To make a push towards the postseason, the 4-6 Pittsburgh Steelers needed to start beating teams they were “supposed” to beat. They had failed at that task earlier this season against the likes of the Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders, and Minnesota Vikings. Thankfully for Pittsburgh and their coaching staff, the team did enough today to keep the 4-6 Cleveland Browns at bay on the road while they cruised to a 27-11 victory.
After both teams played to a 3-3 tie in the first quarter, Pittsburgh’s offense started to put some distance between them late in the second quarter. With just over three minutes left in the half, Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown on a 41-yard touchdown pass to put his team ahead 10-3. Brown beat Joe Haden to the front corner of the end zone after he got behind him, and “Big Ben’s” pass lofted over Haden’s outstretched arms for the score.
Not to be outdone, Troy Polamalu made a terrific play on Cleveland’s next possession. Pittsburgh’s veteran safety ripped the ball away from Chris Ogbannaya near midfield, recovered the fumble, and gave the Steelers an extra possession before half time. The extra possession way key too, especially since Shaun Suisham connected on a 32-yard field goal to put his team ahead 13-3 before the break.
To their credit, the second half belonged to Pittsburgh’s defense who all but shut down the Browns’ offense and nailed down the win. William Gay’s sack-strip of Jason Campbell (who was injured and replaced by Brandon Weeden due to the play) and subsequent 49-yard fumble return by Will Allen gave Pittsburgh’s offense cake field position at the Browns’ four-yard line. “Big Ben” (22/34, 217 yards, and a wonderful pooch-punt) hit Emmanuel Sanders in stride on the following play for a touchdown, and Pittsburgh was firmly in control 20-3.
After a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff on the Browns’ next possession, Pittsburgh’s defense really turned up the heat on Weeden for the rest of the game. A sack-strip by Polamalu and recovery by Cameron Heyward killed a drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter, while Gay’s pick-six later in the frame was the dagger which put the Steelers comfortably ahead 27-3.
Although Josh Gordon had a monster game for the Browns (237 receiving yards), Pittsburgh’s defense only allowed 55 yards on the ground, racked up five sacks (including 2.0 by Al Woods), and did not allow Mat McBriar’s inconsistent punting hurt them in terms of the field-position battle.
Le’Veon Bell even chipped in with 98 yards of total offense to boot, the offensive line did not allow a single sack, and the Steelers’ offense avoided the types of enormous mistakes which plagued Cleveland’s!
Was the win “sexy?” Heck no. But it is exactly what Pittsburgh needed. A big win over a divisional foe now gives them a chance to thrust themselves back into the thick of the postseason race if they can defeat the Baltimore Ravens this Thursday evening.
So kudos to your collective effort on a frigid Cleveland afternoon, Steelers. Keep stacking wins and making things interesting in the wild and wacky AFC during the next five weeks.
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