By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers secured a 24-10 season-ending victory against the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field by running the ball hard, passing it efficiently and forcing turnovers on defense, things they didn't do consistently throughout a year that ended with an 8-8 record.
That mark wasn't good enough to qualify for the AFC playoffs, and it was the second time in four seasons that didn't happen for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
"Obviously, we've experienced some professional disappointment in the big picture,'' Tomlin said during his post-game press conference. "But in the small picture, we had a game to play today, and a game to prepare for today and win. (So), it was a good winning note for us and a good team effort.''
There were contributions from several players on both sides of the ball, but none were bigger than Cortez Allen. The second-year cornerback forced two fumbles, recovered one and returned it 21 yards. Both turnovers gave the Steelers the ball with a short field, and they turned each into a touchdown.
That gives Allen five forced turnovers in the past two weeks. He had two fumbles and an interception against the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
"The games that we've lost have been tough, close losses, and we've had a lot of injuries that have set us back at times,'' Allen said. "I don't know where we'll finish up defensively, but I think we've got a great football team. And I'm extremely blessed to play here with this group of guys.
"As far as my play is concerned, I'm just doing what I can to help the team. I'm going to work hard in the offseason to get better for next season, and everything else will take care of itself. ... I don't get into whether I deserve to start after this or anything else, but I am glad I helped the team win today.''
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There was one consolation for the Steelers, as an 8-8 record marked the ninth straight non-losing season for them. That dates to 2003 when Bill Cowher coached the team to a 6-10 record. Only Troy Polamalu, Larry Foote, Plaxico Burress, Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel were with the Steelers then.