Big Ben shines in relief, Steelers roll
PITTSBURGH (AP) Starting or off the bench. Healthy or on one foot. It doesn’t matter. Ben Roethlisberger against the Cleveland Browns isn’t a fair fight.
The hobbled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback passed for 379 yards and three touchdowns after coming in for injured starter Landry Jones as the Steelers overwhelmed the hapless Browns and Johnny Manziel 30-9 on Sunday.
Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 139 yards and two scores as the Steelers (6-4) remained unbeaten at home against Cleveland (2-8) since 2003.
Manziel passed for a career-high 372 yards with a touchdown and an interception but was also sacked six times. The Browns, who have lost five straight, ran for just 15 yards and were penalized 11 times for 159 yards. Cleveland is 2-13 in its last 15 games under coach Mike Pettine.
Roethlisberger was limited in practice all week after spraining his left foot late in last week’s win over Oakland. The Steelers were encouraged enough to put their franchise quarterback in uniform against the Browns but started Jones anyway, figuring Jones would be more than effective against a Browns defense ranked last against the run and missing three starters in the secondary.
Jones never really got a chance. The second start of his career lasted all of seven snaps. Jones turned his left ankle while throwing incomplete early in the first quarter and Roethlisberger – wearing a specially padded cleat to protect his bum foot – entered to a roar of a capacity crowd that included members of the 2005 team that won the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl.
Roethlisberger was still in his NFL infancy back then. Now he’s among the best in the game and he takes particular delight in tormenting the Browns, who could have taken the Ohio native in the 2004 Draft and instead opted for tight end Kellen Winslow II. If Roethlisberger’s foot was bothering him, it hardly showed. Even with the Browns doing a legitimately solid job of shutting down running back DeAngelo Williams and often double-covering Brown, the Steelers rolled anyway.
Roethlisberger hit Brown for a 4-yard touchdown with 3:27 left in the first half to give Pittsburgh a 14-3 lead and then lofted a rainbow to Bryant from 32 yards out that pushed the lead to 18 at the break. Manziel, save for a fumble on Cleveland’s first play when the ball seemed to slip out of his hands, didn’t play badly but received little help. He endured a nasty facemask from Pittsburgh linebacker Arthur Moats, who twisted Manziel’s head awkwardly while reaching out for the quarterback in the second quarter.
Manziel didn’t miss a play and later nearly scored a touchdown in the third quarter when he flashed the ability to ad-lib that served him so well during his Heisman Trophy-winning career at Texas A&M, slipping out of the grasp of a Pittsburgh defender and snaking his way to the goal line. Officials initially ruled it a score, but the call was overturned on review. Cleveland then managed to turn a first-and-goal from the 1 into a fourth-and-goal from the 7 that ended with Manziel being picked off by Pittsburgh’s Mike Mitchell.
Late in the game, Manziel lofted a pretty 7-yard touchdown to Gary Barnidge. Of course, the Browns being the Browns, Travis Coons missed the extra point.
Seven plays later Brown turned a short pass from Roethlisberger into a 56-yard touchdown, the All-Pro flipping into the end zone and sticking the landing that would have left world champion vaulter – and Internet meme legend – McKayla Maroney impressed.
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