End 1Q: Browns 0, Steelers 0 -- The Browns went three-and-out on their first three possessions, but their defense also did enough to hold the Steelers in check during the opening quarter. The Steelers marched to the Browns’ 32-yard line and tried to convert on fourth-and-3. But quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s pass to running back Isaac Redman was too long and fell incomplete. Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin sacked Roethlisberger on second down during the Steelers’ next possession. On third-and-22 at the Steelers’ 48, rookie cornerback Buster Skrine broke up Roethlisberger’s pass intended for wide receiver Antonio Brown. Browns punter Brad Maynard had a rough first quarter. He had his first touchback of the season after the Browns’ second drive stalled. He punted only 34 yards, allowing the Steelers to gain possession at the Browns’ 42 with 19 seconds left. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall hurt his right knee on the last play of the first quarter. He ran for 5 yards during the play.
End 2Q: Browns 6, Steelers 3 -- The Steelers marched to the Browns’ 14, but rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard sacked Roethlisberger on third down for a loss of 13 yards. On the next play, Shaun Suisham’s 45-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left in the whipping wind with 9:57 left in the second quarter. The Browns capitalized by orchestrating a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive. On third-and-2 at the Steelers’ 31, Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace ran for 27 yards and a first down. Then running back Peyton Hillis was then stuffed for a 4-yard loss, and Wallace threw two passes out of bounds near the end zone. The Browns settled for Phil Dawson’s 26-yard field goal, which gave them a 3-0 lead with 6:03 left in the first half. The Browns later extended their lead to 6-0 when Dawson made a 45-yard field goal with 1:06 left in the second quarter. Wallace had consecutive completions of 23 and 14 yards to wide receiver Josh Cribbs to move into position. The Browns flirted with scoring a touchdown during the march, but a pass into the end zone went off the fingertips of tight end Evan Moore. The Steelers trimmed their halftime deficit to 6-3. They marched to the Browns’ 1, though they settled for Suisham’s 19-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Roethlisberger threw two incomplete passes into the end zone, both of which were defended by nickel cornerback Dimitri Patterson, before the Steelers summoned Suisham.
End 3Q: Steelers 13, Browns 9 -- The Steelers started the second half with a 13-play, 66-yard drive to tie the score 6-6 with 9:43 left in the third quarter. Shaun Suisham made a 29-yard field goal to cap the march after it stalled at the Browns’ 11. Three plays later, Wallace’s pass intended for tight end Evan Moore was intercepted by Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu with 8:22 left in the third quarter. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds pressured Wallace as he threw. The Steelers took advantage of the turnover. Running back Isaac Redman capped a six-play, 43-yard drive by rushing for a 7-yard touchdown with 5:27 left in the third quarter. The Browns responded by driving 46 yards to the Steelers’ 31, but the offense stalled there. Dawson made a 49-yard field goal to trim the Browns’ deficit to 13-9 with 1:59 left in the third quarter.
End 4Q: Steelers 13, Browns 9 -- With 12:42 left in the fourth quarter, Steelers running back Isaac Redman fumbled, and Browns rookie strong safety Eric Hagg recovered. A subsequent facemask penalty by the Steelers (12-4), who will enter the postseason as a wild-card team because the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, gave the Browns the ball on Pittsburgh’s 43. The Browns failed to capitalize. On second-and-12 at the Steelers’ 34, Wallace threw a pass behind wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who was wide open. Massaquoi dropped the ball, and the Browns punted two plays later. The Browns, though, forced Redman to fumble again with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter. At the end of Redman’s 22-yard run, middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and cornerback Joe Haden wrapped up Redman. Strong safety Usama Young then hit Redman. Haden was credited with a forced fumble and a recovery. But the Browns once again couldn’t make the Steelers pay for their mistakes. On second-and-10 at the Browns’ 49, Wallace’s pass was nearly intercepted by cornerback William Gay, who couldn’t secure the ball as Massaquoi hit him. On third down, cornerback Ike Taylor dived to break up Wallace’s pass intended for Little. The Browns punted, but they got the ball back with 1:46 left after their defense contained the Steelers. However, the Browns’ thrilling comeback attempt ended with Wallace’s final pass falling incomplete in the end zone. On second-and-10 at the Steelers’ 24-yard line, Wallace threw a pass toward wide receiver Greg Little and tight end Jordan Cameron in the end zone. The pass, though, fell incomplete among a crowd of Steelers defenders, and the game ended.
Inactives: Browns -- WR Jordan Norwood (concussion), QB Colt McCoy (concussion), WR Rod Windsor, CB James Dockery, OL Steve Vallos, DL Kiante Tripp and OL Tony Pashos (stomach illness). Steelers -- RB Mewelde Moore (knee), LB Chris Carter (hamstring), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring), OL Doug Legursky (shoulder), DE Al Woods, OL Jamon Meredith and WR Arnaz Battle.
Lineup changes: Browns -- Seneca Wallace will make his third consecutive start at quarterback in place of McCoy; Artis Hicks will start at right tackle in place of Pashos. Steelers -- Jason Worilds will start at outside linebacker in place of Woodley.
Storylines -- 1. The Browns will reunite with Steelers linebacker James Harrison, but quarterback Colt McCoy won’t be involved in the rematch. McCoy has not played since he suffered a concussion Dec. 8 as a result of the helmet-to-facemask hit he took from Harrison in the fourth quarter of the Browns’ 14-3 loss to the Steelers. Harrison was suspended one game after the hit on McCoy. His vicious blows have caused concussions for three Browns players — McCoy and wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi — in the past 14 months. Several Browns players have said the only way they’ll seek revenge against Harrison is by trying to win. With McCoy out, quarterback Seneca Wallace will make his third consecutive start for the Browns. 2. The Browns hope to upset the Steelers and ruin their chance to win the AFC North title and secure a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Steelers could achieve those goals if they defeat the Browns and the Baltimore Ravens tie or lose to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns, meanwhile, don’t want to end their dreadful season on a bad note. They suffered a 41-9 defeat to the Steelers in the 2010 regular-season finale, and they want to avoid entering the offseason with a bad taste in their mouths again. 3. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is still dealing with the high-ankle sprain he suffered Dec. 8 when Browns defensive linemen Scott Paxson and Brian Schaefering hit him in the second quarter. However, Roethlisberger is expected to play after sitting out the Steelers’ game Dec. 24 against the St. Louis Rams. His condition could affect the way the Steelers attack the Browns. 4. Browns coach Pat Shurmur and Co. will look for redemption after they let golden opportunities slip away Dec. 24 in a 20-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Even though the Browns had no timeouts left, Wallace called a running play on second-and-goal from the Ravens’ 3-yard line instead of spiking the ball. After running back Peyton Hillis was stuffed for no gain, the time ran out, and the Browns failed to cut the Ravens’ 17-0 halftime lead. Shurmur said he’s confident he and Wallace will “be communicating perfectly” on New Year’s Day. Rookie defensive tackle Phil Taylor will also look to put his glaring gaffe behind him. Taylor’s encroachment penalty on fourth down sealed the Ravens’ win. 5. Browns-Steelers connections: Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians had the same job with 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 Paxson was on the Steelers’ practice squad (2006-08) and spent training camp with them 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: Harrison is an Akron native who went to Coventry High School and Kent State. ... Steelers safety Will Allen, defensive end Cameron Heyward and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau attended Ohio State. ... Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner is from Cleveland. ... Steelers defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky is a Youngstown native.
Preview stories via Ohio.com: 1. The Browns must go through linebacker James Harrison and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to accomplish their end-of-season goals against the Steelers. 2. Matchup of the week: The Browns know their run defense must continue to improve today when they face Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. 3. Keys to the game. 4. Numbers to watch. 5. Quote of the week. 6. Injury report. 7. Predictions.