Steelers pull off parlay in season finale to make playoffs
January 4, 2016 12:00 AM
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown celebrates with Steelers fans after beating the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland and make the playoffs.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CLEVELAND — The Steelers pulled off the Lake Erie parlay they needed and are headed back to the playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes and the Steelers pulled away from the pesky Cleveland Browns in the fourth quarter for a 28-12 victory at FirstEnergy Stadium.
While that was going on, three hours away on another edge of Lake Erie, the Buffalo Bills defeated the New York Jets, 22-17. That was the other half of the equation the Steelers had to have to make it as the sixth and final playoff seed in the AFC. As such, the Steelers would have to win three games on the road to reach Super Bowl 50. They did just that as the sixth seed 10 years ago when they won Super Bowl XL at Ford Field in Detroit.
The Steelers forced four turnovers Sunday — two interceptions and two fumbles by the Browns.
Roethlisberger threw his third touchdown pass, to Markus Wheaton of 8 yards with 10:43 left in the game. It came one play after Lawrence Timmons’ sack of Cleveland quarterback Austin Davis, who then fumbled. Linebacker Arthur Moats recovered at the 8. The Steelers then converted the 2-point conversion.
Cleveland fumbled on the kickoff and Brandon Boykin recovered at the Browns’ 28. Boswell converted that into a 21-yard field goal and a 28-12 lead with 7:40 remaining.
Cleveland had cut the Steelers lead to 17-12 early in the fourth quarter when Travis Coons kicked his fourth field goal, from 29 yards.
Roethlisberger, intercepted twice, also threw touchdown passes to Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 349 yards and a 102.7 passer rating. Brown caught 13 passes for 187 yards.
There was some possible bad news for the Steelers because halfback DeAngelo Williams left the game with a right ankle injury. Coach Mike Tomlin said it has not been determined how serious an injury, but Williams left the locker room with his right foot in a protective walking boot.
A back-and-forth third quarter left the Steelers with a 17-9 lead.
The Steelers increased their lead to 17-9 with 9:39 left in the third quarter on Boswell’s 39-yard field goal. It came after James Harrison intercepted an Davis pass 1 yard deep in the Steelers end zone. That came three plays after Roethlisberger threw his second interception of the game, which linebacker Craig Robertson returned 38 yards to the Steelers 9.
Brown caught 10 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers led the Browns 14-9 at halftime.
Brown caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger with 58 seconds left in the half.
Boswell missed only his third field goal of the season, from 48 yards early in the second quarter. Coons then kicked his second of the game, from 39 yards.
The Steelers still clung to a lead, 7-6, with 1:56 left in the first half.
They took over at their 20 after that Cleveland field goal and moved 80 yards on six plays, the big one a 40-yard reception by Wheaton over the middle of Roethlisberger’s deep pass to the Cleveland 40.
That stretched the Steelers lead to 14-6, but the Browns drove from their 20 with 58 seconds left to the 15, and then Coons kicked his third field goal of the half, from 33 yards with no time left. Jeannette native Terrelle Pryor, who beat the Steelers in 2013 in Oakland at quarterback, made that final score possible when he pulled a deep pass away from cornerback Antwon Blake along the left sideline for a 42-yard gain to the Steelers 15 with 17 seconds left. It came on third-and-19.
The Steelers led, 7-3 after one quarter. Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Miller, but the Steelers also lost two turnovers in that quarter. Roethlisberger’s 15th interception of the season set up Cleveland’s three points a 29-yard field goal by Coons.
Brown fumbled to end the Steelers first drive after a 13-yard reception, and although the Browns took over at the Steelers 39, they did not score.
But they did on the next one and Brown was a big reason why. Roethlisberger completed all 7 of his passes on that series for 74 yards with Brown catching three for 59 yards. Miller caught the final pass of 2 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 Steelers lead.
Roethlisberger later threw a pass for Martavis Bryant that Cleveland safety Jordan Poyer timed perfectly to pick off and give the Browns a first down at the Steelers 24, which resulted in a field goal.
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.
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