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Game day blog: Browns at Steelers (Week 14)

By Nate Ulrich Published: December 8, 2011

Final score: Steelers 14, Browns 3 (game story; box score)

Game action

End 1Q: Steelers 7, Browns 3 -- During the first drive of the game, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy completed passes of 33 yards to tight end Evan Moore and 25 yards to wide receiver Josh Cribbs to lead the Browns deep into the red zone. On second-and-goal from the Steelers’ 2, McCoy scrambled and ran up the middle for what the officials ruled a 2-yard touchdown. However, the call was reversed after the officials reviewed the play and determined McCoy’s arm was down inches short of the goal line. On third-and-goal from the Steelers’ 1, Browns running back Peyton Hillis was stuffed by linebackers Larry Foote and James Farrior for a 1-yard loss. The Browns then settled for Phil Dawson’s 20-yard field goal, which gave them a 3-0 advantage with 9:22 left in the opening quarter. The Steelers, though, struck back during the next series. They capped their 10-play, 78-yard march when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery with 6:12 left in the first quarter. Strongside linebacker Chris Gocong appeared to be caught out of position in coverage, allowing Cotchery to make the catch and sneak into the end zone, and defensive end Jayme Mitchell hit Roethlisberger a split-second after he got rid of the ball.

End 2Q: Steelers 7, Browns 3 -- The Browns had two takeaways early in the second quarter. On second-and-1 at the Browns’ 21, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward caught a short pass and fumbled when weakside linebacker Kaluka Maiava knocked the ball loose. Cornerback Sheldon Brown recovered at the Browns’ 15 with 13:23 left in the second quarter. Three plays later, McCoy threw an interception into the hands of Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu. However, the Steelers couldn’t capitalize. During the next play, middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson forced tight end Heath Miller to fumble, and cornerback Joe Haden recovered at the Browns’ 8 with 12:30 left in the second quarter. Neither team scored in the second quarter, though the Browns seemingly gained an advantage with 5:59 left before halftime, when defensive lineman Scott Paxson sacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and sidelined him for the remainder of the second half with a left high ankle sprain. Roethlisberger walked into the tunnel with trainers and was later carted off to the locker room. Roethlisberger was replaced by backup Charlie Batch. Two key Browns players also suffered injuries. Tight end Benjamin Watson suffered a head injury with 3:37 left in the second quarter and was ruled out for the rest of the game. Wide receiver Josh Cribbs hurt his groin in the first half. His return is questionable.

End 3Q: Steelers 7, Browns 3 -- Roethlisberger re-entered the game to start the third quarter. He limped around while orchestrating the offense. Neither team scored in the third quarter. McCoy scrambled and gained 5 yards. As he scattered out of bounds, Farrior hit him out of bounds and was penalized 15 yards. McCoy was slow to get up, but he remained in the game. With the late-hit penalty, the Browns moved into the Steelers’ territory, though their drive stalled a few plays later.

End 4Q: Steelers 14, Browns 3 -- After a scoreless third quarter, the Steelers marched to the Browns’ 2. Strongside linebacker Chris Gocong was involved in four consecutive tackles as the Browns repeatedly stuffed Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall and completed their fourth goal-line stand of the season with 10:39 left in the fourth quarter. Later, free safety Mike Adams intercepted a pass from Roethlisberger and returned it 29 yards to the Browns’ 44-yard line with 7:10 left in the fourth quarter. During the ensuing drive, Steelers linebacker James Harrison used his helmet to hit McCoy in the face mask and was called for a 15-yard, roughing-the-passer penalty. McCoy also hurt his left hand when Harrison hit him. He missed two plays after absorbing the blow and returned on first-and-goal at the Steelers’ 5. Three plays later, McCoy’s pass intended for wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was intercepted by cornerback William Gay in the end zone. The Steelers capitalized two plays later, when Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Antonio Brown for 79-yard touchdown pass. Cornerback Joe Haden slipped and fell while covering Brown, who ran 66 yards after the catch to complete the play and help to give the Steelers a 14-3 lead with 2:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Pregame notes

Inactives: Browns -- QB Thaddeus Lewis, SS T.J. Ward (foot), OL Steve Vallos, OL Oniel Cousins, TE Jordan Cameron, LB Quinton Spears (hamstring) and DE Auston English. Steelers -- QB Dennis Dixon, LB Chris Carter (hamstring), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring), DE Al Woods, OT Jamon Meredith, WR Arnaz Battle (hamstring) and WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot).

Lineup changes: Browns -- Usama Young will start at strong safety in place of Ward, who's out for the fifth consecutive game with a sprained right foot. Steelers -- Jason Worilds will start at outside linebacker in place of Woodley.

Storylines -- 1. The Browns will try to put their embarrassing 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens (9-3) behind them when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:20 tonight at Heinz Field. Two games in five days against two AFC North juggernauts might qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. Still, the Browns don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves. Their mental toughness will be tested as they try to rebound in the midst of a quick turnaround. 2. Without much time to heal, quarterback Colt McCoy and running back Peyton Hillis, two of the Browns’ most important players, are active and will play through their injuries. McCoy sprained his right knee against the Ravens and has been dealing with elbow and shoulder injuries in recent weeks. He was listed as probable heading into the game. Hillis strained his left hip against the Ravens and was hobbled by an injured left hamstring most of the season. He was listed as questionable heading into the game. The Browns not only need McCoy and Hillis to play well, but they also need them to avoid further injuries against the Steelers’ physical defense. Free safety Mike Adams (shoulder) and offensive lineman Tony Pashos (ankle) are also active despite being listed as questionable. They are both expected to start for the Browns. 3. The Steelers, who have won 14 of their past 15 and 20 of their past 22 games against the Browns, are hoping to avoid a letdown. The Steelers have the same record as the Ravens but have lost to them twice this season. The Steelers, though, could still win the division and perhaps enter the mix for a first-round playoff bye if they take care of business down the stretch and the Ravens stumble. 4. The Browns’ defense is seeking redemption after being overpowered by the Ravens. The Browns allowed 290 rushing yards, including 204 by running back Ray Rice, against the Ravens. It was the most rushing yards allowed by the Browns since the Steelers ran for 303 yards on Dec. 7, 2006. Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron will certainly want to bounce back with a strong showing in front of his mentor, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. 5. Browns-Steelers connections: Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians filled the same role for the Browns (2001-03). ... Browns quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple held the same job with the Steelers (2004-06). ... Browns defensive line coach Dwaine Board was selected by the Steelers in the fifth round (137th overall) of the 1979 NFL Draft. ... Browns linebackers coach Bill Davis was the Steelers’ defensive quality control coach (1992-94). ... Browns defensive lineman Scott Paxson was on the Steelers’ practice squad (2006-08) and spent training camp with them in each of the past two years. ... Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler spent four seasons in the same role with the Browns (1999-2002). ... Steelers director of player development Raymond Jackson played for the Browns (1999-2001). ... Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell held the same job with the Browns (1991-93). ... Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham spent training camp with the Browns (2010). Ohio connections: Steelers linebacker James Harrison is an Akron native who went to Coventry High School and Kent State. … Safety Will Allen, defensive end Cameron Heyward and LeBeau attended Ohio State. ... Steelers quarterback coach Randy Fichtner is from Cleveland. ... Steelers defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky is a Youngstown native.

Preview stories via -- 1. Quarterback Colt McCoy realizes his ignorance was bliss last season against the Steelers. 2. Matchup of the week: The Browns don't want to be burned by Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace. 3. Keys to the game. 4. Numbers to watch. 5. Injury report. 6. Predictions.


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