Thanks to two turnovers and injuries to three starters in the second quarter, the Pittsburgh Steelers had to hang on for a 7-3 lead against the Cleveland Browns Thursday night at halftime at Heinz Field.
The second quarter didn’t get any better after a sequence where the Steelers turned the ball over twice, and the Browns had one, as there were injuries on both teams. The Steelers Ben Roethlisberger twisted an ankle on a sack, and defensive end Ziggy Hood suffered a groin strain. Both are questionable.
For the Browns, Josh Cribbs also had a groin injury, while tight end Ben Watson had a concussion and is out. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey also missed the last series with an ankle injury and is questionable, along with Cribbs.
The Browns surprised the Steelers with an early third-down conversion, 33-yard pass from quarterback Colt McCoy to Evan Moore on a great catch and 25-yarder down the middle to Cribbs to the 5 in their opening possession.
But after a three-yard run by Peyton Hillis, McCoy ran to the goal line. Replays showed that he was short, and on a third-down sneak he was stuffed for a one-yard loss by James Farrior and Larry Foote to force a field goal. Phil Dawson’s 20-yard kick was good to give the Browns a 3-0 lead.
That didn’t faze the Steelers, as Roethlisberger led them on a five-play, 73-yard scoring drive in just 3:10. He opened with a 22-yard pass to Mike Wallace and 12-yard wideout screen to Antonio Brown. Wallace ran a reverse for 21 yards to the 11, and Roethlisberger covered that final distance with a pass to Jerricho Cotchery to give the Steelers a 7-3 advantage.
There were three straight turnovers to open the second quarter. The Steelers drove from their 10 to the red zone, as Brown caught passes for 20 and 13 yards, and Wallace had an 11-yard reception. On second down from the 21, Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward for six yards to the 15, but he fumbled. The Browns recovered and needed just three plays to give it back.
McCoy’s pass into triple-coverage was picked off by Troy Polamalu, and he returned it 33 yards to the 10. After a false start, Roethliberger connected with tight end Heath Miller for seven yards to the 8, but he fumbled and the Browns recovered once again. Both forced fumbles were excellent strip plays.