PITTSBURGH -- Needing an unlikely four-team parlay to make the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers covered their end by doing what they do quite often, beating the Cleveland Browns in the regular-season finale.
At Heinz Field, they methodically whipped the Browns 20-7 for the fifth time in the past six season-enders. They then awaited word to see if the moon and the stars could align in the other three results they needed to make the playoffs as a wildcard team with an 8-8 record.
Losses by both Miami and Baltimore in early. games gave the Steelers two of the three. The final one they need is for San Diego to lose at home to the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that started at 4:25 p.m. EST. If that happens, the Steelers would enter the playoffs as the sixth and final seed in the AFC and head on the road next week either to Cincinnati or New England.
Cleveland, which started 3-2, ended with seven straight losses to go 4-12.
Jerricho Cotchery caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell ran 5 yards for another score and Shaun Suisham kicked field goals of 30 and 32 yards.
Cleveland did not score until 2:46 left in the game when Jason Campbell threw a short pass to Fozzy Whittaker who completed a 35-yard touchdown reception.
The Steelers extended their 14-0 halftime lead to 17-0 when Suisham kicked a 30-yard field goal with 3:50 left for the only points scored in the third quarter.
Antonio Brown became the first player in NFL history to catch at least five passes for at least 50 yards in all 16 games. He caught nine passes for 87 yards against the Browns.
Also, Bell broke Franco Harris' rookie record for combined rushing/receiving yards in a season. Harris had 1,235 yards in 1972. Bell, who rushed for 90 yards, has 1,259 yards.
The Steelers scored a touchdown in the second quarter for a 14-0 halftime lead.
Bell ran for his eighth touchdown, a nifty 5-yarder in which he spun away from one defender in the backfield, cut to his right and then cut it back inside. He ran eight times for 41 yards on that 67-yard drive and caught a pass for another six.
The Steelers scored on their first series of the game, covering 62 yards on nine plays. Roethlisberger threw a 9-yard pass to Cotchery for his 10th touchdown reception of the season, which leads the team.
The teams then traded turnovers. With Cleveland threatening at the Steelers 25, Brett Keisel forced Jason Campbell to fumble on a sack that Chris Carter recovered at the 23.
Two plays later, Roethlisberger forced a pass into double-coverage toward Cotchery and linebacker Craig Robertson intercepted it. The Browns took over at the Steelers' 35 but went for it on fourth down at the 29 and failed.
(c)2013 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services