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Ben hobbled, but returns in 14-3 victory over Browns

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Ben Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain, but returned in the second half to lead his team to a 14-3 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night. A fourth-quarter interception by William Gay prevented a Cleveland touchdown and a hobbled Ben found Antonio Brown for a 79-yard touchdown two plays later for the game-clinching score.

Ben Roethlisberger has played through so many injuries in his career, that it wasn’t much of a surprise when he emerged from the tunnel to lead the team in the second half despite suffering a high ankle sprain on a play in the second quarter.

Big Ben was extending a play, something he is prone to do more often than not, when he was tackled from behind by DT Scott Paxson, a former Steeler. His left leg was trapped under the defensive lineman and Roethlisberger was in pain almost instantly.

The quarterback lay on the field for a few minutes before limping off, with help, straight to the tunnel.

Charlie Batch entered the game and played out the second quarter, but the Steelers never gave word of Ben’s injury or his status going forward.

Roethlisberger came out of the tunnel to start the third quarter to take snaps, before taking the field to a loud ovation courtesy of the sell-out crowd at Heinz Field.

When he returned, it was to quarterback the Steelers through a contest that had played surprisingly close to that point.

Cleveland opened the scoring on their first drive of the game, though initially it looked like that score would a touchdown. Quarterback Colt McCoy appeared to break the plane on a scramble, but the touchdown was overturned by replay. The Browns were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Phil Dawson and a 3-0 lead.

The Steelers would answer on the ensuing drive. Mike Wallace chipped in two plays of 20+ yards, one pass and one run, to set up an 11-yard touchdown strike from Roethlisberger to receiver Jerricho Cotchery.

After trading points early in the first, the two rivals traded turnovers in the second quarter. Hines Ward kicked things off with a fumble on his only catch of the game, with the team poised to enter the red zone.

Cleveland recovered, but McCoy gave the ball back with an interception right to Troy Polamalu, giving Pittsburgh the ball at Cleveland’s 10-yard line.

One play later, Heath Miller fumbled the ball away, leading to another missed opportunity for Pittsburgh’s offense.

The Steelers defense would hurt the fort, but Roethlisberger went down on the following possession. Neither offense was able to take advantage for the remainder of the second half.

Big Ben’s return seemed to fire up the crowd and his team early in the second half, as Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall came out running with a purpose. An offensive holding penalty by Chris Kemoeatu, who was thrust into action by an injury to Maurkice Pouncey, forced the drive to stall.

The Steelers would creep even closer on their next possession, which leaked into the fourth quarter. Wallace appeared to score on another play of 20+ yards to put the Steelers up 14-3, but replay overturned that score and set Pittsburgh down at the two-yard line.

Pittsburgh attempted to run the ball on four-straight downs, including a fourth down at the one-yard line, with no success. The result was a turnover on downs and Pittsburgh was forced to cling to its four-point lead.

It looked like that missed opportunity would return to haunt the Steelers late in the game, as Cleveland drove into the red zone looking for the go-ahead touchdown, but McCoy committed intentional grounding on second down at the six yard-line to put Cleveland in a hole. McCoy’s pass on third down was intercepted in the end zone by William Gay, ending the scoring threat.

Two plays later, Ben found Antonio Brown, who broke free from his defender for an extra 50 yards on his way to the game clinching-touchdown. Despite another wave of injuries, Pittsburgh prevailed for a 14-3 win on a short week.

Injuries
Ben Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain, limiting his mobility in the second half. He had an ice pack on it following the game and will have an MRI on Friday. Maurkice Pouncey suffered a similar injury in the first half. Troy Polamalu tweaked a hamstring in the second half and left the game from precautionary reasons. Ziggy Hood suffered a groin injury early and did not return.

Through the Air
Ben’s stats were stellar despite his injury. He completed 16 of his 21 attempts for 280 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception, but he was only sacked once. Antonio Brown had a huge day, catching five passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Mike Wallace chipped in four catches for 57 yards. Jerricho Cotchery caught two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Also catching to passes were Heath Miller (11 yards) and David Johnson (22). Hines Ward caught one pass for six yards, on which he fumbled, and remains nine catches short of 1,000 in his career.

On the Ground
Pittsburgh’s ground attack looked sharp against a team that struggles in the rushing game. Rashard Mendenhall led the way with 18 carries for 76 yards, including some tough yards early in the second half. Isaac Redman chipped in 36 yards on six carries and Mewelde Moore added 15 yards on three carries. Even Mike Wallace got involved, breaking a 21-yard run in the first quarter.

Defense
Jason Worilds had his best game as a Steeler, picking up two sacks to go with his nine tackles, while also forcing a fumble. Steven McLendon and Larry Foote shared the team’s third sack. William Gay also had one of his best games of the season, picking off a pass and defending three more to go with seven tackles. Troy Polamalu chipped in eight total tackles with a second interception. Ryan Clark led the team with ten tackles.

Special Teams
Curtis Brown continues to shine, leading the team with two tackles on special teams. Jeremy Kapinos averaged 41.3 yards on his four punts. Neither team did much in the return game, though some of that had to do with an injury to Cleveland’s Joshua Cribbs that forced him out of the game.

Game Ball
Whatever you feel about Ben, the man continues to play no matter what is ailing him. He’s like the terminator. He gets the game ball for toughing it out and playing well despite the injury.

Up Next
One of the benefits of a Thursday nighter: more time off afterwards. Pittsburgh will get an extra day on top of that, and won’t play until next Monday night. The Steelers will travel across the country to take on the 10-2 San Francisco 49ers. The game will be broadcast on ESPN’s Monday Night Football and kicks off at 8:30 PM. 

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