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Old 01-03-2011, 07:38 AM   #1
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Default Steelers wrap up second in seconds

Steelers wrap up second in seconds
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times

Sunday January 2, 2010 11:19 PM

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark (25) is tackled by Cleveland Browns tight end Benjamin Watson after Clark's interception in the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

CLEVELAND — Pro football is a 60-minute game. But on Sunday in their quest to wrap up the AFC’s No. 2 seed, the Steelers delivered a quick, first-round knockout. It took just 43 seconds to bury the Browns.

“That’s the definition of a fast start,” tight end Heath Miller said with a smile.

The Steelers started fast and never let up. They smacked the fragile Browns team twice early en route to a 41-9 rout that locked up the AFC North Division title and a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs.

“You know, the place is packed. We’re probably the only team that could have packed this place,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “So, you like to get up on top and then put a dagger in them.”

That’s exactly what the Steelers (12-4) did at Cleveland Browns Stadium — even before many of the 68,303 fans in attendance had settled into their seats.

On the second snap from scrimmage, strong safety Troy Polamalu came through with another game-changing play, a diving interception of a Colt McCoy pass that deflected off the hands of tight end Ben Watson.

On the next play, Roethlisberger launched a bomb that speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace caught for a 56-yard touchdown.

“When you start a game with a pick and then the big play to Mike Wallace, those are things you can’t do against a team like Pittsburgh,” lamented Cleveland coach Eric Mangini, who could be fired soon now that the Browns finished 5-11 for the past two seasons under his watch.
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“That’s not the way you want to start it. Then, we couldn’t get back on track.”

In the jubilant Steelers’ locker room, no one was surprised that it was Polamalu who came through with the game’s first big play.

“Troy’s been doing it all year,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “He’s just a special player.”

Polamalu, who led the Steelers with seven interceptions this year, gave it his typical ah-shucks approach when asked about his interception.

“Nothing special … just being at the right place at the right time,” he said. “The call by Coach (Dick) LeBeau put me in the right spot.”

Roethlisberger’s TD pass to Wallace was a good call, too. Last week as he prepared his game plan, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians decided to use that play for the Steelers’ first snap of the game.

“All week long at practice, our defensive guys were telling me, ‘Mike, that’s a play you have to make,’” Wallace said. “I already had a little adrenalin going, and then after Troy made that interception, I was really fired up. That got me even more fired up.”

After Wallace’s TD, the Steelers’ defense forced the Browns to punt. Then the offense drove 71 yards for another TD (a 1-yard plunge by running back Rashard Mendenhall).

At that point, the only mystery left was how great the Steelers’ margin of victory would be.

“We all knew what was at stake,” Miller said. “We knew we had to take care of business.”
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