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Steelers win in Big Ben's return

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Ben Roethlisberger shook off the rust of his four-game suspension to throw for 257 yards and three touchdowns, and the Steelers' defense terrorized the Browns for five sacks and three turnovers as Pittsburgh took over sole possession of first place in the AFC North with a 28-10 thumping of the Browns.

Steelers 28 – Browns 10

Ben Roethlisberger started slow, but returned to form in the second half, throwing three touchdowns in a rout of division-rival Cleveland. Rookie Colt McCoy, who was also making his first start of the 2010 season, didn’t fare as well against a hungry Pittsburgh defense.

GAME FLOW

Each quarterback looked shaky at first, throwing an interception on their respective first drives of the afternoon. Both also fared better on their second drives, with McCoy leading the Browns to a field goal and Roethlisberger hitting WR Mike Wallace for a 29-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead. On the next drive, Browns all-purpose-threat Josh Cribbs suffered a helmet-to-helmet collision courtesy of OLB James Harrison and did not return to the game. Cleveland’s special teams unit gained a new hero, though, as punter Reggie Hodges pinned Pittsburgh deep on two consecutive punts, forcing the Steelers to settle for a 7-3 halftime lead.

Hodges continued to shine in the second half, pinning the Steelers offense at the four-yard line on his first punt of the third quarter. It was all moot, however, thanks to a quick 50-yard pass play from Roethlisberger to Wallace. Four plays later, Hines Ward caught an eight-yard touchdown to put Pittsburgh up 14-3. All was quiet until an interesting series of plays on special teams early in the fourth quarter. Punter Daniel Sepulveda pinned Cleveland at their eight-yard line, but was forced to re-punt due to a penalty. His second punt was almost as good but it, too, was nullified by a penalty. Sepulveda was forced to use his leg one more time and this time around, Cleveland made the mistake. Return-man Chansi Stuckey muffed the punt, giving possession back to Pittsburgh, who needed only four plays to push RB Rashard Mendenhall into the endzone for a two-yard touchdown. Cleveland responded with a touchdown of its own, a 12-yard pass from McCoy to TE Benjamin Watson. However, McCoy threw his second pick of the game on the Browns next offensive drive, setting up one more touchdown pass for Roethlisberger, this time on a 14-yard strike to TE Heath Miller, giving Pittsburgh a 28-10 win and the division lead.

OFFENSE

On the ground:
Rashard Mendenhall handled much of the workload early while Roethlisberger shook off some rust and ended the game with 27 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown. Isaac Redman added six carries for 31 yards, four of which were for first downs including a perfect two-for-two on third down.

Through the air: The passing game finally flourished with Roethlisberger back. He threw for 257 yards and three TDs on 16-of-27 passing with one interception. Mike Wallace led the team in receiving yards with 90 on three catches, one of which was Roethlisberger’s first TD of the season. Hines Ward led the team in receptions with five for 54 yards and a TD of his own. Heath Miller also added a touchdown on one of his two catches (he had 50 yards). Rookie Emmanuel Sanders, who was activated this week, pulled down two big catches on third-down for a combined total of 37 yards.

DEFENSE

The defense, as expected, had a field day at the expense of rookie QB Colt McCoy. Ryan Clark and Lawrence Timmons both came up with interceptions courtesy of the first-time starter, with Timmons also contributing two of the team’s five sacks. Harrison added one-and-a-half sacks and a forced fumble. Woodley posted a sack and Nick Eason was credited with half-a-sack. Timmons and Harrison led the team with 11 tackles each.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jeff Reed didn’t register a field goal attempt, but hit all four of his extra point tries. Daniel Sepulveda punted six times for a 42.8 yard average, but placed four of those punts inside the 20-yard line. Emmanuel Sanders returned only two kickoffs for a 19 yard average.

GAME BALL

Ben Roethlisberger
was cheered by the fans upon his return, and promptly gave them something to cheer about, as he torched the Browns for three touchdowns at 250+ passing yards. However, he’ll have to share this week’s game ball with inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who was the team’s best defensive player on Sunday. Timmons led the team in tackles (11), sacks (2), and tackles for loss (2) and also contributed two quarterback hits, one interception, and one pass defensed.

NEXT UP

Pittsburgh will take their talents to South Beach as they travel to Miami to face the 3-2 Dolphins. It will be a 1:00 PM kickoff and will be broadcast on CBS.

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