It was as "Steelers football as it gets."
Behind a relentless blitz and a sharp offense (and even a few plays in the secondary), the Steelers crippled the host Cleveland Browns in Week 12, overpowering them to a 27-11 victory.
It could have been the most complete win of the season - the Steelers' third win in a row and fifth in their last seven games after an 0-4 start. Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds completely obliterated whatever semblance of pass protection Cleveland threw at him, as he made his second consecutive start on the defensive right side in place of injured LaMarr Woodley. Worilds has 10 quarterback hits in the past two games, both on the left side in place of Woodley.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw - and even kicked - his way through Cleveland's defense, completing 22 of 34 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and his second straight game without a turnover. He even punted in a short-field situation, pinning Cleveland deep in their own territory.
Deep in their own territory is what Cleveland was in all game. The Steelers left little doubt who the more physical team was in a battle with one of the league's top statistical units. The Browns defense played well, but dealing with short field based off offensive ineptitude and three turnovers - their third straight game with like offensive performances - they didn't have much rest.
Neither did starting quarterback Jason Campbell, who was chased all over the field, by Worilds in particular. He took a seat for the remainder of the game after a savage hit from cornerback Will Gay on a blitz. Strong safety Will Allen scooped up the fumble and nearly returned it for a touchdown, a play that blew the game wide open. Campbell did not return to the game, and reports indicated he had a head injury.
Gay got Campbell's back-up, Brandon Weeden, in the fourth quarter too. Weeden telegraphed an out throw to the right side, Gay calmly picked it off and ran 21 yards to paydirt.
It was the first Steelers defensive touchdown in 18 games.
For as old-school as this game was billed to be - two rivals of equal ability battling with postseason ramifications on the line - it turned out to be exactly that. Old school, as in, the 2000s, when the Steelers completely dominated Cleveland. There was some thought that may be changing, but Pittsburgh showed they're more of a legitimate team than the overmatched Browns.
It was Cleveland's fifth loss in their last six games, and the Steelers' fifth win in their last seven. It's just unfortunate for Pittsburgh the team started off 0-4.The Steelers heated up as the weather got cold, and find themselves squarely in the mix of the AFC's final playoff spot.
It won't be easy for the Steelers moving ahead, though. A short week brings with it the challenge of preparing for the Baltimore Ravens, victors over the New York Jets Sunday, giving Pittsburgh its second consecutive division road game against a playoff-hopeful team with the same record.
A short week isn't good for injuries, and while the Steelers may get Brett Keisel and LaMarr Woodley back, it wouldn't seem likely Steve McLendon will be available. McLendon injured his left ankle in the second quarter and did not return.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Steelers crush Cleveland: Postgame news and updates
- Injury Report: Broken ankle feared for McLendon
- AFC Playoff Picture: Steelers trail Titans by a tiebreaker for sixth seed
- Polamalu, Worilds score highest PFF grades
- Jason Worilds contract: pending free agent made some money in Week 12
- Steelers take Round 1 of Rivalry Week
- Brown gets best of Haden in classic battle
- Defense finds the explosion it has been looking for internally
- Winners and Losers from Steelers win over Cleveland