Pittsburgh keeps playoff hopes alive


CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have rarely felt so
good about looking so bad.

Question on the Steelers: Can the Steelers count on getting more defensive efforts like this?
This is the type of performance the Steelers' coaching staff expected out of them at the start of the season. But as strong a performance as this was, the Steelers still don't have a good-enough secondary to consistently mount this type of performance.

Question on the Browns: Are all the distractions simply too much for them to overcome?
It seems this team isn't mature enough to handle the distractions that have been levied on this team in recent weeks. This team has had a lot to deal with in the suspension and subsequent stabbing of running back William Green and the midseason release of receiver Kevin Johnson. To counter these distractions, the coaching staff may need to give this team a "us against the world" mentality for them to succeed.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Pittsburgh capitalized on five Cleveland turnovers for an ugly
13-6 victory over the bumbling Browns on Sunday, keeping the
Steelers' slim playoff hopes alive for another week.

Jerome Bettis ran for a season-high 93 yards on 24 carries for
Pittsburgh, which won despite being outgained 303-168 in total
yards, getting just 11 first downs, committing 10 penalties and
running only six offensive plays in the third quarter.

The Steelers had only 73 passing yards with fullback Dan Kreider
getting two catches for a team-high 21 yards.

"It did not matter if it was pretty, ugly or 3-0," Steelers
quarterback Tommy Maddox said. "You want to be good statistically,
but you want to win games. That's the most important thing."

Chad Scott intercepted Kelly Holcomb's pass with 1:41 remaining
at the Pittsburgh 39 to seal it for the Steelers (4-7), who had
dropped six of seven and were coming off a short work week after
playing at San Francisco on Monday night.

"Nobody believed in us, but us," said Steelers linebacker Joey
Porter, who is holding out hope the club can make the playoffs.
"We're still in this. We run the table, we'll be there."

The Browns were the ones who played like a tired team.

Cleveland didn't score a TD despite having the ball inside
Pittsburgh's 20 four times -- and came away with only one field goal
on three visits within the 10.

In the third quarter, the Browns (4-7) twice had first-and-goal
at Pittsburgh's 6 but failed to score.

On the Browns' second trip there, Holcomb forced a pass to
Andre' Davis into double coverage that was picked off by Brent
Alexander in the end zone.

In all, the Browns gained just 12 yards on 14 plays inside the
20. On their 10 snaps inside the 10, they gained 1 yard, were
stopped on a crucial fourth down and threw an interception.

"We kicked ourselves in the teeth the whole game," said
offensive tackle Ryan Tucker. "We had the opportunities, we just
didn't do anything with them."

Cleveland also had a TD punt return by Dennis Northcutt called
back because of holding in the first quarter.

Maddox was 9-of-24 and throw a 1-yard scoring pass to Mark
Bruener in the second quarter.

Holcomb, who shredded the Steelers for 429 yards in the playoffs
last season, went 25-of-44 for 234 yards and the two picks -- but
could have three more intercepted.

James Jackson ran for 94 yards and caught five passes for 49,
but fumbled twice.

"I can't blame the loss on anyone but me," he said. "We moved
the ball, Holcomb made the plays but it was the fumbles. It's a
killer -- we get in the red zone, we gotta score touchdowns."

Cleveland trailed 10-6 at halftime despite dominating the
Steelers in the first half.

In the third quarter, the Browns had second-and-goal at the 1,
but Jackson was stopped on two straight plunges by linebacker
Kendrell Bell, who came over the top to nail the back on third

With Cleveland trailing by four, Browns coach Butch Davis
gambled by going for a touchdown on a fourth down but Northcutt was
tackled on a double reverse by Scott just short of the goal line.

The Browns challenged the call, saying Northcutt wasn't down
before the ball crossed. But after a review, referee Walt Coleman
said the call stood.

"I had him man-to-man, so he was my guy the whole way," Scott
said. "I just tracked him and was able to tackle him before he got
in the end zone."

Pittsburgh didn't pick up a first down on any of its first three
possessions, and had just two total yards to Cleveland's 102 after
the first quarter.

However, the Browns didn't take advantage and settled for two
field goals by Phil Dawson to take a 6-0 lead in the second

That came back to haunt them when Steelers linebacker James
Farrior recovered a botched handoff by Holcomb to Jackson at the
Browns 17. Pittsburgh needed five plays to score with Maddox
hitting Bruener from the 1.

A few minutes later, Browns running back Jamel White was
stripped Bell and Alexander recovered at the 22.

The Steelers got inside the 10, but couldn't cash in as Maddox
threw three straight incompletions before Reed's 23-yard field goal
put Pittsburgh up 10-6 at halftime.

Game notes
Browns C Jeff Faine sprained his right ankle in first
quarter and didn't return. He was replaced by Melvin Fowler. ...
Steelers C Jeff Hartings injured his right knee in the second
quarter. Coach Bill Cowher expects Hartings to be out a few weeks.
... Holcomb completed his first three passes, giving him 16
straight in two games to tie the club record set by Bernie Kosar in
1989. ... Pittsburgh's 168 yards were the fewest given up by the
Browns since 1993.