Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played through a painful high ankle sprain in the second half to pass for 280 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers downed the Cleveland Browns 14-3.
Roethlisberger’s last scoring pass, a 79-yard strike to Antonio Brown with 2 minutes, 52 seconds remaining, helped the Steelers win for the eighth time in their past nine games.
Roethlisberger went to the locker room for X-rays following a gruesome second-quarter sack, but returned to start the second half, passing for 178 yards after the break.
Pittsburgh (10-3) moved a half-game ahead of Baltimore in the race for the AFC North title.
Colt McCoy passed for 209 yards, but also threw two interceptions for the Browns (4-9), who lost for the 15th time in their past 16 meetings with the Steelers.
The Browns had a chance after safety Mike Adams picked off Roethlisberger’s pass and returned it to the Cleveland 44-yard line. McCoy led the Browns deep into Pittsburgh territory, before his pass was picked off in the end zone by William Gay.
The Steelers took over at the 20-yard line. After a running play went nowhere, Roethlisberger found Brown open down the right sideline. The second-year wide receiver spun away from a defender, then beat Cleveland safety Mike Adams to the end zone.
Brown finished with five receptions for 151 yards and a score, though the game will be remembered not for his dazzling catch-and-run, but Roethlisberger’s remarkable play.
Despite a pair of turnovers deep in Cleveland territory, the Steelers were in complete command until the game — if not Pittsburgh’s season — appeared to change midway through the second quarter.
The Steelers were leading 7-3 when Roethlisberger dropped back to past on first down. He moved up in the pocket to avoid pressure when Cleveland’s Scott Paxson corralled Roethlisberger’s left leg, while teammate Brian Schaefering hit the quarterback in the chest and sent him toppling over awkwardly.