STEELERS 13, BROWNS 9
Steelers' record: 12-4
One year ago: 12-4
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 64-56
After the NFL finished juggling kickoff times for the final day of the regular season, the games to determine the seeding for the AFC Playoffs were all scheduled for 4:15 p.m. At that time, the Steelers still were in the running for the AFC North Division title, and a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Their chances at the No. 1 seed in the conference went down the tubes when the Patriots routed Buffalo. But to reap any of those perks, they had to beat the Browns.
On the series that followed the Shaun Suisham field goal that tied the game at 6-6, the Browns were facing a third-and-short when Seneca Wallace tried to get the ball to tight end Evan Moore at the sideline right in front of the Cleveland bench. But when Wallace let go of the ball, Troy Polamalu already had made his move and was standing in front of Moore when the pass arrived to make his second interception of the season.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Hines Ward became just the eighth player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes in a career when he made his fifth reception of the game early in the fourth quarter. Ward joined Jerry Rice as the only two players in NFL history to have both 1,000 career receptions and multiple Super Bowl wins on their resumes.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* On each of the Browns' first two offensive series, Seneca Wallace completed passes on third down – to Joshua Cribbs and Evan Moore – but on both occasions the receiver wasn't beyond the first-down marker and Cleveland ended up punting both times.
- Jeremy Kapinos' first punt went for 48 yards with no return, but more impressive was that the ball hit at the Cleveland 1-yard line and bounced back into the field of play to be downed at the 4-yard line.
- On a fourth-and-1 from the Browns 22-yard line, Isaac Redman took the handoff and spun away from LB Chris Gocong and then DT Ahtyba Rubin to squirm for 3 yards and a first down.
- In two different stadiums, both in Ohio, Isaac Redman scored on a 7-yard run – thanks to a key block from Heath Miller – to give the Steelers a 13-6 lead at almost the exact moment that Bernard Scott scored a touchdown for the Bengals to cut the Ravens' lead to 17-10.
- The Browns used a completion to Josh Cribbs and then a 20-yard run by Wallace to get to a first down at the Pittsburgh 24-yard line on the possession following the touchdown that gave the Steelers a 13-6 lead. That was when the Steelers safeties stepped up with a couple of nice plays. Ryan Clark sacked Wallace for a 7-yard loss, and then a hit from Ryan Mundy caused an incompletion with a hit on Jordan Cameron. Cleveland ended up settling for a field goal to get to 13-9.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* After a 5-yard run late in the first quarter, Rashard Mendenhall went to the ground in front of the Browns bench and grabbed his right knee. Mendenhall limped off the field and was taken into the locker room for further evaluation. After the game, Coach Mike Tomlin characterized the situation with Mendenhall's knee as "not good."
- With a third down at the Browns 14-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked for a 13-yard loss by Jabaal Sheard. That loss meant Shaun Suisham's field goal attempt had to be from the 35-yard line instead of the 22-yard line. Into the wind, his attempt was short and wide left.
- The Steelers lost another player before the end of the first half. While covering a punt late in the first half, Cortez Allen sustained an apparent injury to his right shoulder. He walked off the field but was taken directly into the locker room for additional examination.
- On the good side, it was a 71-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham that cut the Browns lead to 6-3. But it also included the Steelers running two plays from the Browns 1-yard line in the final 11 seconds, but because they were out of timeouts both of the plays were passes. In a situation where the wind was blowing at 24 miles per hour with gusts as high as 48 miles per hour, the plays called were both fade passes into the corners of the end zone. Ben Roethlisberger overthrew Antonio Brown on the first, and then Hines Ward on the second.
- The 66-yard drive in the third quarter ended up tying the game for the Steelers when Suisham hit a 29-yard field goal to make it 6-6, but it also represented another red zone failure for the offense. On first down from the 12-yard line, Isaac Redman was stuffed for a 1-yard gain; on second down Jerricho Cotchery couldn't come down with a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the back of the end zone; and on third down a Roethlisberger pass went through Emmanuel Sanders' hands.
- On the same play, with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Steelers had both David Johnson and Ramon Foster injured. Foster was replaced at right guard by Trai Essex.
- At the end of a 22-yard run by Isaac Redman inside the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter, he lost his second fumble of the game. Usama Young forced the fumble, and Joe Haden recovered.
STEELERS' 2012 OPPONENTS DETERMINED
Even though the dates and times won't be announced until some time in April, the Steelers' complete list of opponents for the 2012 season already has been determined.
As always, the Steelers will play a home-and-home series with each of the teams in the AFC North – Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland. In addition, the Steelers will play host to Kansas City and San Diego from the AFC West, to Philadelphia and Washington from the NFC East, and to the New York Jets, since both the Steelers and Jets finished second in their respective divisions.
On the road, in addition to their division games, the Steelers will visit Denver and Oakland from the AFC West, visit Dallas and the New York Giants from the NFC East, and visit Tennessee, since both the Steelers and Titans finished second in their respective divisions.