Browns 13, Steelers 6

There’s nothing Super about the Pittsburgh Steelers anymore.

The defending NFL champions lost their fifth straight and had

their playoff hopes thrown for a loss by the lowly Cleveland

Browns, who ended a 12-game skid against their bitter rival by

beating the Steelers 13-6 on Thursday night in subzero wind


Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times and lost for the first

time in 11 career games against the Browns (2-11), who extended

Pittsburgh’s longest losing streak in six years and defeated the

Steelers (6-7) at home for the first time since 2000.

Pittsburgh is going to need help to make the playoffs, a

stunning freefall for a team that hit the season’s halfway point at


Unexpected losses to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland – three

of the NFL’s worst teams with a combined record of 9-28 – have

pushed the Steelers to the brink.

“To lose five straight coming off a Super Bowl from last year

is embarrassing,” wide receiver Hines Ward said. “There’s nothing

fun about losing games, especially five in a row. We’re better than

that. We should play better than that. With three games left,

you’re going to see who really wants to go out here and play for

the pride of this organization and this city and who doesn’t want

to be around here.”

Chris Jennings, who began the season on Cleveland’s practice

squad, scored on a 10-yard run and Phil Dawson kicked a pair of

29-yard field goals for the Browns, who snapped a seven-game losing

streak, a 10-game slide at home and beat the Steelers for just the

second time in 20 games.

Roethlisberger tried to rally the Steelers, but his fourth-down

pass to Santonio Holmes with less than two minutes left was knocked

down by linebacker David Bowens.

When Holmes was tackled on a punt return and the final second

ticked off the scoreboard’s clock, frozen Browns fans, who were

nearly outnumbered by Terrible Towel-waving Pittsburgh fans, danced

in the aisles. Several Cleveland players sprinted down field and

jumped into the Dawg Pound section to celebrate.

“It means everything,” Browns do-it-all wide receiver Josh

Cribbs said. “There are a lot of Steelers fans around the city so

I hope people go to work and kick those Steelers fans.”

The Steelers, whose defense lost some of its spirit and much of

its toughness when Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu went down with a

knee injury, left the field stunned.

“Hurtful,” Holmes said. “I never thought I’d be losing five

games in a row. I know those guys will continue to fight these last

three games. Hopefully, we can get back in the lab this summer,

regroup and start all over.”

The win was just the second for Cleveland’s embattled first-year

coach Eric Mangini, who certainly helped his job security by

beating Pittsburgh, something no Browns coach had done since Chris

Palmer nine years ago.

Cribbs rushed for 87 yards out of the wildcat formation, had 104

return yards and caught one pass for 9 yards. He picked up a big

first down on a 14-yard run in the fourth quarter when the Browns

were trying to milk the clock.

Afterward, Cribbs soaked in his biggest win since turning pro.

He knew the Steelers’ 2 1/2-hour bus trip to Pennsylvania would not

be pleasant.

“They’re going to hear that bus’ engine all the way back,”

Cribbs said. “That’s a lonely ride. I’ve ridden that ride for five

years now. It’s time for them to hear that engine all the way home

while they look at the stat sheet.”

Needing a touchdown to tie, the Steelers got the ball back with

6:16 left at their own 21. Roethlisberger, who has broken

Cleveland’s hearts before, began working his team down field with

short passes. But he was sacked at midfield in the final two

minutes and had his final pass batted away.

Brady Quinn, making his first career start against Pittsburgh,

completed just one pass in the second half and finished 6 of 19 for

90 yards.

Roethlisberger went 18 of 32 for 201 yards. He had trouble

throwing in the swirling winds that consistently blew over 20 mph

and the Steelers were never able to establish their running game

against the Browns’ defense, which came in ranked 32nd overall.

Cleveland’s defense dominated the first half, sacking

Roethlisberger five times and pressuring him on nearly every


Jennings’ 10-yard scamper around right end – the first TD scored

by a Cleveland running back in more than a year – put the Browns up

13-0 late in the second quarter. With their defense stuffing the

Steelers and the temperature dropping, the Browns’ lead seemed


But the Steelers drove 58 yards in 41 seconds and got a 27-yard

field goal from Jeff Reed as time expired to close to 13-3 at


Reed’s second field goal with 8 seconds left in the third

brought the Steelers within a touchdown.

But Pittsburgh was unable to put together a scoring drive in the

fourth, and now the Steelers find themselves in more trouble than

they could have imagined.

This is certainly not what Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin had in

mind when he promised his team would “unleash hell” in


“We’ve found new and different ways to not rise up at critical

moments and we’re losing football games because of it,” Tomlin

said. “This one happened in all three phases.”

NOTES: Ward played despite a hamstring injury and caught four

passes for 21 yards. … Holmes, the MVP in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl

win over Arizona, surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the first

time in four seasons. … Browns DE Robaire Smith injured his hip

in the first half but returned. … Jennings previously played for

Montreal in the Canadian Football League. … Cleveland’s offensive

line went sleeveless in the bone-chilling weather.