Browns turn blue

Published 1:02 pm Monday, September 15, 2008

Like nearly every Browns-Steelers game, this one had the usual bone-rattling hits, pushing and shoving after the whistle and enough trash talk to fill up a 16-game schedule.

Nasty, as always.

Down the stretch, it was anybody’s to win. All it would take for victory was one big play.

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And, as he has done more than once, Ben Roethlisberger made it.

‘‘Man,’’ Browns tight end Kellen Winslow said. ‘‘Big Ben just comes up with something every time.’’

Throwing into 60 mph wind gusts despite a separated shoulder, Roethlisberger connected with Hines Ward for an 11-yard TD in the first half and then helped run out the clock with a 19-yard completion to Heath Miller in the final minutes as the Steelers extended their winning streak over Cleveland to double digits with a 10-6 victory Sunday night.

The Steelers have beaten the Browns 10 straight times, 16 of 17 and 23 of 26 in a rivalry that has been lopsided since the days Roethlisberger was learning how to throw a football as a kid in Findlay, Ohio.

Roethlisberger ignored the biting pain in his shoulder, the howling wind and swirling rain on a night when football — and any other outdoor activity — was difficult for a chance to beat the Browns.

Nothing makes this Buckeye happier.

‘‘I love to come here,’’ he said. ‘‘The Browns had the 10th pick in my draft, and I went 11th, so it’s good to get a win.’’

Close to home, he always does.

During the game, it was disclosed on TV that Roethlisberger separated his shoulder last week in a win over Houston. But Big Ben didn’t seem bothered as he completed 12 of 19 passes for 186 yards and improved to 10-0 in NFL games in his home state. The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t had any luck in their stadium against him either.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t deny the reports about Roethlisberger’s shoulder.

‘‘They know more that I did,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s good television, I guess. He’s hurting pretty bad, but he’s a tough character. Is he 100 percent? No. But no one plays as hard as he does without getting banged up.’’

Roethlisberger refused to discuss his injury. He wore a glove on his right hand to help him throw tight spirals through the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

‘‘I’m from Ohio. I’ve played in windy conditions before,’’ he said. ‘‘That might be at times the gustiest I’ve ever played in.’’

In addition to his TD pass to Ward, Roethlisberger hooked up with Santonio Holmes on a 48-yard heave to set up Jeff Reed’s 48-yard field goal in the tricky conditions as the Steelers held off a late rally by the Browns (0-2), who were hoping this would be the year they finally challenged Pittsburgh for supremacy in the AFC North.

Not yet.

Not as long as Roethlisberger’s around.

With the Steelers backed up at their own 2 in the second half, Pittsburgh’s quarterback hit Ward for 31 yards to get his team out of trouble.

‘‘He always makes big plays,’’ Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. ‘‘We’ve seen him do that so many times.’’

Phil Dawson kicked field goals of 31 and 38 yards, the second one with 3:21 left to pull the Browns to 10-6.

Browns coach Romeo Crennel was counting on his defense getting the ball back, but Roethlisberger broke the hearts of Cleveland fans once again. Under pressure, he rolled right to buy some time and threaded a 19-yard dart to Miller for a first down at midfield.

Willie Parker broke free on a 19-yard run and the Steelers ran out all but the final 26 seconds. Parker finished with 28 carries for 105 yards.

The Browns got the ball back at the end, but Anderson threw two incompletions and was sacked.

‘‘We are inches away from beating these guys,’’ Winslow said. ‘‘We just want to win the division and to do that, we have to beat those guys.’’

Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson threw two interceptions, one setting up Roethlisberger’s scoring pass to Ward, and the second by Troy Polamalu at the 3 yard line that ended the Browns’ best shot at a TD on the final play of the first half following some questionable clock management by Crennel.

‘‘It was maybe one of the best games we played against Pittsburgh in a while,’’ said Crennel, who fell to 0-7 against the Steelers. ‘‘They fought hard. But we shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties.’’