This time around, however, the Steelers had an answer.
Ben Roethlisberger threw two second half touchdown passes and ran 30 yards for another score to lead the Steelers back from a 21-6 deficit to defeat Cleveland, 31-28, here at Heinz Field.
The victory lifted the Steelers' record this season to 7-2 and gave them a two-game lead over second-place Cleveland (5-4) in the AFC North, having already beaten the Browns twice.
But head coach Mike Tomlin was more impressed with how the Steelers recovered from a deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
"We had an opportunity to do something that we hadn't done and that was to show our mettle and come from behind and pull it out," said Tomlin. "We did it. It was far from perfect, but that usually is the case.
"One thing for certain, we stink as a kickoff coverage unit. Not to take anything away from Josh Cribbs. He is a great return man. His reputation in that area is deserved. But we have to grow in that area."
Moments after a 30-yard touchdown on a scramble brought the Steelers all the way back from that 21-6 deficit to a 24-21 lead, Cribbs fielded a squibbed kick from Jeff Reed at the goal line. He sidestepped Allen Rossum and Anthony Madison inside the 10, shucked off a tackle attempt by Andre Frazier that nearly knocked him out of bounds and ran the rest of the way untouched for a score that put Cleveland back ahead, 28-24, with 11:14 remaining in the game.
It was particularly troubling for the Steelers since they had fought so hard to shut down Cleveland's explosive offense. After Cleveland went 71 yards on 16 plays to score on a four-yard TD pass from Derek Anderson to tight end Kellen Winslow, Cleveland gained just 92 more yards the remainder of the game.
Cribbs' 93-yard return helped set up Cleveland's second score, a two-yard TD pass to Lawrence Vickers, while Braylon Edwards made an acrobatic catch along the sideline – his only reception of the game – following a Roethlisberger interception in his own territory as Cleveland took a 21-6 lead.
The Steelers cut the lead to 21-9 at the half – with Jeff Reed booting three field goals – before Roethlisberger brought them all the way back.
He connected with Hines Ward for a 12-yard TD pass in the third quarter that made it 21-16. Then, Roethlisberger, who had run for only 86 yards all season, rumbled 30 yards on third-and-10, bowling over a Cleveland defensive back to get into the end zone, for another score that – with a two-point conversion pass to Ward – put the Steelers ahead 24-21.
But as quickly as the Steelers grabbed that lead, Cribbs took it back.
The Steelers took over on the ensuing kickoff at their own 22 with 11:10 remaining and Roethlisberger went to work from the no-huddle.
He converted three third downs, including a 20-yard catch-and-run by tight end Heath Miller on third-and-18 from the Cleveland 33. Roethlisberger then tossed a two-yard TD pass to Miller on third down to put the Steelers ahead, 31-28 with 3:13 left in the game.
Cleveland took over at its own 33 for one last gasp with 1:04 left in the game, but all the Browns could muster was a 52-yard field goal attempt from Phil Dawson that fell short on the wet, muddy Heinz Field turf.