Pittsburgh 13 – Cleveland 9
The Pittsburgh Steelers limp into the playoffs without their starting running back.
Isaac Redman replaced injured starting running back Rashard Mendenhall and scored a touchdown as Pittsburgh limped into the AFC playoffs with a 13-9 win Sunday over Cleveland, the Steelers’ 16th victory in 17 games against the Browns.
Redman scored on a 7-yard run in the third quarter for the Steelers (12-4), who finished tied with Baltimore for first in the AFC North but lost the tiebreaker because the Ravens beat them twice. Pittsburgh needed to win and hope Cincinnati could knock off the Ravens, who beat the Bengals 24-16.
The Steelers survived two fumbles by Redman in the second half and then held their breath on the final play when Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace floated a pass into a crowd in the back of the end zone. But Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu came over the top and got his hand on the ball before rookie wide receiver Greg Little could grab it, allowing the Steelers to escape.
The Browns (4-12) lost their last six games and nine of 10 under first-year coach Pat Shurmur.
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger already hobbled by a severely sprained ankle, the Steelers lost Mendenhall with an injured right knee in the first quarter. Mendenhall’s status for the postseason is unknown. Redman rushed for 92 yards on 19 carries.
Roethlisberger went just 23 of 40 for 221 yards but made enough big throws to help him improve to 14-1 in his career against the Browns.
Shaun Suisham made two field goals for the Steelers, who won 12 games for the second year in a row, something they haven’t done since 1978-79. They won the Super Bowl both those years.
Phil Dawson kicked three field goals that accounted for all of Cleveland points.
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward had five catches and became the eighth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career catches.
Ward grabbed a shovel pass in the fourth quarter, and although it lost three yards, it got him to the milestone. Ward and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice are the only players with 1,000 receptions and more than one Super Bowl win. Ward was embraced by his teammates when he came to the sideline after his catch, but it was one of the few things worth celebrating on a sloppy day for the Steelers, who dominated the stat sheet but couldn’t put the Browns away.
Mendenhall was hurt on the final play of the first quarter. He got tripped up at the end of a 5-yard run and immediately grabbed his right knee. Team officials fear that the injury could be season ending and that Mendenhall tore his ACL.
Antonio Brown led the Steelers with 6 receptions for 90 yards and surpassed 1,000 return yards on the season.