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|11-19-2006, 11:14 PM||#1|
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Steelers keep hope alive with stirring 24-20 comeback vs. Browns
Monday, November 20, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CLEVELAND -- A loss that would have typified a season gone sour turned instead into a 24-20 Steelers victory against the Cleveland Browns in which, for one quarter on one rainy afternoon anyway, they looked Super again.
Ben Roethlisberger, who threw three interceptions in the first half and had one returned for a touchdown, showed up in the fourth quarter wearing a red cape and blue tights.
He threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the final quarter, his last toss an improvised, backhanded shovel pass to Willie Parker for the 4-yard winning touchdown with 32 seconds to go. It capped a three-touchdown flourish by the Steelers in the fourth quarter, two by Parker and one by rookie Santonio Holmes.
The Steelers drove 73 yards on 10 plays and had second down when Roethlisberger dropped back to pass to Hines Ward from the 4 on their final series.
"I was pretty much looking at Hines all the way as the go-to guy," Roethlisberger said. But linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, a pain in the Steelers' neck much of the day, got a hand on the quarterback.
"I started to my left," Roethlisberger said. "I was going to run it. When I saw Willie, I thought I'd try it."
Before the Steelers (4-6) could stake claim to their first road win in five tries, the Browns (3-7) rushed back. Charlie Frye's Hail Mary pass from the 22 into a crowd of players in the end zone on the final play was tipped into the air but fell to the ground out of bounds. It gave the Steelers their first two-game winning streak of the season.
"It was one of those games we knew if we could get it going, we'd pull it out," linebacker Joey Porter said, "because we didn't feel like they were doing anything on offense."
Cleveland hasn't won two in a row since 2003 and lost to the Steelers for the 12th time in the past 13 meetings.
"I could care less about the Steelers," said Cleveland receiver Braylon Edwards, who caught seven passes for 137 yards after saying last week that his team was coming after the Steelers. "I don't care about us getting their respect or whatever. The Steelers are the Steelers and we're the Browns. I've never been hurt after a loss and this hurts."
The Browns, who produced 302 yards, scored their two touchdowns on returns -- a 57-yard interception by Clairton native Daven Holly in the second quarter and a 92-yard kickoff return by Joshua Cribbs in the fourth quarter. Phil Dawson kicked field goals of 23 and 35 yards.
Cribbs' touchdown looked as if it might put an end to any hopes the Steelers have for the playoffs. It came right after Holmes scored his first NFL touchdown when he caught a 20-yard pass from Roethlisberger for the Steelers' first touchdown of the game.
"You have to come back and match them," coach Bill Cowher said.
There was little evidence the Steelers' offense was capable of doing that on a cold, rainy day in Cleveland. Their running game was going nowhere -- Willie Parker finished with 46 yards on 16 tries. Their passing game had been a disaster -- Roethlisberger threw three interceptions (two by Holly), all on tipped or dropped balls in the first half, when he had 36 yards passing and a passer rating of 6.4.
Entering the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger had just 48 yards passing and the Steelers' only score was a 43-yard Jeff Reed field goal. Roethlisberger finished 25 of 44 for 272 yards.
"In the first half, our offense couldn't get going. It was my fault," Roethlisberger said. "The ball was just bouncing all over the place."
Holly's touchdown interception was a high throw that Holmes stretched just enough to get his right hand on for a tip. The second was drilled into Ward's belly inside the Browns' 5, but safety Sean Jones ripped the ball out and into the air and linebacker Willie McGinest came down with it.
The third occurred when Cedrick Wilson slid and the ball bounced off his helmet and into Holly's hands near midfield.
"There's a tipped pass here and it bounces off somebody's foot and off the scoreboard; they just came up with freakish turnovers," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "The ball hasn't bounced our way a lot."
That was about to change after they fell behind, 20-10, on Cribbs' big kickoff return. The Steelers responded with a 79-yard drive on 16 plays. Roethlisberger converted three third-down passes before Parker ran in from the 1 to make it a three-point deficit.
Frye, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 224 yards, was sacked by Troy Polamalu on the Browns' first play after that -- the fifth sack of Cleveland's quarterback. Polamalu then tackled Jason Wright after a 2-yard gain and on third down batted down Frye's pass attempt.
The Browns punted and the Steelers began their winning drive at their 23 with 3:06 to go. Ward made a marvelous 21-yard catch to Cleveland's 43 and was drilled by Jones, a shot that had him hobbling after the game with a bruised knee. Holmes snapped up the next two completions, one for 6 yards on third-and-6. Nate Washington caught a Roethlisberger pass for 11 yards to the 5, and two plays later, Parker caught his quarterback's improvised pitch for the winner.
"I can't say enough about our football team with the resiliency they displayed today," Cowher said.
(Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. )
?Jarrad Page, we?re not at UCLA anymore. You need to wrap.? ?an ESPN commentator, on the Chiefs rookie?s weak attempt at tackling the Steelers? Nate Washington in a 45-7 loss.
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