Game ball goes to: ILB Lawrence Timmons
After giving up an average of 26.7 points in their past four games, the Steelers defense needed an emotional lift and Timmons helped provide it. He made three big defensive stops in the first half and finished with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. And, after getting beat for a 35-yard touchdown on a swing pass to RB Fozzy Whittaker, Timmons atoned with an interception with 55 seconds remaining. “We were talking before the game, and I told him I expect a big game out of him, and he produced,” DE Cam Heyward said.
The countdown: A quick look at the top performances from the game Sunday vs. the Browns
1. Bell tolls: In a game in which he set the team’s rookie record for scrimmage yards in a season (1,259), Le’Veon Bell delivered his biggest moment on a 5-yard touchdown run that gave the Steelers a 14-0 lead. Bell carried eight times for 41 yards on a 14-play drive and capped the series with a run in which he spun off right tackle and pushed three Browns defenders into the end zone. “Franco Harris is one of the greatest runners to ever come through here,” Bell said. “Being mentioned with him is a great accomplishment.”
2. What a catch: Jerricho Cotchery showed why he is one of the best bargains in the NFL, catching his team-best and career-high 10th touchdown pass when he dived over the pylon for a 9-yard score to make it 7-0.
3. Happy feet: Antonio Brown, who has made a habit of turning short catches into long gains, did it again on the fifth play from scrimmage when his 24-yard catch-and-run to the Browns 21 set up Cotchery’s touchdown.
4. Big pressure: On fourth-and-3 at the Steelers 33, defensive end Cam Heyward pressured quarterback Jason Campbell into an incomplete pass. The Steelers turned around and used 11 plays to get a 30-yard field goal from Shaun Suisham for a 17-0 lead.
5. Another brown-out: The Browns avoided a shutout when running back Fozzy Whittaker scored on a 35-yard catch-and-run with 2:46 remaining, but it was still their lowest outpoint since a 14-6 loss in Week 2 to Baltimore.
“If it doesn’t work out, we understand why it won’t work out. You can’t start out 2-6 and expect good things to happen. We were 6-2 in the second half of the season … pretty cool. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
— Brett Keisel
Inside the numbers
37 That’s the total number of points the Browns have scored in the past five season-ending meetings with the Steelers. The teams have met in the season finale five of the past six years and the Browns have never managed more than 10 points in any game.
What was he thinking?
Browns Coach Rob Chudzinski may not last more than one season in Cleveland after the Browns lost their final seven games and 10 of their past 11. And his decision to punt from the Steelers 33, trailing, 14-0, in the second quarter epitomizes what is wrong with the Browns, especially when Spencer Lanning punted into the end zone. What was he afraid of — losing another game? “Wins and losses weren’t what we wanted,” Pro Bowl center Alex Mack said. “In terms of who we brought in and the attitude of the team, I believe we have a very positive group here.”
X's and O's
Antonio Brown finished three catches shy of breaking the single-season team record held by Hines Ward (112), but he became the first player in NFL history to have at least five catches and 50 yards in every game in a 16-game season. Brown finished with nine catches for 87 yards, giving him 110 catches and a club-record 1,499 yards for the season. “He’s our team MVP; he’s highly productive,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “He wants to be one of the key reasons why we’re successful.”