By Teresa Varley
The Steelers offense put up big numbers and the defense came up with some key turnovers as they defeated the Cleveland Browns 27-14 at Heinz Field.
The win improves the Steelers record to 4-2 on the season, while the Browns drop to 1-5.
"A lot of things were done at a high level, but of course, we continue to fall short of perfection. We acknowledge that," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "But we don't evaluate on Sundays, we play on Sundays and we get back in the lab on Mondays and look critically at our performance. As I sit here today, I acknowledge that ball security is something we have to improve at. It leads to turnover ratio, which we haven't been great in."
Ben Roethlisberger had his second 400-yard passing game of his career, completing 23 passes for 417 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers had two 100-yard receivers, with Hines Ward having eight receptions for 159 yards and Santonio Holmes five catches for 104 yards.
"Big plays on offense," said Tomlin. "Ben did a nice job along with a lot of other people. We got some critical stops. We'll take the win and move forward."
Stefan Logan gave the offense a jump start with 26-yard kickoff return to the 32-yard line. Roethlisberger came out firing, hitting rookie Mike Wallace who was kept from breaking it for a touchdown by a shoe-string tackle by Abram Elam, holding him to a 29-yard gain. Rashard Mendenhall, who started the game at running back, went off right guard for eight yards, but on the next play Roethlisberger was sacked for an eight-yard loss. On third down Roethlisberger went deep to Ward, but he couldn't pull it in, forcing the punt.
Joshua Cribbs gave the Browns a spark early, taking the direct snap for an 18-yard gain. Jerome Harrison was knocked for a three-yard loss by LaMarr Woodley, but a defensive offside call on the next snap gave the Browns five yards. Cribbs added another five yards on the direct snap, but on third down Derek Anderson was under pressure from James Harrison, throwing incomplete to Chansi Stuckey.
After exchanging possessions, the Browns defense came up with a big play. Roethlisberger fumbled the snap and linebacker Alex Hall recovered at the Steelers 39-yard line.
As quick as the Steelers gave the ball away, they took it right back. Cribbs lined up at quarterback and it backfired this time. Cribbs threw to Stuckey, but Troy Polamalu intercepted at the 12-yard line, returning it three yards to the 15-yard line.
The Steelers took advantage of the opportunity. Roethlisberger put on an air show, finding Heath Miller over the middle for 25 yards and Ward for 10 yards. Holmes pulled in a pass at the 25-yard line, and broke away from the Browns defenders for a 41-yard gain to the eight-yard line. Roethlisberger, who had all day, capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Miller for a 7-0 lead.
Another defensive stand put the ball back in Roethlisberger's hands and he continued to make splash plays. He hit Ward for seven yards and then found Holmes over the middle for 21 yards. Roethlisberger aired it out again, and Ward swept in, grabbing the pass over the middle and breaking down the sideline for a 52-yard touchdown and 14-0 lead.
It didn't take long for the Browns to answer. Cribbs, who has been a thorn in the side of the Steelers special teams, returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, to pull within a score at 14-7.
Roethlisberger came right back, hitting Miller for 19 yards, with another 15 tacked on for a roughing the passer call on David Bowens. Willie Parker added carries of nine and two yards, Roethlisberger went to Holmes for a nine-yard completion. On third down Mendenhall was held for no gain, but on fourth down Roethlisberger took it up the middle for the first down. Mewelde Moore couldn't pull in a pass in the corner of the end zone, and then a touchdown reception by Ward was overturned, ruling that Ward did not maintain possession when he came down. The Browns brought pressure on the next play, forcing an incompletion to Wallace. Instead of walking away with seven on the board, the Steelers had to settle for a 32-yard Jeff Reed field goal, going into the half up 17-7.
The Browns opened the second half with a flourish. Anderson hit Mohamed Massaquoi on the sideline route for 11 yards and then went right back to him deep for a 43-yard completion to the nine-yard line. Lewis took it to the seven-yard line and then Anderson hit Massaquoi at the one-yard line. Anderson finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Lawrence Vickers, to pull within a field goal at 17-14.
Once again the Steelers responded thanks to a few big plays. Roethlisberger hit a wide open Ward for 45 yards to the Browns 23-yard line. Wallace got the carry on the reverse and took it around right end, carrying defenders to the two-yard line for a 21-yard gain. Mendenhall finished things off with a two-yard carry for the touchdown and 24-14 lead.
It looked like nobody wanted to hold on to the ball for the remainder of the third quarter. On their next drive Roethlisberger was intercepted by Brodney Pool at the Browns 16-yard line, and returned it 32 yards to the 48-yard line. The Browns didn't maintain possession for long. Anderson was sacked by Lawrence Timmons, forcing a fumble that James Harrison recovered. But two plays later Parker fumbled and Elam came up with the recovery.
The turnovers didn't stop there. Anderson was sacked again by Timmons, forcing another fumble, this one recovered by Brett Keisel. But on the Steelers first play of the next drive Mendenhall fumbled and the Bowens came up with the recovery.
After the defense held, the Steelers were able to drive down field, culminating in a 39-yard Reed field goal to extend the lead to 27-14.
The Browns tried to mount a comeback late, but Ryan Clark stepped up big, intercepting Anderson at the one-yard line to bring their drive to a halt.