Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drops back to pass last night at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
The Browns' Brandon McDonald breaks up pass intended for Steelers running back Willie Parker last night.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CLEVELAND -- Hines Ward's third touchdown catch of the season last night put him on a blistering pace, the kind Ward set when he was 26 years old.
Ward, 32, had three touchdown catches after the first two games of the 2002 season as well, and he went on to catch 12 that season, which remains his personal high and tied the team record along with Louis Lipps (1985) and Buddy Dial (1961).
Ward caught seven touchdown passes last season. His third touchdown reception of the season boosted his team record to 68.
Long dry spell
The Steelers play in Philadelphia Sunday, where they have not won since 1965 -- two Philadelphia football stadiums ago. The Steelers never won in Veterans Stadium, not counting exhibition games.
One reason the Steelers have the toughest schedule in the NFL is they and the rest of the AFC North must play teams in the NFC East Division, which had three playoff teams last year. The Steelers have lost seven in a row in Philadelphia and lost 11 of their past 15 games overall against the Eagles. They did, however, defeat the unbeaten Eagles in 2004 at Heinz Field in their last meeting.
Ohio winning streak
Going into last night's game against the Browns, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had never lost to Cleveland and had won 17 consecutive times in Ohio. He was 4-0 in Cleveland Browns Stadium and 5-0 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. His winning streak in his native state dates back to his senior season at Miami of Ohio.
His last loss in Ohio was Nov. 23, 2002, against Central Florida. His last loss in Ohio to an Ohio team was Nov. 23, 2001, to Kent State, when he was a redshirt freshman, and from that game one member of the Browns can say he had the measure of Roethlisberger.
Cleveland kick returner Joshua Cribbs was a quarterback for Kent State that day. He ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-20 win.
The victory was secured when Roethlisberger was sacked late in the game by a Kent State linebacker -- James Harrison.
"I remember it like it was yesterday. James put him on his head," Cribbs said.
"Ben's a good quarterback. He's progressed. I think going all the way back to when he started lighting up the MAC when he was a freshman, you could tell he had a chance to be very good. And he is.
"He won a Super Bowl. He's really represented the MAC well. My hat goes off to him, but we're going to try to end that little streak. It's time for a change."
In honor of a pioneer
McKeesport native Ross Fichtner, father of Steelers wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner, was part of a pregame jersey presentation last night with some of his former Browns teammates to honor the late Ernie Davis. Davis became the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961, and was a 1962 first-round draft choice of the Washington Redskins, who quickly traded him to the Cleveland Browns. He never got to play in the NFL, however. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 1962 and died in 1963.
Fichtner was a cornerback for the Browns from 1960 to 1967. He joined former teammates, including Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell, to honor Davis, the subject of a new film, "The Express," before the game.
The Steelers activated safety Anthony Smith for the first time yesterday and did not dress an eighth lineman as they did last week. The Steelers inactives: No. 3 QB Dennis Dixon, WR Limas Sweed, CB Deshea Townsend, RB Gary Russell, LB Bruce Davis, OT Tony Hills, OT Trai Essex, DL Orpheus Roye.
The Browns started Syndric Steptoe at wide receiver for injured Donte Stallworth (thigh) and Mike Adams started at strong safety for injured Sean Jones (knee). Cleveland's inactives: No. 3 QB Ken Dorsey, Stallworth, Jones, LB Beau Bell, DL Ahtyba Rubin, G Ryan Tucker, G Scott Young, TE Martin Rucker.
• Townsend should return to start against the Eagles after he missed yesterday's game with a bruised heel. Bryant McFadden replaced him at left cornerback and William Gay played the nickel back position.
• Mike Tomlin took advantage of a new NFL rule and, after winning the coin toss, deferred his choice until the second half. Cleveland then elected to receive the opening kickoff and the Steelers took the strong wind to their backs.
• The Steelers called their final timeout of the first half with 6:32, thus had no replay challenges left before halftime.
• Defensive end Brett Keisel left the game in the first quarter with a right calf injury. Travis Kirschke replaced him.