Final

Browns 7

(4-12, 1-7 away)

Steelers 20

(8-8, 5-3 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 29, 2013

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA 

1 2 3 4 T
CLE 0 0 0 77
PIT 7 7 3 320

Top Performers

Passing: J. Campbell (CLE) - 240 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: L. Bell (PIT) - 20 CAR, 90 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: A. Brown (PIT) - 9 REC, 87 YDS

Steelers drub lifeless Browns but fall short of playoffs

ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- Forget the 0-4 start. Forget the remarkable finish, the one that kept the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoff picture until the final minutes of the regular season.

There's no such thing as partial credit in the NFL.

"We were an 8-8 team," safety Troy Polamalu said.

One that will spend January at home for a second straight year.

Le'Veon Bell ran for 90 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers drubbed the lifeless Browns 20-7 on Sunday, though Pittsburgh's bid to become the second team in NFL history to go winless in September and make the playoffs ended when San Diego edged Kansas City 27-24 in overtime.

"We are going to build on this," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "I think we have put together a good foundation."

One that went 6-2 over the final eight weeks, recovering from a potentially franchise-altering 55-31 loss to New England on Nov. 3 to play perhaps the best football in the AFC by someone not named Denver over the second half.

Or, the exact opposite of what happened in Cleveland. The Browns (4-12) lost their final seven games and went just 1-10 since early October. Not exactly the step forward new owner Jimmy Haslam was looking for with a roster littered with five Pro Bowlers.

The underachieving led to head coach Rob Chudzinski being fired Sunday night.

"We appreciate Chud's passion for the Browns, and we have great respect for him both personally and professionally," the team said in a statement. "We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year."

Chudzinski's players did something after the game they failed to do during it: rally around their coach.

"It's just absurd to me that a report would be out like that, about a good coach like that," Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "It's crazy, and that (ticked) me off when I heard that."

Cleveland didn't exactly play angry while letting the Steelers roll to victory for the 26th time in 31 meetings since the Browns were revived in 1999.

Roethlisberger passed for 179 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions as Pittsburgh won its third straight to avoid the franchise's first losing season since 2003.

"Guys just kept fighting," Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said. "Wasn't anything glorious or something beautiful, we just came out of nowhere."

Jason Campbell completed 23 of 41 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Josh Gordon caught seven passes for 82 yards to finish with an NFL-high 1,646 yards receiving, a first for the franchise. It proved little solace on a wet, miserable day at Heinz Field in which Cleveland looked very much like the same old Browns.

Cleveland was largely noncompetitive over the season's final three months, losing 10 of 11, with seven losses by a touchdown or more, including two to the Steelers by a combined 47-18.

Chudzinski called it simply "a difficult day."

There is no sense of panic in Pittsburgh. A season that appeared teetering on embarrassment after the record-setting loss to the Patriots ended up with a decidedly rosier finish.

The Steelers scored on the opening drive, a 9-yard strike from Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery, and it was more than enough. Whenever the Browns threatened, they found a way to botch it. Twice they failed on fourth-down attempts in Pittsburgh territory and didn't reach the end zone until Campbell found Fozzy Whitaker on a 35-yard pass with 2:46 remaining.

By then most of the attention had turned to the scoreboard, where the biggest roars were saved for scores by the Bengals and Jets, who then won to boost Pittsburgh's playoff chances.

Kansas City nearly did the same, but Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in regulation and San Diego survived.

Still, the Steelers remain convinced better days lay ahead, thanks in part to Bell's rapid development. He broke Hall of Famer Franco Harris' team record for total yards from scrimmage by a rookie by combining for 96 yards in the muck at Heinz Field. Bell finished with 1,259 total yards in just 13 games, 24 more than the mark of 1,235 Harris set in 1972.

Bell's 5-yard touchdown burst in the second quarter, which included a nifty spin move in the backfield, gave the Steelers a 14-0 lead at the break. It capped an 87-yard drive in which he touched the ball 10 times in 14 plays.

That was plenty for a rejuvenated defense that sacked Campbell three times, including a strip fumble by defensive end Brett Keisel, likely playing his final regular-season game of his 12-year career with Pittsburgh.

Despite the outcome, Keisel isn't closing the door on a return.

"I still feel like I can play," Keisel said. "You know, we'll see."

Just not until 2014.

NOTES: Brown caught nine passes for 97 yards to finish with 110 receptions on the season, narrowly missing the club mark of 112 set by Hines Ward in 2012. ... Roethlisberger finished with 4,261 yards passing, the second-highest total in team history to his 4,328 in 2009.

Information from ESPN's Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
CLE
PIT
1st Downs1517
Passing 1st downs
1011
Rushing 1st downs
46
1st downs from Penalties
10
3rd down efficiency
6-155-12
4th down efficiency
0-30-0
Total Plays6461
Total Yards293292
Yards per play4.64.8
Total Drives1112
Passing214172
Comp - Att
23-4119-31
Yards per pass
5.25.5
Interceptions thrown
12
Sacks - Yards Lost
3-261-7
Rushing79120
Rushing Attempts
2029
Yards per rush
4.04.1
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-12-4
Penalties3-302-15
Turnovers22
Fumbles lost
10
Interceptions thrown
12
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession29:4330:17

Passing Leaders

CLEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Campbell23/412405.9113-26
PITC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Roethli...19/311795.8121-7

Rushing Leaders

CLECARYDSAVGTDLG
Baker18693.8020
Campbell166.006
PITCARYDSAVGTDLG
Bell20904.5115
Jones2115.5011

Receiving Leaders

CLERECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Gordon78211.702010
Cameron56913.80247
PITRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Brown9879.702414
Sanders22613.00174

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCLEPIT
pitTD09:53Jerricho Cotchery 9 Yd Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick) 07
SECOND QUARTERCLEPIT
pitTD04:22Le'Veon Bell 5 Yd Run (Shaun Suisham Kick) 014
THIRD QUARTERCLEPIT
pitFG03:50Shaun Suisham 30 Yd 017
FOURTH QUARTERCLEPIT
pitFG08:26Shaun Suisham 32 Yd 020
cleTD02:46Foswhitt Whittaker 35 Yd Pass From Jason Campbell (Billy Cundiff Kick) 720

Research Notes

Ben Roethlisberger was able to dink-and-dunk the Steelers to victory Sunday, going 17-of-19 (89.5 percent) on passes shorter than 15 yards downfield, his best of the season. When Roethlisberger went deep, he was only 2-of-12 (16.7 percent), his worst of the season.
  [+]
From Elias: Tom Brady LOVES facing the Bills... And Ben Roethlisberger LOVES facing the Browns even more... And the 2 quarterbacks will face their respective favorite opponents this Sunday... Brady is 21-and-2 in his career against the Bills. But according to the Elias Sports Bureau, since the 1970 merger, the only quarterback with a better record against any single opponent is Ben Roethlisberger who is 16-and-1 against the Browns (minimum 15 starts vs one team).
  [+]

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