Thursday, December 8, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Steelers 14, Browns 3
By Jamison Hensley
PITTSBURGH -- Thoughts on the Steelers' 14-3 victory over the Browns:
What it means: It wasn't pretty. It wasn't easy. It was extremely physical -- both starting quarterbacks were knocked briefly out of the game. The Steelers gutted out the much-needed win with limping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) and sacks leader LaMarr Woodley (hamstring). The Steelers (10-3) became the first AFC team to reach 10 victories, winning for the eighth time in nine games. Pittsburgh increased its chances for a wild-card spot (and could clinch a berth this weekend) and would take the lead in the division if the Ravens get upset by the winless Colts on Sunday. The Browns (4-9) clinched last place in the AFC North as well as their 10th losing season in 12 years since rejoining the NFL.
Roethlisberger plays in pain ... again: In a season in which he has endured a foot injury and broken thumb, Roethlisberger pushed through an ankle injury to complete 17 of 22 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. He hobbled off the field in the second quarter after getting sacked but returned for the start of the second half following X-rays that were negative. After the injury, Roethlisberger was 9-of-13 for 178 yards, despite not being able to put pressure on the left leg. He sealed the game with a 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown connection to Antonio Brown in the fourth quarter.
McCoy makes costly mistake: Knocked briefly out of the game five plays earlier, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy threw a critical interception on third-and-goal in the end zone. Steelers cornerback William Gay easily picked off the underthrown pass that was intended for Mohamed Massaquoi.
Browns don't back down: The Cleveland defense kept the game close with an impressive goal-line stand in the fourth quarter. After stopping Rashard Mendenhall on three runs inside the Browns' 3-yard line, Cleveland's D'Qwell Jackson and Mike Adams teamed up to stop Mendenhall on fourth down from the 1-yard line. The Steelers surprisingly went for the touchdown when a field goal would have given them a touchdown cushion.
Brown beats Browns: It seems like every week Antonio Brown makes the play when the Steelers need it the most. With the Steelers clutching a 7-3 lead in the fourth quarter, Brown caught a pass along the sideline against cornerback Joe Haden and then burst toward the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown. It's becoming more apparent that Brown is bypassing Mike Wallace as Roethlisberger's favorite receiver. He finished with five catches for 151 yards.
Harrison's costly hit: Steelers linebacker James Harrison put McCoy on the sideline for a couple of plays with a helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter. McCoy had pulled up before the original line of scrimmage prior to taking the shot from Harrison, who likely will receive a sizable fine.
What's next: The Steelers have an 11-day break before playing at NFC West champion San Francisco. The Browns head west for their next game, playing at Arizona on Dec. 18.