5 things to know as Steelers drub Browns in finale
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger’s personal record of never playing on a losing team remains intact.
So does the Cleveland Browns’ inability to find the right head coach to lead the organization out of a seemingly endless cycle of misery.
Roethlisberger passed for 179 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 20-7 victory over the Browns in Sunday’s season finale, helping the Steelers (8-8) avoid their first losing record since 2003.
The victory briefly extended Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, though they vanished when the San Diego Chargers edged Kansas City 27-24 in overtime.
A few hours later, Chudzinski vanished, too.
The Browns (4-12) fired Chudzinski late Sunday night after just one season on the job after the team lost 10 of its final 11, with seven of the losses coming by a touchdown or more.
"We needed to see progress with this football team," the Browns said in a statement. "We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year.
"Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there’s an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward."
Instead, Cleveland heads into the offseason looking for its fifth head coach since 2008.
There is no such turmoil in Pittsburgh, though the Steelers will have plenty of their own questions to answer over the next eight months after missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
Five things to look for as two franchises in very different places look to move forward.
PITTSBURGH’S GLASS IS HALF-FULL: Pittsburgh fiercely believes it is closer to the team that went 6-2 over the second half of the season than the one that went winless in September and appeared shaken to its core after a 55-31 loss to New England on Nov. 3 dropped the Steelers to 2-6.
"We are going to build on this," Roethlisberger said. "I think we have put together a good foundation."
CHUDZINSKI’S DISMISSAL MIGHT NOT PLAY WELL IN THE LOCKER ROOM: Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson managed to do something after the game he and the rest of his teammates failed to do during it: rally around their embattled coach.
"It’s just absurd to me that a report would be out like that, about a good coach like that," Jackson said. "It’s crazy, and that (ticked) me off when I heard that."
LE’VEON BELL IS FOR REAL: The Steelers rookie running back broke Franco Harris’ club record for total yards from scrimmage after running for 90 yards and a touchdown, and catching another pass for six yards. Bell finished with 1,259 total yards, edging the 1,235 Harris put up in 1972. And this wasn’t just the product of a longer season than the 14-game slate Harris played more than four decades ago. Bell missed the first three games of the season with a foot injury.
THE BROWNS REMAIN A MESS: Cleveland appeared on the upswing after moving to 4-5 in early November, playing so well the stunning trade of running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis was largely forgotten. The constant churn at quarterback and an injury ravaged defense, however, eventually caught up with the Browns. They lost both games to the Steelers by a combined score of 47-18, with both Cleveland touchdowns coming after things were already well out of hand.
FINAL BOW FOR FAMILIAR FACES: Steelers safety Ryan Clark told the rest of the starting secondary he wanted them to be introduced as a group. So Clark, safety Troy Polamalu, cornerback Ike Taylor and cornerback Cortez Allen sprinted onto Heinz Field as one when Clark’s name was announced. The 12-year veteran will become a free agent in March and understands his time in Pittsburgh may be over. The same can be said of defensive end Brett Keisel, whose contract is also up. The two helped the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances and two wins between 2005-2011.
"There’s no hard feelings," said Clark, who hopes to play somewhere next season. "I’ve got nothing but great memories."