STEELERS 28, BROWNS 10
Steelers' record: 4-1
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 60-56
One year ago: 3-2
This game had been circled on NFL calendars for months, all the way back to the time when it became the occasion of Ben Roethlisberger's return from suspension. That was the reason for all of the national attention, but a good bit of the interest within the Steelers locker room came from the memories of a bitterly cold Thursday night last December on the shores of Lake Erie.
The first half was close – the Steelers led by just 7-3, and the Browns had to be gaining confidence with every possession of a game they were given little chance to win. On Pittsburgh's second possession in the second half, Ben Roethlisberger completed 3-for-3 for 94 yards and the touchdown on a 96-yard drive. The Steelers were in control after that.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT:
Hines Ward's 8-yard touchdown in the third quarter was the 81st of his career, which moved him past Jerome Bettis and into second place on the franchise's all-time touchdown list. Franco Harris is first with 100 touchdowns.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* After two third-down situations got the Browns to the Steelers 36-yard line, LaMarr Woodley defeated a block by RB Peyton Hillis to sack Colt McCoy for a 9-yard loss. On the next play, McCoy tried to get the ball to TE Benjamin Watson over the middle, but it was intercepted by Ryan Clark.
- The attendance was 65,168, which was the fifth-highest in Heinz Field history.
- An example of what Ben Roethlisberger means to the offense was exhibited late in the third quarter during the Steelers' second touchdown drive. Starting at the 4-yard line, Roethlisberger completed a 50-yard pass to Mike Wallace and then a 36-yard pass to Heath Miller to put the ball at the Browns 10-yard line. Then on a third-and-8, Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward with a short pass to the 4-yard line, and Ward first broke a tackle by Eric Wright and then fought his way into the end zone to give the Steelers a 14-3 lead.
- In the fourth quarter, an illegal formation penalty – only six men on the line of scrimmage – nullified one Daniel Sepulveda punt, and then an illegal shift penalty on Anthony Madison nullified a second. On the third attempt, Sepulveda's punt was fumbled by Chansi Stuckey and recovered by Keyaron Fox at the Cleveland 13-yard line. Four plays later, Rashard Mendenhall's short run gave the Steelers a 21-3 lead.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* The Browns came into the game with the NFL's No. 3-ranked red zone defense, and they showed that was no fluke on the Steelers first possession of the game. The Steelers faced a third-and-4 at the Cleveland 14-yard line, when following a timeout Ben Roethlisberger's pass for Mewelde Moore was high and intercepted by Joe Haden at the 3-yard line. Haden's 62-yard return gave the Browns the ball at the Steelers 35-yard line.
- On the third-down play that preceded Phil Dawson's 39-yard field goal that gave the Browns a 3-0 lead, Brett Keisel injured his left hamstring while pursuing QB Colt McCoy. Keisel was replaced by Nick Eason.
- Chris Kemoeatu was shaken up on a 26-yard pass to Hines Ward, and he was replaced by Ramon Foster. On the next play, Foster was flagged for holding to nullify a 12-yard gain by Rashard Mendenhall. On third-and-18, Roethlisberger's pass into traffic over the middle was incomplete, and Daniel Sepulveda came on to punt.
- It was midway through the fourth quarter, a second-and-12 from the Cleveland 37-yard line, and Wallace was running free down the right sideline. But Roethlisberger's pass sailed out of bounds, incomplete.
- After taking a 21-3 lead, the Steelers allowed the Browns to drive 70 yards in six plays to score the touchdown that made the score, 21-10, with just over four minutes left in regulation.
Browns 3, Steelers 0: Drive was 14 yards in seven plays, with an elapsed time of 4:16. Phil Dawson 39-yard field goal. Key plays: CB Joe Haden's 62-yard interception return put the ball at the Steelers 35-yard line; and Troy Polamalu's offside penalty converted a third-and-3. There was 1:51 left in the quarter.
Steelers 7, Browns 3: Drive was 81 yards on 11 plays, with an elapsed time of 6:11. Mike Wallace 29-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger (Jeff Reed kick). Key plays: Roethlisberger converted a third-and-13 with a 22-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders. It was Sanders' first NFL reception. There was 10:40 left in the quarter.
Steelers 14, Browns 3: Drive was 96 yards in five plays, with an elapsed time of 1:59. Hines Ward 8 pass from Roethlisberger (Reed kick). Key plays: Roethlisberger hit Wallace with a 50-yard pass on the first play of the drive, and then he followed that with a 36-yard completion to Heath Miller, down to the Browns 10-yard line. There was 3:13 left in the quarter.
Steelers 21, Browns 3: Drive was 13 yards in four plays, with an elapsed time of 2:00. Mendenhall 2 run (Reed kick). Key play: Keyaron Fox recovered a muffed punt by Chansi Stuckey at the Browns 13-yard line. There was 5:50 left in the quarter.
Steelers 21, Browns 10: Drive was 70 yards in six plays, with an elapsed time of 1:41. Watson 12 pass from McCoy (Dawson kick). Key plays: Colt McCoy completed a 23-yard pass to Benjamin Watson, and a 28-yard pass to Evan Moore. There was 4:09 left in the quarter.
Steelers 28, Browns 10: Drive was 18 yards in three plays, with an elapsed time of 17 seconds. Miller 14 pass from Roethlisberger (Reed kick). Key plays: Lawrence Timmons set up the possession with an interception of a McCoy pass intended for Watson. There was 1:25 left in the quarter.