STEELERS 24, BROWNS 10
Steelers' record: 8-8
One year ago: 12-4
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 65-57
This was the theme of the week, for this regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns to be played with no chance to make the playoffs, as explained by Coach Mike Tomlin: "We take pride in our work. We take pride in our opportunity to come together and compete again as the 2012 Steelers. To perform for our fans, to perform for them at Heinz Field. Obviously, we lost the game against these guys the last time we played them so there's some motivation there. But more than anything, it's about the personal, individual relationships that we all have, players and coaches, with the game of football and doing things in the appropriate manner and the competitors that we are. I know I've got a group that exemplifies that, and I expect them to show that regardless of the circumstances."
The game was a 10-10 tie late in the third quarter and the Steelers were facing a third-and-goal from the Cleveland 9-yard line. On that third-down play, Ben Roethlisberger stepped up to avoid some pressure and found Antonio Brown in the end zone for the touchdown that gave the Steelers a 17-10 lead and put them in control of the game.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
The Steelers finished with only five healthy offensive linemen and only two healthy cornerbacks. For most of the second half, the Steelers offensive line (from left to right) consisted of Max Starks, Doug Legursky, Maurkice Pouncey, John Malecki, who was playing his first snaps in the NFL, and Ramon Foster. The cornerbacks were Cortez Allen and Josh Victorian.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
By defeating the Browns, the Steelers avoided being swept in the season series. The last time Cleveland swept Pittsburgh was in 1988, a year in which the Steelers finished 5-11.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT III
Since the Browns returned to the NFL for the 1999 season, the Steelers have lost to them five times – once each in the 1999, 2000, 2003, 2009 and 2012 seasons. The Steelers never have made the playoffs in a season in which they lost to the Browns since that franchise returned to the NFL.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT IV
Troy Polamalu's interception in the first half gave the Steelers 10 for the season and prevented them from tying their all-time franchise low in that category. The 1940 Steelers finished with nine interceptions in 11 games that season while facing 192 attempted passes by their opponents. The 2012 Steelers managed 10 interceptions on 523 attempted passes by their opponents.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* The Browns were moving the ball on their second possession of the game, with four first downs bringing the ball to the Pittsburgh 25-yard line. But when QB Thad Lewis tried to get the ball to WR Travis Benjamin, Troy Polamalu intercepted at the 16-yard line. It was Polamalu's 30th career interception, and he became the ninth player in Steelers history to reach that plateau.
- Cleveland's Phil Dawson came into the game as the AFC's Pro Bowl placekicker after making 28-of-29 during the first 15 games of the season. His first attempt of the game, from 39 yards, was wide right.
- The Steelers got their second takeaway of the game inside the two-minute warning of the first half. On a quick throw to WR Josh Gordon, Cortez Allen came up quickly and stripped the ball in the act of making the tackle. Lawrence Timmons recovered the fumble at the Cleveland 24-yard line.
- Leonard Pope's second touchdown reception of the season gave the Steelers a 10-3 lead and was set up by a pass interference penalty in the end zone on Browns Eric Hagg. On the penalty, Ben Roethlisberger's pass was intended for Emmanuel Sanders.
- Cortez Allen has become quite the takeaway machine of late. Against the Bengals, Allen had two interceptions and forced a fumble; and against the Browns, he forced two more fumbles, one of which he recovered himself. That's five takeaways in two games.
- Lawrence Timmons' two sacks gave him six for the season, and a share of the team lead with James Harrison.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* Besides the eight turnovers, the issue that plagued the Steelers in the first meeting of these teams this season was the manner in which the interior of the Browns defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. On the game's opening possession, Ben Roethlisberger completed an 8-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery on first down. On the next two plays, the Steelers ran the ball up the middle – first by Jonathan Dwyer and then by Isaac Redman –gained a total of 1 yard and punted.
- The Steelers' second possession also began with an 8-yard gain on first down, this time on a run by Dwyer, and then on third-and-1 Ben Roethlisberger's pass could have been intercepted by MLB D'Qwell Jackson but TE David Paulson was able to knock the ball out of his hands.
- On the first play of the Steelers third offensive possession, Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on a deep crossing route for a 43-yard gain to the Cleveland 40-yard line. But the play was nullified by a holding penalty on Doug Legursky, who was at right guard in place of David DeCastro for that series. Following a 13-yard loss by Brown on an attempted reverse, the Steelers faced a third-and-23 before Drew Butler came on for his third punt of the first quarter.
- An example of how quickly things can turn in an NFL game. The Steelers defense authored a three-and-out on the first series of the second half, but the Browns then took a page from the San Diego playbook on a fourth-and-5 from their 25-yard line. This time it was a direct snap to up-back Ray Ventrone, who burst through the middle of the line and ran 35 yards to the Steelers 40-yard line. On the next play, CB Josh Victorian was flagged for a 35-yard pass interference penalty on a pass intended for WR Travis Benjamin. Two plays later, Thad Lewis passed to Greg Little in the back of the end zone for the touchdown that tied the game, 10-10.
- On a third-and-8 with the Steelers protecting a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, Browns DE Billy Winn was flagged for being offside, which gave the Steelers another opportunity to try to convert. But on the next play, DE Jabaal Sheard sacked Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Butler came on to punt.
- The 121 net yards passing the Steelers amassed against the Browns represented a season low, and it also was the first time all season in which they did not complete a pass of at least 20 yards. The longest pass play vs. the Browns was a 16-yarder to Emmanuel Sanders.