Steelers Notebook: Run defense establishes two franchise records

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CLEVELAND -- The Steelers easily finished the regular season with the best rush defense in the National Football League and came close to finishing with one of the best in league history.

After allowing the Cleveland Browns to rush for 43 yards on 17 carries in Sunday's 41-9 victory, the Steelers set a franchise record for allowing the fewest yards rushing in a season (1,004) and fewest yards per game (62.8).

That eclipsed the old record of 1,125 yards allowed in a 12-game season in 1953. The former yards per-game record was 74.7, set in 2001.

The Steelers came within 34 yards of tying the NFL's record for rushing yards allowed in a 16-game season (970), set by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

Some other defensive highlights this season:

• The Steelers were the only NFL team to allow just one run longer than 20 yards in 2010.

• They allowed just two teams -- the New York Jets (106) and New England Patriots (102) -- to rush for more than 100 yards against them. No other team rushed for more than 75 yards.

• They did not allow a 100-yard rusher all season and just one in the past 50 games.

Dynamic duo

Mike Wallace, who tied John Stallworth's team record (1984) of having seven 100-yard receiving games in a season, teamed with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to set a record. Their 56-yard touchdown pass against the Browns was the eighth of 40 yards or more in Roethlisberger's and Wallace's two years together.

"That was just the play call since last week," Wallace said. "We knew we were going to run that play."


The Browns scored their only touchdown when they drove 88 yards in 12 plays in the fourth quarter against 10 Steelers substitutes on defense. The only starter left was linebacker James Harrison because there wasn't another linebacker to replace him.

Did the captain of the defense say anything to his understudies.

"Not yet; I didn't get a chance to talk to them," James Farrior said. "They're going to catch it all when we get back home."

Looking ahead

Here are the Steelers' opponents at home and on the road for 2011.

On the road: San Francisco, Arizona, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Houston and the three AFC North opponents.

At home: Tennessee, Seattle, St. Louis, Jacksonville, New England and their three division opponents.

Dates for games are usually determined in April.

Will Mangini return?

The Browns didn't exactly make a convincing case for the franchise to bring back coach Eric Mangini for a third year. The blowout loss was their fourth loss in a row and left them with a second consecutive 5-11 record under Mangini. Browns president Mike Holmgren, who many have speculated will coach the team in 2011, is scheduled to meet with Mangini today.

"I think the team has done a lot of good things this season," Mangini said. "It's difficult to feel any of those positives right now in the wake of what just happened. Nobody feels good right now ... I do believe what I told you, that this organization and this team have a very bright future. I think that we've taken a lot of steps that we need to take."

Mangini, perhaps thinking wishfully, cited the Steelers and their continuity with their head coaches as a reason for their success. "There's been a consistent philosophy there and they win year in and year out with a few hiccups here and there. I think that's a formula that's proven and tested and works. I believe that you can continue to build on what you've done and nothing really that's worthwhile is achieved overnight."

Elite group

Rashard Mendenhall's first-quarter touchdown run boosted him into the company of Franco Harris and Willie Parker as the only Steelers' running backs to score 12 touchdowns while accumulating 1,200 yards in a single season. Mendenhall finished with 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns. Still, Mendenhall finished with only three 100-yard plus performances.

Hairy situation

Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel credited his beard with the team's 12-4 record and AFC North Division championship. He was kidding. Maybe ...

Keisel started growing the beard before the season and promised not to shave it until the season ends. "The goal hasn't changed. I'm hoping to have it until February," he said.

Keisel said he has received a ton of positive feedback about his beard but acknowledged, "Man, this thing is dirty ... My wife put a razor in my stocking for Christmas so I know what she thinks about it."

Check this out

• Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes Sunday for the first time since Nov. 21, when he threw three in a 35-3 victory against the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field.

• The Steelers committed no turnovers for the third time in four games. They have committed no turnovers or just one in 11 of the 16 regular-season games.

• The Steelers allowed only two opposing quarterbacks -- the Saints' Drew Brees and the Patriots' Tom Brady -- to pass for more than 300 yards against them this season. Brees threw for 305 yards Oct. 31 at New Orleans and Brady threw for 350 yards Nov. 14 at Heinz Field.

Quick hits

The Steelers won their 20th division title, the most in the league since the NFL merger in 1970. ... Both quarterback Byron Leftwich and rookie halfback Jonathan Dwyer saw their first action of the regular season Sunday. ... The Steelers' 21 interceptions were the most for them since they had 23 in 1996. Troy Polamalu led the team with a career-high seven. ... James Harrison, who had half a sack taken away from him last week and given to LaMarr Woodley, led the team with 10.5 sacks, one more than Woodley. ... Cornerback Bryant McFadden left the game early with what was first described as a groin injury and later called an abdominal injury. Center Maurkice Pouncey left after getting hit in the head in the third quarter but seemed to be fine afterward. ... Roethlisberger has thrown 158 consecutive passes without an interception.

The Post-Gazette's Ron Cook and Gene Collier contributed to this report.


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