Wins have been at a premium against the Steelers of late. The Browns' last win against them came in December, 2009. But now the Browns may have actually turned themselves into Pittsburgh's playoff spoilers, depending on how the rest of the season plays out.
The 20-14 victory wasn't particularly dominant by any means, with quarterback Brandon Weeden completing 17-of-26 passes for 158 yards, a touchdown and an interception (a Lawrence Timmons pick-six, in fact) and running back Trent Richardson gaining only 85 yards on 29 carries (though 15 of those yards led to a touchdown).
But, for once, the Browns didn't find a new and exciting way to lose. They finally won a game they shouldn't have lost.
We've seen teams look terrible against Cleveland but still eke out wins late. Not so this week, thanks to eight (yes, eight) Steelers turnovers—five lost fumbles and three interceptions.
All four Steelers running backs coughed up the ball, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders fumbled on a game-ending series of desperation laterals, and 37-year-old quarterback Charlie Batch (in for the injured Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich) displayed his rust and age, throwing three picks.
Of the Browns' four scores (two touchdowns, two field goals) three were on short-field drives that resulted from those turnovers. Kicker Phil Dawson had a pair of first-half field goals, tight end Jordan Cameron caught a five-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and Richardson had his touchdown run in the third quarter, all thanks to the Steelers giving the ball away.
Cleveland's penalty problems followed them into Week 12, with nine for 85 yards. But this time it didn't cost them the win. Weeden still wasn't as impressive as we've seen him in the past.
And there were no heroics out of his backup, Colt McCoy, when he came in after Weeden suffered a not apparently serious head injury. McCoy only handed the ball off, which worked well considering the Browns were merely protecting a late lead.
No, mainly it was a halting effort by Cleveland's offense that was helped considerably by the smart play of its defense and the Steelers' ineptitude. But a win is a win, and Cleveland not only needed one, but a morale-building one such as this over the hated Steelers.
Their performance may not give them much to build on except for momentum. But beggars can't be choosers. There's no way the Browns would have had this game play out any other way.