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Pittsburgh Steelers win, earn playoff berth

By The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 4, 2016 at 1:33 AM
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CLEVELAND -- Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger continued his mastery over Cleveland on Sunday with three touchdown passes to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 28-12 victory over the Browns.

As a result of their win and the Buffalo Bills' 22-17 victory over the New York Jets, the Steelers (10-6) advance to the playoffs.

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Pittsburgh will travel to Cincinnati to play its AFC North division rival Bengals next weekend at a time to be determined. The teams split two hotly-contested matchups this season. The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since Jan. 6, 1991, and were denied a first-round bye when Denver defeated San Diego on Sunday night.

"We have an excited locker room in there and rightfully so," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "It's been as tough 16-week fight for us, but we're where we want to be. We recognize we're not perfect. We have to run the ball better than we did today if we want to stay in this tournament for any length of time."

The Browns put up a fight, but lost for the 13th time this season. The 3-13 finish is their worst since 2000 when they were also 3-13. It was their 18th defeat in the last 21 games.

Browns coach Mike Pettine was fired a few hours after the game. He was 10-22 in two seasons in Cleveland.

"How hard the guys play to me is the resume," Pettine said before the firing. "I feel like we've done a lot of good things, but I'm the first one to tell you, this is a pass-fail league and the results aren't there. Nobody wants to hear it takes time."

Roethlisberger is now 19-2 lifetime against the Browns since being drafted in 2004. He is 9-2 in games played in Cleveland. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 349 yards Sunday and also threw two interceptions.

"He's a playmaker," Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown said. "He threw for a lot of yards and got some touchdowns. When things got tight he continued to make plays. That's the kind of guy you want to play for. That's the leader you want to be behind."

Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return. Tomlin said Williams will have to be evaluated and that the extent of the injury is unknown.

The Steelers are already without Le'Veon Bell, their primary running back, who is on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The Browns, trailing 14-9 in the third quarter, had a chance to take a lead after linebacker Craig Robertson intercepted a pass by Roethlisberger. Robertson returned the ball 38 yards to the Pittsburgh 9, but on third-and-goal from the 5, a pass from Browns quarterback Austin Davis was intercepted by linebacker James Harrison on the goal line.

"It was a bad decision and a bad throw," Davis said. "That was all on me. He undercut it. He made a good play on it."

Davis completed 24 of 46 passes for 240 yards. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked seven times.

The Steelers' stout defense turned back the Browns again when Pittsburgh forced Cleveland to settle for a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. The 29-yard kick was Travis Coons' fourth field goal of the game.

Roethlisberger took advantage of injuries in the Browns secondary throughout the game. Cornerback Joe Haden (injured reserve) and cornerback Tramon Williams both missed the game with concussions.

The Steelers were stopped on their first possession but marched 70 yards the second time they had the ball and scored on a 2-yard pass from Roethlisberger to tight end Heath Miller for a 7-0 lead.

A 17-yard dart to wide receiver Brown with 1:02 left in the first half stretched the lead to 14-6. Brown caught 13 passes for 187 yards.

The Steelers cashed in two fumbles by the Browns in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter for 10 points. Roethlisberger threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marcus Wheaton. Chris Boswell kicked a 21-yard field goal.

NOTES: Steelers WR Antonio Brown entered the game with 54 catches for 867 yards and six touchdowns vs. the Browns...The Steelers released WR Jacoby Jones and signed S Ross Ventrone. ...Browns CB Charles Gaines was inactive so he could be with his girlfriend who was in labor. ...Pierre Desir replaced Gaines as a starter.

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