Ben Roethlisberger leads Steelers past Browns, into AFC playoff picture

Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to beat the Cleveland Browns as the Pittsburgh Steelers moved back into the playoff picture with a 27-11 win on Sunday.

Coach Mike Tomlin called the win “necessary” for the Steelers, who are tied with the Baltimore Ravens at 5-6 for 2nd place in the AFC North, just below the 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals.

“Good team effort,” said Tomlin. “Necessary. We didn’t take this challenge lightly. These guys are undefeated vs. the North. Really I don’t think an AFC North team has lost a home division game. Nice accomplishment for us but not a lot of time to admire the work. We are working on a short week. We respect that as well.”

Roethlisberger finished 22 of 34 for 217 yards, throwing his two touchdown passes to Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.  Roethlisberger improved to 16-1 against the Browns (4-7), who have lost five of six.

The Steelers defense forced four Cleveland turnovers, three fumbles and William Gay’s 21-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the game.

“I am not going to make more out of it than what it is,” Tomlin said of the turnovers. “Sometimes it’s just opportunities that are presented due to game circumstances.

“We didn’t fall behind in this football game, so sometimes the opportunities are born out of that. Early in the year we were behind in football games and not a lot of opportunities when you are down multiple scores. It’s probably more a function of that, it’s not anything we are doing, anything mystical or anything of that nature. ”

The only bright spot for Cleveland was wide receiver Josh Gordon,who caught 14 passes for 237 yards, and a 1-yard touchdown reception from Brandon Weeden in the fourth quarter.

Browns quarterback Jason Campbell sustained a concussion in the third quarter when he was sacked by Gay.

With three straight wins, the Steelers are back in playoff contention.  Pittsburgh will travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

Note: Nose tackle Steve McLendon left the game on the last play of the first quarter with a left ankle injury and defensive back Curtis Brown is being evaluated for a knee injury.

“All I know is he has an ankle injury, which I knew on the field,” Tomlin said of McLendon’s injury. “I haven’t gotten any results on the evaluation. I don’t have any new news, other than what I had when he initially came off the field.”

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