Justin K. Aller
Steelers avoid losing season with 24-10 victory over Cleveland in Week 17. They finish 8-8, and look to draft somewhere between 14 and 19 in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Finishing 8-8 can't be considered a successful year for a franchise that had won 26 games in its previous two seasons.
But it's not a losing season either. That hasn't happened in Pittsburgh since 2003.
Pittsburgh's 24-10 win over Cleveland in Week 17 gave the Steelers its ninth consecutive non-losing season, and sixth under head coach Mike Tomlin.
It came with pain, just like it has all season for the battered Steelers. They saw rookie right guard David DeCastro leave the game in the second quarter with a stinger, just three games into a rookie season derailed in the preseason with a significant knee injury.
He wasn't the only rookie, either.
Kelvin Beachum was blindsided by a cheapshot from Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor in the third quarter. Beachum was slowing down and was nowhere near the play when Taylor launched into him. Beachum's head appeared to bounce off the ground, forcing him out of the game.
It seemed to fire the Steelers sluggish offense up, at least a little bit. They scored two second half touchdowns, allowing just one, cruising to the victory.
A big part of the reason for that cruise was the second consecutive Defensive Player of the Week worthy performance from cornerback Cortez Allen. The second year defender caused two more turnovers - two forced fumbles - giving him five forced takeaways in the last two weeks. The Steelers had an interception and two fumble recoveries against Cleveland, and Allen caused three more against Cincinnati in Week 16.
Ben Roethlisberger rebounded somewhat from a poor final quarter of the season, throwing touchdown passes to Leonard Pope, Antonio Brown and Plaxico Burress. He still didn't look particularly sharp early, but made some nice throws down the stretch.
Depending on the results of the rest of the NFL schedule, the Steelers will draft somewhere between 14 and 19 in April's NFL Draft. The Steelers finished 8-8 in 2006, and drafted linebacker Lawrence Timmons with the 15th overall pick in Tomlin's first draft.