PITTSBURGH, Pa.— The Browns hung with the Steelers for the better part of the game, but the Steelers were able to move the ball when they had to and capitalized on their mistakes as they defeated the Browns, 28-10 in front of 65,168 at Heinz Field. The Browns dropped to 1-5 on the season and 1-2 in the AFC North. Meanwhile, the Steelers improved to 4-1.
The Steelers hurt the Browns passing as Ben Roethlisberger threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns in his first game after a four week suspension.
"I was talking to the guys and we were in a really close game," Eric Mangini said. "We were deep in the third quarter and just weren't able to execute when we needed to execute.
"Defensively, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers created big plays like they did that drive when we had them backed up. It's hard, really hard."
A big drive was after Reggie Hodges pinned the Steelers inside the 10 for the fourth time, Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for 50 yards and Heath Miller for 36 yards on back-to-back plays. He capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown to Hines Ward. Earlier, Roethlisberger threw a 29-yard pass to Mike Wallace for a touchdown in the first half and hit Miller from 14 yards to cap the scoring.
The bruised and battered Browns received more bad news as James Harrison knocked two of the receivers out of the game with blows to the head. Besides missing their top two quarterbacks, Joshua Cribbs was lost for the game with a head injury suffered on a run out of the wildcat when Harrison hit him in the helmet. Also, Mohamed Massaquoi left the game with a blow to the head by Harrison.
Colt McCoy, playing his first game, was 23-of-33 for 281 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He finished with a 80.5 QB rating. McCoy also rushed for 22 yards, but was sacked five times.
"I thought, offensively, losing two receivers was hard, but Colt had a lot of poise for his first game, playing against one of the toughest defenses in the NFL," Mangini said. "He showed a lot of poise. I was really encouraged by that," he said.
McCoy didn't take any solace in his performance.
"We fought through, we held tough," McCoy said. "We converted on some third down. When we get in their territory, we have to find a way to keep the drive going, to get some points. We had some opportunities. We let them slip away from us."
The Browns scored first as Phil Dawson kicked a 39-yard field goal with 1:51 to play in the first quarter after a 62-yard interception return by Joe Haden. Dawson broke the franchise record for field goals after tying Lou Groza last week against Atlanta.
The Steelers were moving and were at the Browns 14 when Haden stepped in front of Mewelde Moore on third-and four and made his first NFL interception. He returned it 62 yards to the Steelers' 35.
The Steelers took a 7-3 lead as Roethlisberger hit Wallace for a 29-yard touchdown with 10:40 to play in the second quarter as Wallace beat Eric Wright for the score. The Steelers went 81 yards in 6:11 with the biggest play of the drive until the touchdown being a 22-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders on third-and-13 to the Browns' 29.
The Steelers jumped to a 14-3 lead with 3:13 to play in the third quarter as Roethlisberger hit Ward from eight-yards out. The Steelers went 96 yards in just five plays for the score.
After pinning the Steelers back on their own four, Roethlisberger threw a 50-yard strike to Wallace on first down, as he beat T.J. Ward to the Browns' 46. Wright just missed a sack on the corner blitz. On the next play, Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for 36 yards to the nine. On third-and-goal, Roethlisberger threw over the middle to Ward, who was hit by Wright at the six, but Ward dragged him into the end zone.
The Steelers finished the Browns off after Chansi Stuckey fumbled a punt at the 13 with seven minutes to play in the game as Mendenhall made it 21-3 with 5:50 left on a two-yard run. The Steelers punted three times as the Browns took penalties on the Steelers to force them to punt again, but on the third Stuckey muffed the ball and Keyaron Fox recovered it. Four plays later, Mendenhall went over the left side.
Trailing 21-10, McCoy led the Browns down field for their only touchdown of the game as McCoy hit Ben Watson for a 12-yard score with 4:09 to play in the game. McCoy hit Watson for 23 yards to the Steelers' 43 and to Evan Moore for 28 yards to the 12. The Browns went 70 yards in six plays for the score
Pittsburgh closed out the scoring with 1:31 to play as the Steelers took over on the Browns' 18 after McCoy was intercepted by Lawrence Timmons. The ball was batted up in the air and Timmons caught it. Three plays later, Roethlisberger found Miller behind Sheldon Brown in the corner of the end zone to make the final 28-10.
The Colt Era: QB Colt McCoy made his NFL debut with mixed results. He finished 23-of-33 for 281 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. His QB rating was 80.5, but he was sacked five times.
McCoy threw an eight-yard pass to WR Brian Robiskie on the first play of scrimmage. He had a 19-yard completion to TE Evan Moore to the Steelers' 36 on third-and-10. He had completions of 34-, 25-, 23- and 23- yards on the day. He rushed four times for 22 yards.
"Obviously, we don't like the result of what the final score said," McCoy said. "But not one guy is going to win a game for us or lose a game for us. I wanted to go out there and do the best I could for my teammates and we worked really hard this week, but you have to give a lot of credit to Pittsburgh and their defense. They threw up some blitzes, they were coming after us."
However, McCoy was sacked and thrown to the turf by LB LaMarr Woodley after the Browns moved to the Steelers' 36. On the next play DB Ryan Clark intercepted McCoy on a pass that went off of TE Ben Watson's hands.
McCoy's first half was 6-of-9 for 67 yards with one interception. He rushed three times for 18 yards and was sacked twice.
McCoy opened the second half with a 25-yard strike to WR Chansi Stuckey. He also had 23-yard pass to Ben Watson.
McCoy was the 16th different quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999. The last time a rookie QB started for the Browns against the Steelers was QB Charlie Frye, who didn't fare well. Also, Frye's last game with the Browns was against the Steelers. He started the opening game against Pittsburgh in 2007, but was pulled in favor of QB Derek Anderson in the first half. He was traded to Seattle the next day.
"I think Colt did a good job of managing the ball," Evan Moore said. "It's hard to know exactly how things went without watching the film, but he did a good job of leading us. It was hard to tell it was his first game. He was ready, he prepared the right way."
Browns Big Ben: TE Ben Watson led the Browns with 6 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. RB Peyton Hillis also had six catches for 49 yards. TE Evan Moore had four receptions for 84 yards, while WR Chansi Stuckey had four grabs for 46 yards.
Go Peyton Go: RB Peyton Hillis was coming off missing most of the week with a thigh injury. He carried 12 times for 41 yards and caught 6 passes for 49 yards. It was the first game this season that Hillis didn't score a touchdown.
Shouldn't Decline: The Browns made the Steelers punt three times on one series in the fourth quarter, but on the third WR Chansi Stuckey fumbled and Keyaron Fox recovered at the Browns' 13.
Nice Punting: P Reggie Hodges placed four punts inside the 10 during the game.He finished with five punts for 204 yards and a 40.8 average.
Super Joe: CB Joe Haden intercepted a pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger intended for RB Mewelde Moore on third-and-4 at the Browns' three-yard line. He returned the ball 62 yards to the Steelers' 35. Haden also downed a punt on the Steelers' two in the second quarter.
Wildcat: WR Josh Cribbs ran the wildcat on the second play from scrimmage for one-yard. He returned the opening kickoff 26 yards. With 9:12 to play in the second quarter, Cribbs was hit helmet to helmet by LB James Harrison out of the wildcat and he was motionless. Harrison and Cribbs both played at Kent State. Cribbs was taken to the locker room, but was able to walk. His injury was described as a head injury and he will not return. In all likelihood, Cribbs suffered a concussion. WR Chansi Stuckey replaced Cribbs as the punt returner and DB Joe Haden returned the kickoffs.
With Cribbs out and Delhomme and Wallace inactive, the Browns have just McCoy and Brett Ratliff as quarterbacks.
Move over Lou: K Phil Dawson entered the game tied with Hall of Famer Lou Groza for the franchise record with 234 field goals. He surpassed Groza with a 39-yard field goal with 1:51 to play in the first quarter to give the Browns a 3-0 lead.
"As I said last week, I would've gladly traded it for a win," Dawson said. "I've been around here long enough to understand what this rivalry is about. As I stand right now, that's all that really matters to me—we just got beat by the Steelers. That's about as tough as it gets."
Man Down: Besides Cribbs, WR Mohamed Massaquoi was hit in the helmet by Harrison and he was taken to the locker room with a head injury. He did not return. LB Scott Fujita was injured in the second quarter trying to tackle QB Ben Roethlisberger. However, Fujita returned on the next defensive series.
Rogers at End: DL Shaun Rogers lined up at right end on two plays, including the Steelers' first touchdown.
Ben Returns: QB Ben Roethlisberger played for the first time this season after a four game league suspension. The fans welcomed him back with open arms as he was greeted to a rousing chorus of cheers from his hometown fans as he was introduced. Roethlisberger was 16-of-27 for 257 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. His QB rating was 112.7 and he was not sacked. RB Rashard Mendenhall carried 27 times for 84 yards and a touchdown.
T.J Leads: S T.J. Ward led the Browns with 10 tackles, while DL Ahytba Rubin had 8. DL Brian Schaefering had 7 tackles in his first start.
Inactives: For the Browns, QB Seneca Wallace, QB Jake Delhomme, WR Carlton Mitchell, OL Shawn Lauvao, OL John St. Clair, TE Alex Smith, DL Jayme Mitchell and DL Robaire Smith. DL Kenyon Coleman started at LDE with Brian Schaefering at RDE. For the Steelers: CB Keenan Lewis, RB Jonathan Dwyer, CB Crezdon Butler, OT Tony Hills, OT Trai Essex, WR Antonio Brown, LB Thaddeus Gibson and Charlie Batch is the third QB. Doug Legursky starts in place of Essex at RG.