CHICAGO AT DENVER. Crippled Bears must encounter NFL’s feel-good, though dramatically over-hyped story of the year. Bring back Turkey Jones. Bears, 17-13.

SAN FRANCISCO AT ARIZONA. At 10-2, Niners on cruise control until potential NFC title matchup with Green Bay. 49ers, 20-7.

BUFFALO AT SAN DIEGO. A great day to visit the world-famous, one-of-a-kind San Diego Zoo as opposed to witnessing this probable siesta. Chargers, 24-14.

OAKLAND AT GREEN BAY. Heavily-penalized Raiders may raise the bar even higher attempting to contain Aaron Rodgers and his receivers. Packers, 35-13.


NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS. How will G-men respond following emotional 38-35 loss to Packers? In a similar manner. Cowboys, 20-16.


ST. LOUIS AT SEATTLE. Hold on one more week. It’s the Steelers and 49ers next Monday. Seahawks, 24-21.

LAST WEEK (10-6). SEASON (118-73) UPSET SPECIALS (2-10).

Gibson may be reached at