The new season begins.
It's Romeo watch.
After the Browns finally were put out of their misery of a 4-12 season, all eyes are on Randy Lerner to see how long it takes him to make some drastic changes. By the way, the Steelers shut the Browns out 31-0. It was the second-straight game in which the Browns were shut out.
With the Browns loss and a win by the Bengals, the Browns finished in last place behind the Bengals (4-11-1).
What a difference a year makes.
The Browns averaged 25 points a game in 2007 and this year just set an NFL record for the most quarters (24) without scoring an offensive touchdown. The Browns end the season with a six-game losing streak.
The Browns did manage to knock Ben Roethlisberger out of the game with a concussion in the second quarter. Willie McGinest and D'Qwell Jackson knocked Roethlisberger out of the game with 1:48 to play in the first half with a concussion as they hit him high-and-low after an incomplete pass attempt. After a 15-minute delay in dealing with Roethlisberger's injury, Byron Leftwich, in relief of Roethlisberger, scrambled for an eight-yard touchdown with 32 seconds to play in the first half to make it 14-0.
The injury to Roethlisberger didn't slow the Steelers as Leftwich led the Steelers to 17 more points.
It looked as though the Browns only goal in the game was to get Jamal Lewis to 1,000 yards.
They did accomplish that, even if it took the Browns going for it on fourth down.
Lewis entered the game with 908 yards, despite rushing for over 100 yards only once the whole season. Lewis had 94 yards on 23 carries to give him 1002. Trailing 31-0, Lewis was in late in the fourth quarter. The Browns hadn't had a 1,000-yard rusher go over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons since Mike Pruitt did so in 1980-81. Lewis had over 1,300 yards in 2007.
On the Browns first drive, the Browns stalled at the Steelers' 36 and Phil Dawson was wide left with a 53-yard field goal attempt with 3:37 to play. The kick started on target but drifted wide left. The Browns were faced with fourth-and-2, but Crennel opted to try the field goal despite a 25 mile an hour wind. The Browns had the ball for 6:10 with nothing to show for it.
The Steelers took the ball after the miss and Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward for a 24-yard gain to the Browns' 33. A third down conversion to Heath Miller took the ball to the 20. On first down, Roethlisberger tried to hit Miller near the end zone, but Sean Jones stepped in front of him and thwarted the drive with his fourth interception of the season.
The Browns dodged a bullet in the second quarter after Roethlisberger hit Nate Washington for a touchdown, but Willie Colon was called for holding to erase the score to keep the game scoreless.
The Steelers took a 7-0 lead as Willie Parker turned the corner for a 34-yard touchdown run. Roethlisberger hit Miller over the middle for 20 yards to the Browns' 34. On the next play, Parker broke loose for the score with 4:07 to play in the first half.
The Steelers extended their lead to 17-0 with 5:35 as Jeff Reed kicked a 22-yard field goal after a Steelers' interception. Tyrone Carter intercepted Gradkowski with just under eight minutes to play in the third quarter and he returned the ball to the Browns' 13.
The Steelers made it 24-0 with 9:41 to play in the game as Gary Russell went in from three yards out. The score was set up by a pass from Leftwich to Ward. The Steelers went 88 yards in 12 plays as they took off over seven minutes on the drive.
The Steelers put an exclamation point to the win as Carter intercepted Gradkowski for the second time and returned it 32 yards for the touchdown to make it 31-0. The pass was intended for Lewis, who let it go right through his hands to Carter.
Higher Pick: By virtue of the Bengals win and the Raiders win, it looks as though the Browns could wind up with the fourth or fifth overall pick in this year's NFL draft. The Browns are behind the Lions, Chiefs, and Rams with the Seahawks playing the Cardinals. If the Seahawks win, the Browns will pick fourth. If the Seahawks lose, there will be a coin flip to determine fourth or fifth.
Thieves: The Browns entered the game with 22 interceptions, second best in the NFL. DB Sean Jones picked up the team's 23rd in the first quarter. It was Jones' fourth of the season. DB Brandon McDonald led the team with five.
Flash Harrison: The Browns snapped it to RB Jerome Harrison on the second play from scrimmage. He picked up no gain, but WR Josh Cribbs took a snap later on the series for five yards. Harrison had no yards rushing in the first half, while Cribbs had seven yards on two carries. The coaching staff finally let Cribbs throw a pass and it was complete for a first down to TE Martin Rucker. Cribbs was 1-of-2 for 5 yards.
Dave's a Go: P Dave Zastudil was active and booted a 46-yard punt on his first attempt. There was concern that Zastudil wouldn't be able to go and they signed a punter to the practice squad during the week. He punted three times in the first half.
No Rest for the Wicked: The Steelers started all their regulars, despite already having a bye in the playoffs clinched. QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Willie Parker started along with WR Hines Ward and WR Santonio Holmes. The only Steelers not playing were out for injury reasons. Roethlisberger was injured with 1:48 to play in the second quarter as he was hit by LB D'Qwell Jackson and Willie McGinest. QB Byron Leftwich replaced him after Roethlisberger was carted off the field with an apparent concussion. Roethlisberger was 9-of-14 for 110 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. His rating was 58.6. Roethlisberger gave a ‘thumbs up' signal as he was carted off the field.
The Drought: The Browns' offense hadn't scored a touchdown in 20 quarters, spanning five games. It reached 24 quarters as the team didn't score in the game. The Browns have now set the NFL record for 24 quarters without a touchdown.
The Gradkowski File: QB Bruce Gradkowski marked the fourth Browns player to start at quarterback this season. Gradkowski signed with the Browns on Dec. 2. He had not started an NFL game in over two seasons. His first pass was to WR Donte Stallworth for 12 yards. He started 3-of-3 for 19 yards and finished the first half 4-of-7 for 20 yards and a 62.2 rating. Gradkowski was intercepted in the third quarter and the Steelers' brought it back to the Browns' 13. Gradkowski finished 5–of-15 for 18 yards and a rating of 2.8.
Winslow, Dinkins Out: The Browns also played the Steelers with their top three tight ends from the beginning of the season out. Steve Heiden had knee surgery a couple of weeks ago and TE Kellen Winslow (ankle) and TE Darnell Dinkins (ribs) were inactive. TE Martin Rucker started his first game. He looked as though he caught a pass and then fumbled, but it was ruled an incomplete pass. OL Scott Young was used as an extra blocker in place of the tight end.
The Rivalry: The Browns and Steelers all-time series is 57-55 in favor of the Steelers, with the Steelers having won the last 11 meetings.