The only thing that could stop the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh rolled up a season-high 543 yards, including 417 yards passing by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But four Pittsburgh turnovers – three of which came in the second half – kept things closer than they needed to be as the Steelers came away with a 27-14 victory over the Browns here at Heinz Field.
Unlike other opponents this season, the Browns – who had four turnovers of their own – failed to mount a comeback as the Steelers defeated Cleveland for the 12th consecutive time and 18th in their last 19 meetings.
The victory improved Pittsburgh's record to 4-2 and left them tied with Cincinnati, a loser to Houston Sunday, tied atop the AFC North standings.
Wide receiver Hines Ward caught eight passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. Fellow wideout Santonio Holmes also grabbed five passes for 104 yards, while tight end Heath Miller had five receptions for 80 yards and a score.
And the rushing attack produced a season-high 140 yards, with Rashard Mendenhall picking up 62 on 17 carries with a touchdown.
Roethlisberger fumbled a snap in the first half at the Pittsburgh 42 that gave the Browns (1-5) the ball at the 39. But Troy Polamalu, making his first start since suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in the first week of the season, picked off a pass from Josh Cribbs at the Pittsburgh 15 to end Cleveland threat.
Running the Browns' version of the wildcat, Cribbs led the Browns with 45 yards rushing on six carries and also returned a kickoff 98 yards in the second quarter for Cleveland's first touchdown.
"We expected to see some wildcat out of them," said Steelers linebacker James Farrior. "I don't know that we expected to see that much of it. But that guy's a great player. If he had some players around him …"
Luckily for the Steelers, Cribbs doesn't. And after a slow start, the Steelers began to exert their dominance. Working out of the no-huddle, Roethlisberger hit Holmes for a 41-yard catch-and-run to the Cleveland 8. He waved off the Steelers' short-yardage package and stayed in the no-huddle, firing an eight-yard TD pass to Miller on the next play to put the Steelers ahead 7-0 early in the second quarter.
Roethlisberger then threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Ward on Pittsburgh's next possession to put the Steelers ahead 14-0 before Cribbs returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards untouched to make it 14-7 late in the first half.
The Steelers got the ball back and methodically drove to the Cleveland 14. But Roethlisberger appeared to be stopped short of a first down on a fourth-and-one keeper.
After initially ruling the Steelers short, referee Walt Anderson took a second look at measurement and ruled Roethlisberger had a first down.
With a fresh set of downs, Roethlisberger threw a pass to running back Mewelde Moore in the end zone that was knocked free at the last second by linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.
He then threw what was initially ruled a touchdown to Ward that was overturned by an officials review.
After another incompletion, the Steelers settled for a 32-yard Jeff Reed field goal and a 17-7 halftime lead.
Cleveland, which completed just two passes in the first half, came out throwing in the third quarter and quickly trimmed Pittsburgh's lead to 17-14 on a one-yard pass by Derek Anderson to fullback Lawrence Vickers.
But the Steelers answered that score, as Roethlisberger and Ward connected on a 45-yard pass to set up a two-yard TD run by Mendenhall.
The two teams traded turnovers on the next five possessions before the Steelers put the game away with a 39-yard field goal by Reed with 5:47 remaining.