The Cleveland Browns established a 28-0 first quarter lead en route to a 48-37 victory on Sunday night at Heinz Field in an AFC Wild Card round contest.
The Browns put the exclamation on their first postseason victory over the Steelers in three tries when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted for the fourth time with 3:16 remaining in the game and the Browns ahead by 16, at 45-29.
"You can chalk it up to the turnover game but we weren't good enough in a lot of other areas," head coach Mike Tomlin lamented.
"There's pain associated with where we are right now. There's no running away from that. That's football and that's life."
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield wasn't sacked and Cleveland didn't turn the ball over.
The Browns scored two rushing touchdowns and three through the air, including a pair of 40-yard, catch-and-run touchdowns.
Game action photos from the Steelers' Wild Card Round game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field
"If we had a checklist of how to play the worst game possible, we did that," defensive tackle Cam Heyward said. "We blew it, I can't sugarcoat it."
The Browns put the exclamation on their first postseason victory over the Steelers in three tries when Roethlisberger was intercepted for the fourth time with 3:16 remaining in the game and Cleveland ahead by 16, at 45-29.
Kicker Cody Parkey's 37-yard field goal with 2:51 to play in regulation made it 48-29 Cleveland.
Roethlisberger went over 500 yards passing with a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chase Claypool with 1:09 left in the fourth quarter. A two-point conversion pass to running back James Conner succeeded and established the final margin.
Roethlisberger finished 47-for-68 passing for 501 yards.
The Steelers started the regular season 11-0 but finished at 12-4 and failed to win a playoff game for the fourth consecutive season.
"I don't have any magical answers," Roethlisberger said. "We didn't put it together."
Added Tomlin: "We were a group that died on the vine."
The Steelers trailed by 25 at halftime, at 35-10, but tried to crawl back into the game with consecutive touchdown drives on their first two possessions of the third quarter.
Roethlisberger went 8-for-8 on an eight-play, 84-yard drive, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron. An attempt at a two-point conversion failed on an incomplete pass to running back James Conner, which kept the score at Browns 35, Steelers 16, with 7:22 left in the third quarter.
The Steelers' next possession covered 68 yards on 12 plays in 3:25 and ended on a touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on fourth-and-goal from the Browns' 5-yard line. Kicker Chris Boswell's extra point brought the Steelers back to within 11 at 35-23 with 2:57 left in the third.
The Browns countered on their next possession with a screen from Mayfield to running back Nick Chubb that went for a 40-yard touchdown. Parkey's extra point gave the Browns a 42-23 lead with 12:52 left in the fourth.
The Steelers responded with a four-play, 76-yard drive in 1:24, the final 29 coming on a Roethlisberger pass to Claypool for a touchdown. Roethlisberger threw incomplete for Smith-Schuster on a two-point try and the Browns' lead stayed at 13 at 42-29 with 11:08 left in the fourth.
Cleveland added a 24-yard field goal by Parkey with 4:28 remaining for a 45-29 cushion.
The Browns had the ball for 5:20 in the first quarter and scored 28 points.
The run of points began on the first offensive snap of the game. Center Maurkice Pouncey's shotgun snap sailed over Roethlisberger's head on first-and-10 from the Steelers' 22 and Browns safety Karl Joseph recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Parkey's extra point gave the Browns a 7-0 lead with 14:46 left in the first quarter.
The Steelers turned the ball over again on their second possession.
Roethlisberger's short pass for running back Benny Snell on first-and-10 from the Steelers' 48 sailed high and was intercepted by cornerback M.J. Stewart Jr. and returned 3 yards to the Steelers' 46. The Browns struck again three snaps later when wide receiver Jarvis Landry hauled in a short pass from Mayfield and went 40 yards for a score. Parkey's extra point made it 14-0 with 9:46 left in the first.
Following a three-and-out from the Steelers' offense, the Browns drove 65 yards on six plays in 3:00 for another touchdown. Running back Kareem Hunt finished the march with an 11-yard run. The drive also included runs of 17 and 28 yards by Chubb. Parkey's extra point upped the Cleveland lead to 21-0 with 4:40 left in the first.
The Steelers' third turnover of the quarter occurred when a Roethlisberger pass on second-and-20 from the Steelers' 26 deflected off wide receiver Diontae Johnson's hands and was hauled in by Browns safety Sheldrick Redwine and returned 30 yards to the Steelers' 15. Cleveland needed three plays to add another score, this one an 8-yard touchdown run by Hunt. Parkey's extra point made it 28-0 with 1:56 left in the first.
The Steelers finally got on the board with a 13-play, 89-yard drive for a touchdown with 5:36 left in the second quarter. Wide receiver James Washington caught four passes for 58 yards on the march and Conner finished it with a 1-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Browns' 2 and then a 1-yard touchdown run. Boswell's extra point drew the Steelers to within 28-7 with 1:44 left in the second quarter.
The Browns responded with a nine-play, 64-yard drive for a touchdown in 1:10. Mayfield concluded the possession with a 7-yard pass to tight end Austin Hooper. Parkey's extra point increased Cleveland's advantage to 35-7 with 34 seconds left prior to halftime.
Boswell added a 49-yard field goal that cut the Browns' lead to 35-10 on the last play of the first half.
The Steelers out-gained the Browns, 224-214, in the first two quarters but turned the ball over four times (three interceptions and a lost fumble) and didn't register a takeaway.
Pittsburgh also had a big advantage in time of possession, 19:40-10:20, in the first 30 minutes.
The Browns' 35 points in the first two quarters set an NFL record for points in the first half of a road playoff game.
For the game, the Steelers out-gained the Browns, 553-390, and out-possessed them, 32:46-27:14.
"It's been a year," Heyward said. "It's not been our year."