Steelers notebook: Defense comes up with stops deep in territory
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, 8:54 p.m.
Linebacker Lawrence Timmons and rookie Jarvis Jones ignited a Steelers defense Sunday that flirted with a shutout of the Cleveland Browns en route to a 20-7 victory at Heinz Field.
The Steelers twice thwarted drives deep in their territory in the first quarter before surrendering a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Defensive end Brett Keisel forced Jason Campbell to fumble, and linebacker Chris Carter recovered at the Pittsburgh 23. After a Ben Roethlisberger interception gave Cleveland the ball at the Steelers' 35, the defense stopped the Browns on downs at the 29.
The Steelers wrestled the ball back on downs three times.
“We really wanted a goose egg,” Keisel said. “To make fourth-down stop after fourth-down stop was huge.”
Brown sets NFL record
Antonio Brown became the first player in NFL history to catch at least five passes for 50 yards or more in all 16 regular-season games.
Brown now is in pursuit of the all-time record owned by Laveranues Coles, who accomplished the feat 19 consecutive times from Sept. 29, 2002, to Oct. 12, 2003. Brown had nine catches for 87 yards.
“He's just got all the makings of a guy on the upswing in his career,” coach Mike Tomlin said.
A Spartan showdown
In a matchup of former Michigan State running backs, Le'Veon Bell outdueled the Browns' Edwin Baker.
Baker got off to a good start with 41 yards on nine carries during the Browns' first three possessions and finished with 69 yards.
Bell was held in check early but totaled 90 yards on 20 carries and had a 5-yard touchdown.
Bell set a single-season record with most yards from scrimmage by a Steelers rookie with 1,259 yards. Franco Harris had set the mark with 1,235 yards in 1972.
“It's a credit to the whole offense,” Bell said. “I didn't set out to set any records or get a certain amount of touchdowns or yards. I just wanted to get better each week.”
McLendon injures ankle
Steve McLendon has been besieged by injuries during the second half of the season. McLendon hobbled off the field early in the third quarter with an injured left ankle and did not return. The fourth-year nose tackle injured an ankle in Cleveland on Nov. 24, which caused him to miss two of the previous four games. Receiver Jerricho Cotchery sustained a shoulder injury and was replaced by wide receiver Derek Moye.
The Steelers swept the Browns for the eighth time in 10 seasons. … The Steelers scored at least 20 points in nine consecutive regular-season games for the first time since 2007. … For the third consecutive game, the offensive line allowed no more than one sack.
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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