Pittsburgh at Cleveland

Steelers still breathing after wheezing past Browns

SportsLine.com wire reports

CLEVELAND -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have rarely felt so good about looking so bad.

Pittsburgh capitalized on five Cleveland turnovers for an ugly 13-6 victory over the bumbling Browns on Sunday, keeping the Steelers' slim playoff hopes alive for another week.

Jerome Bettis ran for a season-high 93 yards on 24 carries for Pittsburgh, which won despite being outgained 303-168 in total yards, getting just 11 first downs, committing 10 penalties and running only six offensive plays in the third quarter.

The Steelers had only 73 passing yards, with fullback Dan Kreider getting two catches for a team-high 21 yards.

"It did not matter if it was pretty, ugly or 3-0," Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox said. "You want to be good statistically, but you want to win games. That's the most important thing."

Chad Scott intercepted Kelly Holcomb's pass with 1:41 remaining at the Pittsburgh 39 to seal it for the Steelers (4-7), who had dropped six of seven and were coming off a short work week after playing at San Francisco on Monday night.

"Nobody believed in us but us," said Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, who is holding out hope the club can make the playoffs. "We're still in this. We run the table, we'll be there."

The Browns were the ones who played like a tired team.

Cleveland didn't score a TD despite having the ball inside Pittsburgh's 20 four times -- and came away with only one field goal on three visits within the 10.

In the third quarter, the Browns (4-7) twice had first-and-goal at Pittsburgh's 6 but failed to score.

On the Browns' second trip there, Holcomb forced a pass to Andre' Davis into double coverage that was picked off by Brent Alexander in the end zone.

In all, the Browns gained just 12 yards on 14 plays inside the 20. On their 10 snaps inside the 10, they gained 1 yard, were stopped on a crucial fourth down and threw an interception.

"We kicked ourselves in the teeth the whole game," said offensive tackle Ryan Tucker. "We had the opportunities, we just didn't do anything with them."

Cleveland also had a TD punt return by Dennis Northcutt called back because of holding in the first quarter.

Maddox was 9-of-24 and throw a 1-yard scoring pass to Mark Bruener in the second quarter.

Holcomb, who shredded the Steelers for 429 yards in the playoffs last season, went 25-of-44 for 234 yards and the two picks -- but could have had three more intercepted.

James Jackson ran for 94 yards and caught five passes for 49 but fumbled twice.

"I can't blame the loss on anyone but me," he said. "We moved the ball, Holcomb made the plays but it was the fumbles. It's a killer -- we get in the red zone, we gotta score touchdowns."

Cleveland trailed 10-6 at halftime despite dominating the Steelers in the first half.

In the third quarter, the Browns had second-and-goal at the 1, but Jackson was stopped on two consecutive plunges by linebacker Kendrell Bell, who came over the top to nail the back on third down.

With Cleveland trailing by four, Browns coach Butch Davis gambled by going for a touchdown on a fourth down, but Northcutt was tackled on a double reverse by Scott just short of the goal line.

The Browns challenged the call, saying Northcutt wasn't down before the ball crossed. But after a review, referee Walt Coleman said the call stood.

"I had him man-to-man, so he was my guy the whole way," Scott said. "I just tracked him and was able to tackle him before he got in the end zone."

Pittsburgh didn't pick up a first down on any of its first three possessions, and had just 2 total yards to Cleveland's 102 after the first quarter.

But the Browns didn't take advantage and settled for two field goals by Phil Dawson to take a 6-0 lead in the second quarter.

That came back to haunt them when Steelers linebacker James Farrior recovered a botched handoff by Holcomb to Jackson at the Browns 17. Pittsburgh needed five plays to score with Maddox hitting Bruener from the 1.

A few minutes later, Browns running back Jamel White was stripped by Bell and Alexander recovered at the 22.

The Steelers got inside the 10, but couldn't cash in as Maddox threw three consecutive incompletions before Reed's 23-yard field goal put Pittsburgh up 10-6 at halftime.


  • Browns C Jeff Faine sprained his right ankle in first quarter and didn't return. He was replaced by Melvin Fowler.
  • Steelers C Jeff Hartings injured his right knee in the second quarter. Coach Bill Cowher expects Hartings to be out a few weeks.
  • Holcomb completed his first three passes, giving him 16 in a row in two games to tie the club record set by Bernie Kosar in 1989.
  • Pittsburgh's 168 yards were the fewest given up by the Browns since 1993.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved
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Steelers RB Jerome Bettis runs for a short gain against Barry Gardner (55), Earl Little.
Steelers RB Jerome Bettis runs for a short gain against Barry Gardner (55), Earl Little. (AP)


Related Video

Scoring Summary
FGPhil Dawson 27 Yd, 8:44. Drive: 9 plays, 54 yards in 4:59.
FGPhil Dawson 31 Yd, 14:50. Drive: 9 plays, 36 yards in 3:59.
TDMark Bruener, 1 Yd pass from Tommy Maddox (Jeff Reed kick is good), 6:28. Drive: 5 plays, 17 yards in 3:04.
FGJeff Reed 23 Yd, 2:09. Drive: 7 plays, 18 yards in 2:14.
FGJeff Reed 46 Yd, 8:36. Drive: 9 plays, 47 yards in 4:56.
T. Maddox9/247310
J. Bettis2493021
A. Zereoue61806
V. Haynes1-20-2
D. Kreider221015
P. Burress216010
H. Ward113013
J. Bettis1909
A. Randle El1707
J. Tuman1606
M. Bruener1111
K. Holcomb25/4423402
J. Jackson2594018
D. Northcutt2808
J. White1-120-12
J. White757022
J. Jackson549016
A. Davis348018
D. Northcutt324011
Q. Morgan116016
D. Sanders21609
A. King21206
C. Mustard21207
Complete Player Stats