STEELERS 28, BROWNS 12**
Steelers' record: 10-6
One year ago: 11-5
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 69-58
Stringing losses together is a sign of a not-so-good team, and stringing losses together during a stretch drive to get into the playoffs is the kind of thing that costs people their jobs. The Steelers aren't going to fire Coach Mike Tomlin, but losses to the Ravens and Browns on back-to-back Sundays when winning out would have clinched a playoff spot could be the kind of thing that spurs roster moves. The word being tossed around was "professionalism."
HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT
Game action as the Steelers traveled to FirstEnergy Stadium to take on the Browns in Week 17.
It wasn't pretty in a lot of ways over various times of the afternoon, but the Steelers fought through all of the rough spots and just kept playing. The Steelers only converted 2-of-8 on third downs, and Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions as part of the team's three turnovers on the day, but this time the defense and special teams contributed four takeaways, including one in the red zone on an interception by William Gay.
The defense allowed just 263 net yards, and the Browns had 22 first downs, but the Steelers were very tough in the red zone, and the Cleveland offense finished 0-for-5 once it penetrated the Pittsburgh 20-yard line.
It was early in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers were nursing a precarious 17-12 lead, and the Browns had the ball with a second-and-10 at their own 21-yard line. On that play, Ryan Shazier broke through to sack Austin Davis, and he also managed to strip the ball, which ended up being recovered by Arthur Moats at the 8-yard line.
On the next play, Ben Roethlisberger passed to Markus Wheaton for a touchdown, and then he connected with Fitzgerald Toussaint for the two-point conversion. What had been a five-point lead ballooned to 13 on three snaps of the football, and the Steelers were in a much more comfortable spot to secure a victory they had to have in order to qualify for the playoffs. Which they did when the Buffalo Bills defeated the New York Jets, 22-17.
IT WAS OVER WHEN …
Maybe not over in any official sense, but on the Browns' next offensive possession, the defense came up with back-to-back big plays in a critical situation.
Back-to-back big plays by the defense put the Steelers in great shape with 4:27 remaining and a 28-12 lead. On the first of those Stephon Tuitt sacked Austin Davis on third down, and then William Gay intercepted a pass for Travis Benjamin on fourth down to give the Steelers the ball at their own 44-yard line.