PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t going to the playoffs for the second time in the last four years.
But they are going into the offseason on an uptick.
The Steelers avoided a losing record and their first season sweep by the Browns in 24 years with a 24-10 victory at Heinz Field Sunday.
Pittsburgh, which had lost 20-14 to the Browns at Cleveland on Nov. 25, finishes the year at 8-8. It ended a three-game losing streak and was only the Steelers’ second victory in their last seven games.
“It was good to finish on a positive note, particularly the way we knuckled-up in the second half as a team,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We were short in some areas. We had five healthy offensive linemen and two healthy corners at the end. Those guys knuckled-up and delivered.
“It’s a good winning note for us and a good team effort.”
The Browns dominated the game statistically. They had advantages in:
*First downs, 18-17.
*Rushing yards, 138-91.
*Passing yards, 182-121.
*Total yards, 320-212.
*Offensive plays, 63-52.
But the Steelers dominated the statistics that meant the most.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes and had no interceptions.
The Steelers had gone into the game minus-14 in turnover ratio on the year, and had committed eight turnovers in the loss to the Browns.
“It was very good to finally get on the positive side of the turnovers,” Pittsburgh left tackle Max Starks said.
The Steelers saved themselves with those turnovers.
Safety Troy Polamalu intercepted Lewis after the Browns had driven to the Pittsburgh 25 late in the first quarter. One of the lost fumbles -- by Gordon after catching a pass at the Cleveland 25 -- set up the Steelers for Roethlisberger’s one-yard scoring pass to tight end Leonard Pope with 47 seconds left in the second quarter to give Pittsburgh a 10-3 halftime lead.
Another fumble, by Benjamin after a reception at the Cleveland 48, was returned 21 yards to the 27 by cornerback Cortez Allen. That set the stage for Roethlisberger’s 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Plaxico Burress with 3:20 left to push the lead to 24-10 and pretty much ice the game.
“They had doubled Plaxico all day,” Roethlisberger said. “The one time they didn’t, I looked off the corner and then went to him.”
In the end, it was all more than enough to give the Steelers the win, but they still fell well short of the playoffs.
“In the big picture, we are obviously disappointed with how things turned out this year,” Tomlin said. “In the small picture, it’s good to finish with the arrow pointed up.”