NFL Nation: Steelers-Browns
It was the type of smile that could only come after Ward and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the rival Cleveland Browns 10-6.
|Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward was all smiles after the Steelers Sunday night win over Cleveland.|
Ward has been a member of the Steelers throughout their entire 10-game winning streak in the series against the Browns. It's hard to beat any team in any sport 10 times in a row, but the Steelers continue to find ways.
On this particular night, the Steelers got their "one for the other thumb" over Cleveland by taking a double-digit lead on the road and repelling the Browns' rallies.
Said Steelers tailback Willie Parker: "It's Cleveland. You know how much we love to beat them."
And it shows.
Despite inclement weather, receivers Ward (five catches, 59 yards, one touchdown) and Santonio Holmes (five catches, 94 yards) had their way with the Browns' secondary, all while taunting the Cleveland Browns stadium crowd from the opening kickoff.
During a timeout, the fans from the Dawgpound were barking from the end zone and Ward, Holmes and Parker urged them on.
Ward then provided the first dagger on the field in the form of an 11-yard touchdown reception that gave Pittsburgh the early lead. He immediately ran over to the Dawgpound, turned his back on them, and kicked up grass in the face of those sitting in the front row.
"I call it 'marking my territory," said Ward, smiling again and reveling in the moment. "I silenced them with that one. They weren't expecting that. I know right now if they see me in Cleveland, they will be ready to fight me all day."
Holmes then provided a second dagger with a leaping, 48-yard reception over Browns cornerback Brandon McDonald. That play led to Pittsburgh's second scoring drive, capped by a 48-yard field goal by Jeff Reed that gave the Steelers all the points they needed for the night.
"We know how ruthless that crowd is," Holmes said. "They are always into the game and you want a crowd like that, that's going to be very hostile to all the teams. That pumps up our offensive players and makes us want to make plays to silence that crowd."
Pittsburgh held on thanks to an aggressive defense and, perhaps, lack of aggression from Browns head coach Romeo Crennel. Cleveland started to gain momentum late in the third quarter and put its first points on the board with a field goal at the 1:25 mark of the third.
Down seven points, the Browns' second scoring drive presented a fourth-and-7 on the 20-yard line with 3:24 left in the game. Crennel opted to kick a field goal and play defense. But the Browns only regained possession with 26 seconds left and no time outs remaining, 74 yards away from paydirt.
Not helping his cause is that Crennel also opted to kick a controversial field goal late in the game last week against the Dallas Cowboys, when the team was down 21 points.
Regardless, consider Browns Stadium the Steelers' unofficial home away from home. Pittsburgh (2-0) has won eight straight in Cleveland, dating back to the 2001 season.
Each time, Cleveland's hostile environment was tamed.
"They were talking so bad about me, and after the game I was just smiling,'' Ward said. "I got a lot of [middle] fingers and all that. But that's what football is all about. That's what you love about it. For whatever reason, we feel comfortable here... We just like playing in Cleveland."
The Browns will not see the Steelers again until the final game of the regular season. Maybe that game will mean something, maybe it won't. But Cleveland (0-2) missed out on a golden opportunity to make this a division race and individual series with the Steelers competitive again.
Instead, the Steelers once again leave Browns Stadium with big smiles on their faces.
CLEVELAND -- The Pittsburgh Steelers took sole possession of first place in the AFC North with Sunday night's 10-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
It was a hard-fought battle on both sides that was reminiscent of many of the great rivalry games between these two teams. But Pittsburgh (2-0) made just enough plays to come out on top and continue its dominance over Cleveland (0-2), which has lost 10 straight in this series.
The Browns were considered Pittsburgh's biggest threat in the division and the Steelers quickly dashed those hopes. Pittsburgh now has a two-game lead in the division over the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, and a half-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens (1-0), who were idle.
The Browns, who many felt was a dark horse team to come out of the AFC, now falls to 0-2 and has a big hole to dig out of if it wants to get to the playoffs. The Browns have two consecutive road games in the division against the Ravens and Bengals. The Browns struggled on the road last season, going 3-5.
Here are some first-half notes:
- There was a lot of feistiness going between these two teams in the first half. Browns middle linebacker Andra Davis was trash-talking the Pittsburgh Steelers sideline to start the game, and there were at least two near-scuffles in the opening quarter.
- Steelers starting receivers Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward are having their way with Cleveland's secondary. The pair have combined for seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Currently the duo have accounted for all of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's completions in the first two quarters.
- Cleveland starting quarterback Derek Anderson did not have a good start, missing 9 of his first 11 throws. He got hot towards the end of the second quarter, but threw a last-second pick to Steelers safety Troy Polamalu before the half that ended Cleveland's scoring threat. It was Anderson's second interception of the half.
- Pittsburgh starting defensive end Brett Keisel injured his right calf towards the end of the first quarter. It was announced right before halftime that he will not return to the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The Steelers have dominated Cleveland as of late, winning nine straight. But the overall regular-season series is tied at 55-55, which means the winner of tonight's battle not only takes a firm grip in the AFC North but an advantage in the series. Pittsburgh also has beaten Cleveland twice in the postseason.
Browns general manager Phil Savage already deemed this the most important game of the season. It will be interesting to see how both teams respond.
In other news, Browns receiver Donte Stallworth will miss his second straight game tonight with a quad injury. Safety Sean Jones, who had knee surgery Thursday, is the other missing starter on the inactive list.
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