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Insider Only Pittsburgh 41 – Cleveland 9: Steelers deliver in securing first round bye

The Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) clinched the AFC North title and secured a first round bye in dominating fashion, defeating the Cleveland Browns (5-11) 41-9 on Sunday afternoon.
The Steelers enter the playoffs with their offense peaking and their defense led by Troy Polamalu that is primed to make some noise in the playoffs.
The catalyst for Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who threw for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns in leading the Steelers to victory in what is expected to be the final game for Browns head coach Eric Mangini.
For the past four-to-five weeks, the Steelers offense has progressed each week as a unit and the team got excellent play from their offensive line today.
Pittsburgh appears poised for another Super Bowl run and Roethlisberger is playing his best football of the season at the right time after sitting out the first four games of the season.

Roethlisberger struck early and often, throwing a 56-yard touchdown strike to Mike Wallace on the Steelers first offensive play after Troy Polamalu intercepted Colt McCoy on the second play of the game.
Polamalu returned for the first time in two years and made his presence felt early and is a strong candidate for defensive player of te year.
Pittsburgh’s offense was clicking on all cylinders and the Steelers scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and built a 31-3 halftime lead, led by big plays on offense and three interceptions from their defense {Polamalu, Clark, Madison}.
In the 1st half, Pittsburgh turned 3 Browns turnovers into 17 points.
Roethlisberger finished 15 of 22 for 280 yards and has gone 158 consecutive attempts without throwing an interception, the longest streak of his career.
Roethlisberger’s scoring passes to Wallace and Heath Miller and Rashard Mendenhall’s two short touchdown runs gave the Steelers a 28-3 lead in the second quarter and they pushed their lead to 38-3 in the third on Antwaan Randle El’s 3 yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward. It was Randle El’s 6th career TD pass.
Mendenhall’s touchdown runs were the 12th and 13th of the season for the third year running back.
Wallace had a tremendous day with 3 receptions for 105 yards and one touchdown and has fully emerged as a star.
Wallace finished the season with 60 receptions for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns. He closes out the season with three straight 100 yard games and his seven 100 yard games ties John Stallworth for the team record.
Head coach Mike Tomlin pulled some of his starters including Roethlisberger with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
Tomlin though will likely take some heat for not taking his starters out sooner as rookie center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a neck stinger in the third quarter. He is expected to be okay.
Meanwhile, starting left cornerback continues to battle injuries and Bryant McFadden injured his groin in the week.
The Steelers are hopeful that the extra week off will ne enough for Aaron Smith to play in the first round.
In winning its third division title in four years, Pittsburgh guaranteed itself at least one postseason home game.
The AFC playoff field is mostly set with No. 1 New England, No. 2 Pittsburgh and wild card teams No. 5 Baltimore and No. 6 New Jersey Jets settling into the No. 5 and No. 6 spots.
The three and four seeds won’t be settled after the 4:00 p.m. games. Indianapolis clinches a playoff berth and the No. 3 seed with a win but Jacksonville clinches the AFC South with a win and Colts lose.
The Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) clinched a playoff berth last week and await the results of the Colts game of whether they will host the Jets and Ravens next week.
The only team Pittsburgh won’t play in the first round is the New York Jets.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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