October 6, 1986 – Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland 27 – Pittsburgh 24
If there is one regular-season game from the 1980s that every Cleveland Browns fan can remember with a “where were you when” moment, it is this 1986 classic against the Steelers. Three Rivers Stadium became the home of the Steelers in 1970, and for 16 years the Browns had lost to Pittsburgh in that stadium. Four of those Steeler teams were Super Bowl champions, but many of the games in Three Rivers Stadium were highly competitive and the Browns found strange ways to lose.
In 1986, quarterback Bernie Kosar began his first full season as the Browns starting quarterback. While many fans remember the team’s 12-4 final record, they forget that the identity of this team was just taking shape when they entered Three Rivers Stadium at 2-2.
The Browns jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but the Steelers scored two second-quarter touchdowns to take a 14-10 lead. That set up one of the first “this time it’s different” moment. Kick return Gerald McNeil whose nickname was “Ice Cube” took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and the Browns held a 17-14 halftime lead.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair. The Steelers took the lead. The Browns kicked a field goal to narrow the lead to 21-20. The Steelers kicked a field goal to make it 24-20. That’s when Kosar led the Browns on a “this time it’s different” drive that ended not in heartbreak but with an Earnest Byner touchdown run, thus ending the jinx and cementing the 1986 team in Browns lore.