Quarterback Bill Nelsen was not kind to his old team.
Nelsen, who was traded to the Browns by Pittsburgh in the offseason, led Cleveland to its second victory over the Steelers in a month and half, 45-24, on Nov. 17, 1968 at Pitt Stadium.
Nelsen threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns, including two to running back Ernie Green, on 18 of 27 passing. He was intercepted once.
Nelsen might have had more scoring passes had he not been lifted after flipping a two-yarder for a touchdown to tight end Milt Morin to give the Browns a comfortable, 31-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Nelsen’s first start with the Browns came, interestingly enough, against the Steelers in a Saturday night contest at Cleveland on Oct. 5, and he responded by completing 16 of 25 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in a 31-24 triumph that halted a two-game losing streak.
Nelsen’s insertion into the lineup got the Browns -- and their struggling offense -- jump-started.
The win at Pittsburgh was the Browns’ fifth straight with Nelsen as the starter and raised their overall record with him to 6-1.
The Browns had scored 30 or more points in all but one of those games, and their 45 points against the Steelers represented their largest output in two years.
The most important thing, though, was that the Browns, after a sluggish 1-2 start, were now 7-3 and had a one-and-a-half-game lead over the runner-up St. Louis Cardinals in the Century Division of the NFL’s Eastern Conference.
The Browns led, 14-7. at the end of the first quarter. Leroy Kelly’s seven-yard touchdown run opened the scoring, and after Pittsburgh’s J.R. Wilburn caught the first of his two scoring passes on the day, a 10-yarder, Nelsen and Green combined on a 62-yard catch and run for a touchdown.
Booth Lusteg kicked a 13-yard field goal for the Steelers (2-7-1) in the second quarter, but then Nelsen passed 11 yards to Green for a touchdown and rookie Don Cockroft booted a 27-yard field goal to give the Browns a 24-10 halftime advantage.
There was no scoring until Nelsen’s scoring pass to Morin in the fourth quarter to bulk the margin to 31-10.
Frank Ryan, who began the season as the Browns’ starting quarterback and was nearing the end of an outstanding seven-year career with the team, threw two touchdown passes later in the quarter, a 36-yarder to wide receiver Paul Warfield and a 33-yarder to running back Charlie Harraway.
Pittsburgh scored two touchdowns in the quarter on Ray May’s 27-yard interception return and Wilburn’s 19-yard reception.
Adding the 94 yards passing and two scores by Ryan, the Browns threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns overall on the day.
Morin and Green both caught five passes for 103 and 84 yards, respectively. Warfield and wide receiver Eppie Barney contributed four catches each.
The Browns also intercepted five passes, one each by linebackers Jim Houston and Bob Matheson, safety Mike Howell and cornerbacks Erich Barnes and Ben Davis.
This Day in Browns History is presented by Cleveland Clinic.