Cleveland— Playing in front of a national television audience the Browns and the Steelers battled in hurricane-type winds to a 7-0 halftime score.
The two teams traded eight punts to start the game. They did so throughout a scoreless first quarter as Dave Zastudil punted four times for the Browns and Mitch Berger did so three times. Berger punted the fourth time to start the second quarter. Zastudil averaged 51.8 yards per punt into the wind. The Browns had just 26 yards in the first quarter, while the Steelers had 58.
The punt streak ended on the first play of the Browns’ fifth possession as Derek Anderson tried to hit Braylon Edwards deep, but the ball was underthrown and Bryant McFadden intercepted it. McFadden was starting over the injured Deshea Townsend.
The Steelers took the ball and moved 70 yards in 12 plays, consuming 6:29 to take a 7-0 lead as Ben Roethlisberger hit Hines Wards with an 11-yard touchdown pass. The Browns committed two big penalties totaling 20 yards to aid the drive. Shaun Rogers jumped offside and Shaun Smith grabbed Roethlisberger’s face mask after a sack. The Steelers were faced with a fourth-and-one and they elected to go for it at the Browns’ 40 and they converted as Willie Parker had a 13-yard run.
Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes for 15 yards to the Browns’ 12. Hines Ward dropped a pass in the end zone after being hit by Brodney Pool. Roethlisberger then hit Ward for the score with 6:26 to play in the first half.
The Browns had their best drive of the first half after the Steelers scored, but blew a scoring opportunity to end the half as Anderson threw his second interception of the half. Starting at their own 19, the Browns drove to the Steeler’s 11 before turning the ball over.
Joshua Cribbs converted a first down on third down. Anderson then hit Jamal Lewis for a 13-yard gain on a short pass. He then hit Kellen Winslow for a 19-yard gain to the Steelers’ 30. A short run by Anderson and a penalty moved the ball to the 21. A short pass to Winslow moved the ball to the 16.
An illegal shift penalty moved the ball back to the 21 before Anderson Jason Wright for a gain to the 11. Anderson took the ball for the first down, but the Browns were tardy in calling a timeout and had the ball at the eight with just eight seconds to play in the first half. Anderson tried to hit Syndric Steptoe and Troy Polamalu stepped in front to stop the drive keeping the Steeler lead at 7-0 at the half.
Return to Prime Time: The Browns played their first of five prime time games with Al Michaels and John Madden on hand for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps was in attendance, as was conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
Sack: DL Corey Williams and DB Nick Sorenson sacked QB Ben Roethlisberger on third down to end the Steelers first drive. The Browns blitzed and had several players around Roethlisberger. The Browns had no sacks against the Cowboys in the first week. DL Shaun Smith sacked Roethlisberger in the second quarter, but grabbed his face mask on the way down and incurred a 15-yard penalty.
Trading Punts: The Browns were three-and-out on their first offensive series. The Browns longest play was three yards on their first three possessions. The Steelers moved the ball a bit but also punted after their first three possessions. RB Jamal Lewis had a five-yard run to start the fourth drive. The Browns first first down came with 2:24 to play in the first quarter as Edwards caught a 10-yard slant from QB Derek Anderson for the first down. The Browns punted for the fourth time after failing to move the ball after their first down.
Browns Lose Flip: The Steelers won the toss and with the wind deferred to the second half.
Cribbs Back: KR Josh Cribbs was back on the opening kickoff, but with the wind at his back, K Jeff Reed booted the ball out of the end zone so Cribbs had no chance of a return. Cribbs had a five-yard carry on a third down in the second quarter to convert a first down.
Pool, Wimbley, Hadnot Start: DB Brodney Pool and LB Kamerion WImbley started on defense, despite being on the injury report. It was Pool’s first action of the regular season. OL Rex Hadnot started at right guard in place of Seth McKinney, who started against the Cowboys in Week One. Pool made a big stop on RB Willie Parker on a third-and-one for no gain.
Edwards Drop: WR Braylon Edwards dropped a third down pass on his first opportunity in the first quarter.
Boomer: P Dave Zastudil punted 59 yards into the wind on his first punt.
The Express: Several members of the cast of “The Express” a story about Ernie Davis, who died of leukemia before he played a down with the Browns, were on hand for the game. Several players who were teammates of Davis with the Browns were on hand for a pregame ceremony that honored Davis, who’s number 45 was retired by the Browns. Those included Jim Brown, John Brown, Dick Schafrath, Bob Gain and Jim Houston. Dennis Quaid was also on hand. Jim Brown addressed the crowd briefly.
Inactives: For the Browns: WR Donte Stallworth, DB Sean Jones, LB Beau Bell, DL Ahtyba Rubin, OL Ryan Tucker, OL Scott Young, TE Martin Rucker and third QB is Ken Dorsey. WR Syndric Steptoe started in place of Stallworth and DB Mike Adams started for Jones. For the Steelers: WR Limas Sweed, DB Deshea Townsend, RB Gary Russell, LB Bruce Davis, OL Tony Hills, Ol Trai Essex, DL Orpheus Roye and Dennis Dixon is the third QB. DB Bryant McFadden started for Townsend.