The Steelers gave the Cleveland Browns more incentive for next season when they hung them like a cold ham in a frozen Heinz Field meat locker last night.
The final score was 27-7, and a lot worse for the Browns than it looked.
The licking was reminiscent of the 41-0 number the Steelers put on the Browns last Christmas Eve in Cleveland . Several weeks ago, the Browns pointed to that beating as an inspiration to them before they met the Steelers Nov. 19. The Steelers staged a fourth-quarter comeback to win that game, 24-20.
"This was almost worse than that because we really dominated them today," linebacker Joey Porter said, comparing the win last night to the one on Christmas Eve. "We ran the ball any time we wanted to. We had them sucked in so much we could have play-actioned any time we wanted to, but we were just gong to run the ball, and they knew we were going to run the ball and they still couldn't stop us."
Willie Parker set a single-game rushing record for the Steelers with 223 yards on 32 carries, topping the 218 Frenchy Fuqua gained against Philadelphia in 1970.
"I'm very happy for Willie Parker," said coach Bill Cowher, who was aware that Parker was close to the record before he removed him early in the fourth quarter. "We wouldn't deny him that."
The Steelers had 303 yards rushing and piled up 528 total yards. The Browns managed 18 yards rushing and a total of 294.
More insight also developed on Cowher's possible plans for his future. Speculation has been rampant on whether he will retire or try to coach elsewhere, conjecture that began when his family moved into a $2.5 million home in Raleigh, N.C., this year.
NFL Network analyst Cris Collinsworth, working the broadcast of the game last night, talked about a conversation he had with Cowher this week.
He paraphrased it on the broadcast as Cowher saying: "If I go to Carolina, I'm going to get away. I'm not going there to be Mr. Football. If I do that, I want to be with the Pittsburgh Steelers."
Asked after the game if he agreed with Collinsworth's version of their conversation, Cowher said: "That's an interpretation. I guess if I go to Carolina, I guess that's what it would be."
Asked if he had made up his mind yet about his future, Cowher answered with an emphatic, "No."
Ben Roethlisberger threw one touchdown pass of 49 yards to Nate Washington and ran 2 yards for another. Parker also scored on a 3 -yard run, and Jeff Reed kicked field goals of 23 and 28 yards as the Steelers made it four wins in their past five games to boost their record to 6-7. Cleveland slipped to 4-9.
"What a job our offensive line did, and I thought Ben did a good job, too," Cowher said. "That first touchdown pass was thrown right into the teeth of the wind."
Cleveland's Braylon Edwards caught a 45-yard pass from Derek Anderson on fourth down to end the Steelers' second consecutive bid for a home shutout with 5:20 left. They have not recorded a shutout since Heinz Field opened in 2001.Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Willie Parker picks up big yardage against the Browns last night in the third quarter. Parker rushed for a Steelers-record 223 yards.
Click photo for larger image.
Chart: Single-game rushing record
Postgame commentary from the Steelers 27-7 defeat of the Cleveland Browns last night at Heinz Field:
Entire press conference
Frenchy who? His thoughts on breaking the Steelers' single-game rushing record
"Willie was out there like his hair was on fire ..."
"The older guys look to us to make plays ..."
Sunday, Tampa Bay kicked a 27-yard field goal on the last play of the game in a 20-3 Steelers victory.
"We wanted to have a shutout," Porter said. "We wanted them to know whenever they play us it's going to be like this every time. They can do all the talking before the game, but, when the lights come on, somebody's got to stand up, and nobody out there wanted to stand up for their team."
Roethlisberger completed 11 of 21 passes for 225 yards and no interceptions before he gave way to Charlie Batch with 5:13 left, and the backup did not throw a pass.
It was 20 degrees at kickoff, the wind chill was 7 degrees, and it did not take the Steelers long to put the Browns in a deep freeze and extend their winning streak to seven games against them.
Unlike the previous game against the Browns , the Steelers took the early lead on Roethlisberger's 49-yard touchdown pass to Washington with 3:18 to go in the period.
The touchdown culminated the longest scoring drive this season for the Steelers, who covered 97 yards on eight plays. Parker ran five times for 26 yards and surpassed 1,000 yards for his second consecutive season.
Rookie Santonio Holmes, getting his first NFL start, caught a third-down pass for 16 yards on the drive.
Reed kicked a 23-yard field goal to boost their lead to 10-0 with 9:15 left in the first half. It ended another long drive -- 15 plays over 78 yards.
Walter Young, signed Nov. 25, caught his first NFL pass on that drive for 17 yards.
The Steelers were on their way toward another possible score in the second quarter when, after a 20-yard gain, Parker fumbled, and it was recovered by linebacker Kamerion Wimbley at the Browns' 36.
Anderson returned the favor quickly, when he scrambled up the middle and was stripped of the ball by defensive end Aaron Smith, who recovered at the Browns' 48.
Parker ripped off 26 yards on first down to the Cleveland 22, but the drive stalled at the 17 and Reed's 35-yard field goal was blocked by Cleveland's Alvin McKinley to keep the score at 10-0.
Cleveland's Phil Dawson missed a 40-yard field goal with six seconds left in the half.
Roethlisberger ran a 2 -yard, third-down bootleg around left end for a touchdown with 5:32 left in the third quarter. That ended a 91-yard drive that took 12 plays and included three third-down conversions.
The next drive and touchdown belonged to Parker. He ran around right end for 39 yards on first down to Cleveland's 35. After Najeh Davenport caught a 39-yard pass to the 14, Parker picked up 11, then ran the final 3 off left tackle for a touchdown and a 24-0 lead.
Parker ended the third quarter with 29 carries for 212 yards, tying the Steelers' record for rushing in one game. He carried three consecutive times in the fourth quarter for 11 yards and left the game with the record.
"He did what we know he can do. He ran the ball well, and they couldn't stop him," Porter said. "At some points in time, they had 9, 10 people in the box, and he still was breaking it.
"Overall, we just beat them bad. We made our impression on them to where they know when they play us, they know what time it is, it's going to be a physical game. Truthfully, I don't think they can handle the challenge."
Single-game rushing record
Highest single-game totals in Steelers history.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at email@example.com