As one fan put it, “The giant ketchup bottle was rocking”, and so Heinz Field was on Sunday. Not only was the atmosphere electric, but the weather was perfect for football. Ben Roethlisberger’s return to the Steelers for the first time this season was a highly anticipated event. Fans across the NFL were either excited, cautiously interested, or outright unhappy. According to the Post-Gazette, there was a small group, claiming they were Steelers fans, who actually protested Roethlisberger’s return outside of the stadium by wearing black and covering their faces with gold bandanas to conceal their identities, claiming the group had received threats and that they felt that Roethlisberger was a sexual predator. Thousands more pushed past them, many wearing #7 jerseys and trading comments with the group. The biggest response by supporters of Roethlisberger was that he was never charged, merely accused. Regardless of the conflicts outside the field, once they were inside, the fans were more than happy to cheer their team on to a victory over Cleveland.
Roethlisberger’s play Sunday was not his best, but it was good. He was 16/27 for 257 yards and three touchdown passes. Mike Wallace benefitted from Roethlisberger’s return. Wallace caught the first touchdown pass of Roethlisberger’s season and led the Steelers with 90 yards receiving. Roethlisberger kept himself from being taken down for a sack (last year he was sacked 50 times), and achieved a 112.7 passer rating.
The Steelers started off looking a little sleepy in the game. Roethlisberger’s interception throw intended for Mewelde Moore (caught by Cleveland’s rookie cornerback Joe Haden, who took it to the Steelers’ 35 yard line) in their opening possession on offense set up Cleveland’s first score. Coach Mike Tomlin was quick to point out that Roethlisberger missed some throws, but that his play wasn’t expected to be perfect. “I just got a little antsy,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “Mewelde Moore was open. I wanted to get him the ball right away when I needed to just settle down and get it to him.” The interception was the only turnover by the Steelers in the game. Cleveland was only able to convert the turnover into a 39-yard field goal.
FIRST QUARTER RECAP
McCoy opened the game with a short pass to Robiskie for 8 yards. The following play was what some call the “Wildcat”, a direct snap to J. Cribbs, who was only able to gain a yard before being pulled down by Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton. LaMarr Woodley got a little over-anxious and jumped off-sides, but the penalty was declined. It was clear that Woodley was anticipating the snap count though when he sacked McCoy for a 9 yard loss on the following play. Clearly shaken, McCoy then passed deep over the middle (intended for B. Watson) and was intercepted by Ryan Clark.
Mendenhall then went to work for the Steelers offense. In his first run around the right end he was able to gain 9 yards. He then was utilized in combined passing and running plays, moving the ball downfield. Issac Redman came in for a play, running up the middle for 4 yards, before Mendenhall returned to the field. The Steelers’ first offensive possession was halted by Roethlisberger’s short pass that was intercepted.
When Cleveland took over, McCoy utilized P. Hillis and B. Watson to gain rushing yards. Cribbs also tried the direct snap in the series, gaining 2 yards before James Farrior and Ryan Clark penned him in. Cribbs also tried a direct snap play around the left end for no gain due to Farrior and Ike Taylor. When McCoy stepped back under center, Lawrence Timmons had his number and sacked him for a loss of 7 yards. Cleveland was forced to settle for a field goal.
Pittsburgh ended the quarter with two running plays and a pass to Hines Ward.
SECOND QUARTER RECAP
Pittsburgh continued their drive. Roethlisberger was able to find Mike Wallace for 11 yards, then ran the ball himself on the next play for 5 yards. Mendenhall then picked up 7 yards in three rushing plays, two to the left tackle. Roethlisberger found Emmanuel Sanders deep right for 22 yards. Roethlisberger then targeted Wallace short right, then a deep pass to the right for 29 yards and a touchdown. Jeff Reed was able to finish the series with a PAT.
Cleveland took over after receiving the kick-off with a McCoy scramble to the sideline for 3 yards. Two plays later, J. Cribbs again took a direct snap from shotgun, running to the right. Harrison and Woodley combined for the tackle, and Cribbs coughed up the ball. Cleveland recovered the ball, but not Cribbs who went down hard and lay un-moving on the field. Review of the play showed the James Harrison’s helmet came in contact with Cribbs’. Cleveland tried two more plays before they had to punt the ball away.
Pittsburgh’s possession was highlighted by a 25-yard run by Mendenhall before he was pushed out of bounds by Elam. Roethlisberger balanced the play-calling with runs by Redman and Mendenhall and passes to Ward and Heath Miller. Sepulveda had to punt on 4th and 10.
Cleveland used Hillis’ running ability to eat up18 yards. McCoy was forced to use his feet and scramble out of bounds when Farrior put the pressure on him. The first play after the two-minute warning had severe consequences for Cleveland. Colt McCoy threw a short pass to Massaquoi who went down injured. Cleveland could do little after that and were forced to punt the ball.
When Pittsburgh got the ball back Mendenhall did alll the work, but the Steelers were forced to go three and out and punt.
THIRD QUARTER RECAP
Pittsburgh received the kick-off, and E. Sanders fielded it from the Pittsburgh 6-yard-line 21 yards. Roethlisberger used a balanced offensive attack by utilizing Mendenhall, a short pass over the middle to Ward, and a deep pass to Ward for 26 yards. Chris Kemoeatu was injured during the play. Mendenhall was able to gain twelve yards on the ground during the next play, but due to an offensive holding penalty, the down was replayed. Mendenhall was only able to gain two yards back in the next rush. From the shotgun, Roethlisberger threw two incomplete passes and Sepulveda was forced to punt.
McCoy opened Cleveland’s first offensive series of the second half with a short pass over the middle to C. Stucky for 25 yard. Nick Eason was injured during the play. Hillis was only able to gain 5 yards on the ground on 1-10 at the Cleveland 34-yard-line due to tight play by Harrison and Farrior. Stuckey ran the ball for 2 yards, the caught a short pass to the left for 7 yards and a first down. Hillis again took over rushing duties and was only able to pick up 3 yards in two plays. Cleveland then used Bell up the middle and a short pass to Vickers, which was called back due to offensive interference by Vickers. When McCoy stepped back into the shotgun position, Lawrence Timmons called his number and sacked the quarterback for a loss of 3 yards forcing Cleveland to punt.
With 5:12 left in the quarter, Roethlisberger wasted no time by throwing a deep pass to Wallace for 50 yards. Doug Legursky was injured during the play. Roethlisberger stepped back under center and threw a deep pass to the left to Heath Miller for a 36-yard gain before Miller was pushed out of bounds. Mendenhall stepped in for the run on 1st down, but only gained 2 yards. Roethlisberger found Miller short, but the pass was incomplete. Roethlisberger then moved into the shotgun and from the Cleveland 8-yard-line was able to find Ward over the middle for an 8 yard touchdown catch. The PAT by Reed was good.
The Cleveland offense started their next possession with a deep pass of their own from McCoy to B. Watson for 23 yards. Bell rushed for 3 yards on the next play, but was stopped by B. McFadden. McCoy went to the shotgun and was able to hit Stuckey for a short pass of 3 yards, but couldn’t get it to Stuckey on the following play leaving no other option but to punt the ball.
With 1:04 left in the quarter, the Steelers moved the ball for 2 yards in two rushing plays by Mendenhall before time ran out.
FOURTH QUARTER RECAP
The Steelers continued their march downfield on 3-18 with a short pass to Sanders for 15 yards and a first down. Mendenhall was stopped at the line by D. Robinson. On second down, Roethlisberger found Randle El short to the left for 11 yards and a new set of downs. Mendenhall rushed for two plays, picking up four yards. Roethlisbergers next pass, intended for Randle El, fell incomplete mainly due to pressure from Cleveland’s Fujita. Sepulveda punted the ball 60 yards into the end zone forcing a touchback.
Cleveland had a poor series. McCoy was able to complete a short pass to P. Hillis for 4 yards, then threw a pass intended to B. Robiskie that fell incomplete. McCoy’s next pass was intended for B. Watson deep over the middle, but was defended well by Troy Polamalu, forcing Cleveland to punt.
The Steelers’ Mendenhall took a handoff around the left tackle to the Cleveland 48-yard-line for a 13 yard gain. Redman then ran to the right for 13 yards. Mendenhall’s next rush was pushed back for negative yardage by E. Wright and S. Fujita. Looking at 2-12, Roethlisberger tried to hit Mike Wallace deep right, but Elam’s coverage was good and the pass was incomplete. On 3-12, Roethlisberger found Ward deep to the left, but was not able to make the completion and the punting unit was forced onto the field. Due to a penalty for illegal formation, Pittsburgh was moved back 5 yards. Sepulveda was able to send the ball 34 yards to the Cleveland 13-yard-line. Cleveland’s C. Stuckey was back to return the kick, but mishandled the ball. Keyaron Fox was able to recover the ball for no gain.
Pittsburgh took over 1-10 at the Cleveland 13 with 7:50 on the clock. Mendenhalls run to the right was stopped at the line by B.Schefering. Redman came in and was able to gain 3 yards. From the shotgun on 3-7 at the Cleveland 10-yard-line, Roethlisberger hit Mendenhall with a short pass before Mendenhall was forced out of bounds at the Cleveland 2-yard-line by J. Haden. With a new set of downs, G. Legursky reported as an eligible receiver, but Mendenhall punched through the line to score. The PAT was good.
The urgency was apparent when Cleveland took over after the kick-off from their own 30-yard-line. McCoy was forced to scramble for 4 yards. On 2-6 McCoy found B. Watson who was able to take the short pass and turn it into a 23-yard gain. With a new set of downs, McCoy went to the no-huddle, shotgun and passed short left to P. Hillis for 3 yards, then passed deep right to E. Moore who ran out of bounds at the Pittsburgh 12 for 28 yards. With 4:24 on the clock, McCoy’s next pass fell incomplete as he was being pressured by Woodley. Finding B. Watson, McCoy was able to throw his first NFL career touchdown. The PAT was good and moved Cleveland closer to Pittsburgh on the scoreboard (Cleveland 10, Pittsburgh 21).
Hoping for a chance to get the ball back into McCoy’s hands, Dawson used an onside kick for 9 yards from the Cleveland 30, but J. Worilds covered the ball for Pittsburgh. The Steelers went back to the run on the first two plays of the drive. Mendenhall ran for 3 yards and Redman for 4. Roethlisberger attempted a pass deep over the middle to tight-end M. Spaeth who was covered by Gocong, and it fell incomplete. Sepulveda was forced to punt; 29 yards to the Cleveland 3-yard-line.
With 2:30 left in the game, McCoy returned to the shotgun and passed short over the middle to Stuckey for 11 yards. In the 2 minute drill offense, McCoy again put the ball in the air to B. Robiskie for 5 yards before the two-minute warning. On 2-5 McCoy stepped back into the shotgun and was nailed by N. Eason and J. Harrison for a loss of 4 yards. After a time-out, Cleveland stood on their own 15-yard-line. McCoy intended his pass to reach B. Watson but it was intercepted by L. Timmons who returned the ball for 5 yards until he was pushed out of bounds.
The Steelers took over with 1:42 left in the game. Mendenhall rumbled for 4 yards on 1-10, but was unable to gain any yardage on the second down. After a time-out by Cleveland, Roethlisberger stood at the Cleveland 14 and found tight-end H. Miller open for 14 yards and a touchdown, putting the Steelers ahead 28 – 10.
McCoy and the Cleveland offense had 1:25 left in the game to produce a score. Starting at their own 24-yard-line, McCoy was sacked by J. Harrison in the first play of the series. McCoy went to the no-huddle, and from the shotgun found E. Moore deep right for a 34 yard pass. McCoy then found B. Watson short over the middle for 10 yards. Harrison was called for defensive offsides, but the penalty was declined. McCoy attempted a pass deep right to E. Moore, but it was defended well by Bryant McFadden and was incomplete. With 29 seconds left, McCoy made a completion short to E. Moore for 3 yards. The play ate up too much time, however, because with only 8 seconds left, McCoy was forced to pass short and to the right again to B. Watson for 11 yards where Timmons stopped the play and time ran out.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 28, Cleveland 10
Hyperlinks in this article that are not simply players’ names are links to NFL highlight videos on NFL.com.
BROWNS VS. STEELERS HIGHLIGHT REEL
WEEK SIX ROETHLISBERGER HIGHLIGHTS
COACH MIKE TOMLIN’S POST-GAME CONFERENCE
THIS WEEK’S COMMENT TO WIN CONTEST WINNER WAS DENISE VAN CLEAVE. CONGRATULATIONS!
Are you a Steelers fan? Get the latest spam-free news in your inbox. Are you on Facebook? Friend Christina to talk Steelers. To email Christina click here. Twitter and re-Tweet this article by following @3Rivers_Writer
This Examiner covers Steelers news, injury reports, statistics, collecting, memorabilia, and player bios of not only current Steelers players, but also legends and Hall of Famers. She loves comments and questions, so don’t be afraid to follow her online.
OTHER EXAMINERS WHO WRITE ABOUT THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS (NFL)
Chris Adamski Matt Pawlikowski Danny Cox
* The Comment to Win Contest is NOT sponsored by echoflam.com
Save article to delicious