By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com The Steelers suffered their fifth straight loss of the season when they were upset by the Cleveland Browns 13-6. The loss drops the Steelers record to 6-7 on the season, while the Browns are just 2-11.
"We fell short in all three phases," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We knew we had to stop their perimeter run game, the wildcat football, and we weren't able to do that. They got on the perimeter and hurt us with big chunks. They controlled the time of possession, converted first downs. We knew we couldn't give up a big return due to the nature of the weather. We gave up a big return to kind of get them started. It put us behind the eight ball.
"When you get beat in all three phases, schematically and performance-wise we are all to be held accountable for that and we are. I liked the fight in the group. I trust they will continue to do that. They are a close-knit group and I trust that they will stick together. But fighting and sticking together are not going to win football games. Performance is and preparation is. We have an extended week here in preparation for our next performance. We better make moves and get that done."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 18 of 32 passes for 201 yards and was sacked eight times. Rashard Mendenhall was held to 53 yards on 16 carries.
"Protection of our quarterback was a big time issue," said Tomlin. "We couldn't move the chains on third down. We couldn't establish rhythm that way. We weren't able to get a run game going that we felt pretty good about going into the game because we weren't able to move the chains on third down."
The defense held Browns quarterback Brady Quinn to just six completions for 90 yards, but Cleveland managed 171 yards rushing. Joshua Cribbs combined for 200 all-purpose yards, hurting the Steelers in the running and return game.
Cribbs gave the Browns good field position to start the game with a 32-yard kickoff return to the Browns 34-yard line. Jerome Harrison wasn't able to go anywhere on the first play of the game, being forced out of bounds by William Gay after just a one-yard gain. Quinn went right back to Harrison, with a short pass that he turned into a nine-yard gain. Harrison was knocked for a four-yard loss by Tyrone Carter and on third down Evan Moore came up short of the first down with a 10-yard reception.
Mendenhall got the call early, with carries of five and four yards. But on third-and-one, Roethlisberger was sacked for a nine-yard loss, forcing a punt.
The Browns went back to Harrison, who was only able to get three yards, and Brett Keisel came from behind to stop Cribbs for just a two-yard gain out of the wildcat formation. But on third-and-five Moore pulled in a pass that was behind him for a 24-yard gain to the Steelers 38-yard line. That is all that the Browns would get, though. Chansi Stuckey was stopped by Joe Burnett for no gain and two incomplete passes by Quinn forced another punt.
The Steelers second possession was almost a mirror image of their first. Mendenhall carried the ball for five and two yards, giving them a third-and-three. Hank Poteat blitzed from the outside and got to Roethlisberger untouched for a 10-yard sack back to their three-yard line.
Cribbs continued to provide a spark for the Browns after he muffed the ensuing punt, picked it up and returned it 55 yards to the eight-yard line where Dan Sepulveda made a touchdown-saving tackle. With their backs against the wall, the defense stepped up big. Chris Jennings was held to a one-yard gain by Carter and they brought pressure to force two incomplete passes. The defense held their ground, forcing the Browns to settle for a 29-yard Phil Dawson field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The offense started to get in gear on their next drive, but couldn't keep things rolling. Hines Ward pulled in a nine-yard reception, and after no gain on third down, Roethlisberger took it up the middle for two yards on fourth down, moving the chains. Roethlisberger scrambled for a 10-yard gain and Santonio Holmes turned a screen pass into a 12-yard gain. Willie Parker broke up the middle for six yards, but Ward was knocked for a three-yard loss to the Browns 41-yard line. But the Steelers third straight drive ended with a Roethlisberger sack, this time for a seven-yard loss.
After a facemask penalty and 18-yard gain by Cribbs, LaMarr Woodley took it upon himself to close the door on the Browns drive. Woodley sacked Quinn for a six-yard loss, hit Harrison after just a one-yard reception and batted down a third-down pass by Quinn.
The Steelers continued to start off with bad field position, taking over at their seven-yard line. Mendenhall had two short carries, but on third-and-five Holmes wasn't able to pull in a short reception, forcing another punt.
Cleveland took over at the Steelers 48-yard line, where Harrison had a two-yard gain, but was stopped for no gain on the next carry. A false start pushed the Browns back, setting them up for a tough third-and-13. Quinn was able to find Mohamed Massaquoi for a 37-yard gain to the 14-yard line. Once again, though, the defense answered in a tough situation. Harrison was held to a two-yard gain and after an incompletion to Lawrence Vickers, the defense forced Quinn to throw it away in the end zone. For the second time the defense held the Browns to a Dawson 29-yard field goal, giving the Browns a 6-0 lead.
The offense again tried to get things going with a nine-yard completion to Heath Miller and seven-yard run by Mendenhall. But back-to-back sacks for a combined loss of 13 yards put a halt to the drive.
It looked like the Steelers were finally going to get a break when Poteat fumbled the punt and Anthony Madison recovered. But a holding call on Carter negated the play, forcing the Steelers to punt again. Cribbs went off right guard for a seven-yard gain and then broke free for a 37-yard gain to the Steelers 30-yard line. Jennings took it to the 10-yard line with a nine-yard run and then went down the sideline for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Browns up 13-0.
The Steelers came fighting back with a 24-yard completion to Holmes and a 15-yard personal foul tacked on for a hit on Roethlisberger. Holmes pulled in an 11-yard catch, taking it out of bounds at the nine-yard line. With time running out on the half, Jeff Reed hit a 27-yard field goal to get the Steelers on the board, trailing 13-3.
Roethlisberger came back in the second half firing, with a 10-yard completion to Holmes. Mendenhall went off right tackle for four-yards, but was shaken-up on the play and came out of the game. Roethlisberger went back to Holmes for 19-yards to the Steelers 44-yard line. Parker took over in the backfield and had a five-yard gain, and then was stopped after just getting a yard. On third-and-four Roethlisberger and Holmes weren't able to hook up, forcing a punt.
Jennings carried the load for the Browns on their next drive, going off left tackle for 15-yards and adding carries of five and seven yards. The defense tightened the reins, stopping Jennings for no gain and forcing an incompletion on third down.
Mendenhall returned to the lineup, with a three-yard carry on second down. But for the fifth time in the game, the drive ended when Roethlisberger was sacked for the sixth time in the game.
The defense forced the Browns to go three-and-out and the offense got to work. Mendenhall went off left guard for six yards and Miller bulled his way for a 22-yard gain. Mendenhall took a short reception for a 17-yard gain and Mike Wallace added a five-yard reception. Roethlisberger was sacked for a one-yard loss, and his third down pass was incomplete to Ward. Reed hit his second field goal of the game, from 42-yards out, to pull the Steelers within a score at 13-6.
A fired-up defense came up with another stop, forcing the second straight three-and-out, and putting the ball back in the hands of the Steelers offense. Roethlisberger had a 17-yard completion to Holmes, and got another first down thanks to a defensive holding call. Mendenhall went off left guard for two yards, but an offensive holding call pushed them back, facing a third-and-18. Roethlisberger went to Mendenhall, who wasn't able to pull the ball in.
The Steelers got the ball back thanks to another defensive stop. Roethlisberger hit Miller for 11 yards and Wallace for six. He went back to Miller for four yards, and then Ward pulled in a seven-yard reception. With a first down at the Browns 43-yard line Roethlisberger was sacked for the eighth time, losing nine-yards back to the Steelers 48-yard line. Roethlisberger came back with a 13-yard completion to Miller, but short of the first down forcing them to go for it on fourth down. Roethlisberger's pass to Holmes was broken-up by David Bowens, securing the upset win for the Browns.