What it means: A three-game winning streak has put the Steelers in position to push for the playoffs after their first 0-4 start since 1968. The Steelers have thrived since their near-death experience in New England earlier this month, and they are easily playing their best football after dominating the Browns again in Cleveland. They improved to 5-6 and won three games in a row for the first time this season. The Steelers are plus-seven in turnover differential the last two weeks, and they have not been intercepted or lost a fumble in the past two games.
Stock watch: The defense played lights-out and forced four turnovers against a Browns offense that is lacking in skill players and decent quarterback play. The play of the offensive line may have been the most noteworthy thing to come out of the Steelers’ 13th victory in Cleveland since 1999. It controlled a defensive front that offensive coordinator Todd Haley said last week would be the most formidable that the Steelers had faced this season. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell grinded out 80 rushing yards, and Ben Roethlisberger threw for 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns and was not sacked. Roethlisberger has been sacked just once in the Steelers’ past two games.
Big Ben at it again: Nothing seems to come easier to Roethlisberger than tormenting the home-state team that passed on him in the 2004 draft. Roethlisberger completed 22 of 34 passes, and he finished with a passer rating of 102.2. Roethlisberger, whom the Browns bypassed in 2004 to draft tight end Kellen Winslow, has had a passer rating of at least 100 in 55 regular-season games. Eleven of those have come against the Browns, who continue to cycle through quarterbacks.
A.B. an All-Pro? Forget Pro Bowl. It’s time to put Antonio Brown on the short list of wide receivers who should be considered for first-team All-Pro. Brown caught six passes for 92 yards, and he made a nice adjustment that resulted in the Steelers’ first touchdown. It came late in the second quarter after he blew past Browns cornerback Joe Haden. Roethlisberger underthrew Brown but the receiver came up with the catch and hung onto the ball even though he bobbled it under duress from Haden as both fell to the ground. Brown has 80 catches for 952 and six touchdowns this season.
Next up: The Steelers visit the Ravens on Thursday for a Thanksgiving night game, and the teams raised the stakes for the second of their biannual grudge match. Each won handily this afternoon to improve to 5-6 and stay very much in the hunt for the second wild-card berth in the AFC. Both teams will have to overcome the inconveniences of a short week, and the Steelers are probably at more of a disadvantage following the quick turnaround since they are the team that has to travel.