NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE - WEEK 17 ; Steelers End Season on High Note, Pound Lifeless Browns 20-7

By Graves, Will | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), December 30, 2013 | Go to article overview

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE - WEEK 17 ; Steelers End Season on High Note, Pound Lifeless Browns 20-7


Graves, Will, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


PITTSBURGH - Forget the 0-4 start. Forget the remarkable finish, the one that kept the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoff picture until the final minutes of the regular season.

There's no such thing as partial credit in the NFL.

"We were an 8-8 team," safety Troy Polamalu said.

One that will spend January at home for a second straight year.

Le'Veon Bell ran for 90 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers drubbed the lifeless Browns 20-7 on Sunday, though Pittsburgh's bid to become the second team in NFL history to go winless in September and make the playoffs ended when San Diego edged Kansas City 27-24 in overtime.

"We are going to build on this," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "I think we have put together a good foundation."

One that went 6-2 over the final eight weeks, recovering from a potentially franchise-altering 55-31 loss to New England on Nov. 3 to play perhaps the best football in the AFC by someone not named Denver over the second half.

Or, the exact opposite of what happened in Cleveland. The Browns (4-12) lost their final seven games and went just 1-10 since early October. Not exactly the step forward new owner Jimmy Haslam was looking for with a roster littered with five Pro Bowlers, resulting in the firing of head coach Rob Chudzinski after just one season on the job.

Chudzinski's players did something after the game they failed to do during it: rally around their coach.

"It's just absurd to me that a report would be out like that, about a good coach like that," Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "It's crazy, and that [ticked] me off when I heard that."

Cleveland didn't exactly play angry while letting the Steelers roll to victory for the 26th time in 31 meetings since the Browns were revived in 1999.

Roethlisberger passed for 179 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions as Pittsburgh won its third straight to avoid the franchise's first losing season since 2003.

"Jason Campbell completed 23 of 41 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Josh Gordon caught seven passes for 82 yards to finish with an NFL-high 1,646 yards receiving, a first for the franchise. It proved little solace on a wet, miserable day at Heinz Field in which Cleveland looked very much like the same old Browns. …

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