Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 9
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, November 20, 2016
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
CLEVELAND -- The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the winless Cleveland Browns 24-9 Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak and move into a first-place tie with the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.
The Steelers improved to 5-5 on the strength of 146 yards rushing by Le'Veon Bell, who had every one of the Steelers 28 carries. The Steelers are 35-6 against the Browns since 1994.
The Browns are 0-11. Cleveland lost its last three games in 2015 and all four preseason games this season. The Browns have won three regular-season games since Nov. 23, 2014.
Harsh weather and gusting winds made passing the ball risky, especially in the first half. The conditions definitely favored the Steelers. The Browns in the three games prior to facing the Steelers rushed for 68, 45 and 33 yards. They rushed for 33 yards in the loss to the Steelers.
"I don't have the answers," Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor said. "If we want to win the game, we have to help our defense out and we have to score more points. Point blank -- period. Today our defense played great. Our defense kept them out of the end zone for a while. We have to score touchdowns. That's how you win in this league, and that's how you beat the Pittsburgh Steelers."
The final score is somewhat deceiving; the Steelers scored only one offensive touchdown. They scored their final touchdown on a fumble recovery by defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in the end zone after a strip sack of Browns quarterback Josh McCown by linebacker Ryan Shazier.
The Steelers played hard from beginning to end, especially defensively, to shake off the hard to swallow 35-30 loss to the Cowboys last week when Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott scored on a 32-yard run with nine seconds to play. On Sunday the Cowboys helped the Steelers by knocking off the Ravens 27-17 to drop Baltimore to 5-5. The Steelers and Ravens meet Christmas Day in Pittsburgh.
"This was a great performance to bounce back," Pittsburgh linebacker Arthur Moats said. "We have to continue to grow and get better. The last four weeks we've been up and down. We had some good parts of a game, but not a complete game. For us to come in here and have a complete game feels good."
The Steelers' dominance is illustrated in how they took a 14-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Steelers outgained the Browns 217 yards to 41 yards and possessed the ball 20:37 compared to 9:23 for the Browns.
At one point the Steelers had the ball second-and-goal on the Browns 3 with five seconds left in the first half. Instead of sending out Chris Boswell to attempt a third field goal and add to the 6-0 lead, coach Mike Tomlin decided to go for the touchdown. The clock expired on an incomplete pass, but Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun was called for defensive holding. Cornerback Joe Haden was flagged for pass interference on the next play.
Finally, with the clock reading 0:00 on a second straight play, Bell crashed into the end zone from the 1. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to tight end David Johnson for a 14-0 halftime edge.
"We're very comfortable with being aggressive in that area of the field whether it's going for the touchdown or what you might describe as two-point play attempts," Tomlin said. "We get a lot of work in that area of the field. We're confident in our play selection and our ability to execute, so we did."
The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter, and then things went from bad to worse for the Browns.
Rookie quarterback Cody Kessler, making his eighth start, suffered a concussion at the end of the third quarter when he was pulled to the ground by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier and hit by linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Josh McCown replaced Kessler and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gary Barnidge to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 17-9. Cody Parkey missed the extra- point kick.
The strip sack of McCown and the Hargrave touchdown with 3:36 to play ended all hope for the Browns.
"Obviously, these are not very good times for us," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "It's tough because at this part of the season, there are some things I thought maybe we would start getting better at and it looks like we're still not there yet."
More importantly for the Browns than the final score is Kessler's health. The concussion was his second in less than a month. He was knocked out of the game in Cincinnati on Oct. 23 with a concussion. He also suffered rib and chest injuries in the Oct. 9 game against New England.
NOTES: WR Eli Rogers started in place of Darrius Heyward-Bey for the Steelers. ... Pittsburgh DE Ricardo Mathews replaced Cameron Heyward (pectoral injury). ... The Browns made changes at both safety spots. Ed Reynolds replaced Tracy Howard at free safety, and Derrick Kindred replaced Ibraheim Campbell at strong safety. Campbell and Howard are healthy.
Top Game Performances
Team Stats Summary
Cleveland will play their next game at home against N.Y. Giants. The Browns have a W/L % of .000 after a win and .000 after a loss.
Pittsburgh will play their next game on the road against Indianapolis. The Steelers have a W/L % of .500 after a win and .500 after a loss.