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Cleveland Browns

Game day blog: Browns vs. Steelers (Week 17)

By Nate Ulrich Published: January 2, 2011

Final recap: Steelers 41, Browns 9 (click here for the box score)

The Browns were embarrassed in their regular-season finale against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh dominated from the start, as evidenced by Cleveland's 31-3 halftime deficit. With the win, the Steelers (12-4) clinched the AFC North title, a first-round playoff bye and a home game in the divisional round. The Browns finished with a record of 5-11 for the second consecutive season. They also ended the season with a four-game losing streak. This could be the end of the road for coach Eric Mangini in Cleveland. He will meet with Browns President Mike Holmgren Monday morning to discuss his future. On NBC's "Football Night in America," Sports Illustrated's Peter King said he believes Holmgren will fire Mangini and try to replace him with Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Mangini's body language and actions after the game suggested Sunday was his farewell tour. It should be an interesting week at the team's headquarters in Berea, so stay tuned. The Browns have scheduled an open locker room period for media beginning at approximately 10 a.m. Monday, followed by a scheduled news conference with Mangini at 1 p.m. Aside from speculation about a coaching change, the other major Browns storyline to come out of the game was quarterback Colt McCoy's rocky finish to his rookie season. He faced two of the NFL's toughest defenses in the final two weeks (the Baltimore Ravens and the Steelers), and he threw three interceptions in each game. On the second play from scrimmage, McCoy's pass went off the left hand of tight end Benjamin Watson and into the arms of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers scored one play later when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Mike Wallace for a 56-yard pass. Pittsburgh never looked back. The Browns had a chance to cut their deficit in half early in the second quarter, but tight end Robert Royal dropped consecutive passes in the end zone, and the Browns settled for a field goal. They never posed a serious threat again.

Game action

End 1Q: Steelers 14, Browns 0 -- 1. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Mike Wallace for a 56-yard touchdown pass with 14:17 left in the first quarter. Wallace ran a route in between rookie cornerback Joe Haden and rookie safety T.J. Ward. Shaun Suisham made the extra-point kick to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. 2. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall ran 1 yard for a touchdown with 6:57 left in the first quarter. The PAT was good, giving the Steelers a 14-0 advantage. Instant impressions -- 1. The Browns received the opening kickoff and committed a turnover on their second play from scrimmage. Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy's pass to tight end Benjamin Watson was a bit off target, forcing Watson to try to make a one-handed catch. Watson, though, bobbled the pass with his left hand, and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu dived to intercept it. Polamalu tied a career high with seven interceptions this season. 2. Wallace is killing the Browns. He turned a short completion into a 41-yard gain, setting up Mendenhall's 1-yard touchdown run. 3. The Browns will start the second quarter with second-and-goal at the Steelers' 2-yard line. During the Browns' third drive, McCoy has done a good job getting away from pressure and extending plays with his mobility. 4. Browns kick returner/wide receiver Josh Cribbs suffered a foot injury. His return is questionable. 5. Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden suffered a groin injury. His return is questionable.

End 2Q: Steelers 31, Browns 3 -- 1. Phil Dawson made a 19-yard field goal to trim the Browns' deficit to 14-3 with 14:43 left in the second quarter. 2. Mendenhall ran for another 1-yard touchdown. The successful PAT gave the Steelers a 21-3 lead with 7:51 left in the second quarter. 3. Roethlisberger completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Heath Miller with 4:53 left in the second quarter. Suisham made the PAT to extend the Steelers' lead to 28-3. Instant impressions -- 1. Browns tight end Robert Royal dropped two passes in the end zone on consecutive plays (second and third down). After Royal's missed opportunities, the Browns settled for a field goal early in the second quarter. 2. The Browns' defense doesn't have any answers. Mendenhall can run at will, and nobody can keep up with Wallace in the passing game. This is really, really ugly. The Steelers might start resting some of their key players in the second half. 3. Cribbs returned to the game. He lined up as the deep man on a kickoff return with 7:51 left in the second quarter. 4. McCoy threw his second interception of the game midway through the second quarter. The pass was intended for Massaquoi, but it wasn't even close to him. McCoy and Massaquoi have had problems getting on the same page in recent weeks, and it showed again as Steelers safety Ryan Clark dived to pick off McCoy. The Browns challenged Clark's catch, but the interception was upheld after a review. Clark returned the interception 23 yards to the Browns' 24, helping set up Roethlisberger's touchdown pass to Miller. 5. McCoy threw his third interception of the game with 2:33 left. Steelers cornerback Anthony Madison picked off McCoy, whose throw didn't even come close to approaching one of his receivers. McCoy was hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison as he threw. Running back Mike Bell and Royal failed to pass block Harrison. 6. Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown suffered a shoulder injury. His return is questionable. 7. The first half ended with the Steelers sacking McCoy again. The Browns can no longer say they have been competitive in every game during the 2010 season.

End 3Q: Steelers 38, Browns 3 -- 1. On a trick play, Pittsburgh's Antwaan Randle El completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to fellow wide receiver Hines Ward. The Steelers took a 38-3 lead with 7:18 left in the third quarter by making the PAT. Instant impressions -- 1. In the first half, the Browns became the last team in the NFL to allow 30 points in a game. Now they're flirting with giving up more than 40. 2. McCoy has failed to rebound from his poor performance last week, when he threw three interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens. On first-and-10 from the Browns' 18, McCoy fumbled as he was sacked by Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel. Fortunately for the Browns, McCoy recovered his own fumble. 3. With 5:34 left in the third quarter, the Steelers began to rest some of their key players. Byron Leftwich filled in for Roethlisberger at quarterback, and Jonathan Dwyer replaced Mendenhall at running back. 4. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey left the game with a stinger and was replaced by Doug Legursky. Pouncey's return is questionable.

End 4Q: Steelers 41, Browns 9 -- 1. Suisham made a 24-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 41-3 lead with 12:32 left in the fourth quarter. 2. McCoy completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brian Robiskie with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter, trimming Cleveland's deficit to 41-9. The pass was originally ruled incomplete, but one official overruled another and called it a touchdown. Replays show Robiskie had possession of the ball as he fell in the front corner of the end zone. When the Browns went for two points, McCoy's pass intended for Massaquoi was incomplete in the back of the end zone. But the play was negated because of offsetting pass-interference penalties on Massaquoi and Steelers cornerback Williams Gay. Therefore, the two-point conversion had to be replayed. Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace filled in for McCoy, who appeared to be hurt when he was hit by Steelers defensive end Nick Eason during the first two-point attempt. Wallace was picked off by Steelers safety Ryan Mundy in the end zone. Instant impressions -- 1. With several of their starters resting on the sideline, the Steelers still produced a 10-play, 52-yard scoring drive to eclipse the 40-point plateau. 2. The Browns nearly scored a touchdown when Cribbs took a snap out of the Wildcat formation and fired a pass toward the front of the end zone to wide receiver Brian Robiskie. The pass, however, was thrown a bit short, and Robiskie couldn't haul it in. 3. Then with 6:40 left in the fourth quarter, McCoy threw a pass to Royal in the back corner of the end zone. Royal appeared to make the catch at first, but he didn't maintain control of the ball when it hit the ground. The Browns challenged the call, but the play stood as an incomplete pass after a review. One play later, McCoy connected with Robiskie for the Browns' first touchdown of the game. 4. After he appeared to be injured during Cleveland's first two-point conversion attempt, McCoy re-entered the game for the Browns' final drive.

Pregame notes

Top storylines -- 1. This could be Eric Mangini's final game as the Browns' coach. Mangini said he expects to discuss his future Monday with Browns President Mike Holmgren. Mangini has two years left on his contract, but Holmgren might decide to make a coaching change after consecutive losing seasons. 2. This could also be the last game in Cleveland for several players. Kicker Phil Dawson, who has been a member of the Browns since their expansion era began in 1999, is not signed for the 2011 season and might land elsewhere as a free agent. 3. Steelers linebacker James Harrison will face the Browns for the first time since he sidelined wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi with concussions in Week 6. Harrison was fined $75,000 (later reduced to $50,000) for his hit on Massaquoi. 4. Browns running back Peyton Hillis and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu are both active for today's game. Hillis did not practice this past week because of sore ribs, and Polamalu missed the past two games with an Achilles injury. 5. Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy will face the Steelers, who have one of the NFL's best defenses, for the second time. He made his NFL regular-season debut against Pittsburgh in Week 6, when Cleveland suffered a 28-10 loss at Heinz Field.

Inactive players -- Browns: WR Jordan Norwood, QB Jake Delhomme (listed as the team's third quarterback), WR Carlton Mitchell, DL Brian Sanford, DL Ko Quaye, WR Demetrius Williams, DL Travis Ivey and DL Jayme Mitchell. Steelers -- QB Charlie Batch (listed as the team's third quarterback), RB Mewelde Moore, CB Crezdon Butler, OT Chris Scott, OT Tony Hills, DT Steve McLendon, DE Aaron Smith and LB Jason Worilds.

Lineup changes -- Browns: Derreck Robinson will start at right defensive end in place of Brian Schaefering. Steelers: No announced lineup changes.

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