Roethlisberger and Steelers win over Browns to remain in the playoff mix

PITTSBURGH, PA (AP) -- Ben Roethlisberger gazed for the final time at the Heinz Field stands, which were dotted with the No. 7 jerseys with his name on them and tried to take in the moment that was as unimaginable as it was for most of his career.

Roethlisberger and Steelers win over Browns to remain in the playoff mix

The long-serving Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is gone.

Instead of fighting it, the player who was able to defend himself with his left arm and make crucial throws with his right arm embraced it.

Roethlisberger took a victory lap after his 26-14 win over Cleveland Monday night, which kept his team's hopes of making the playoffs alive. Art Rooney II, his team president, was there to hug him. He tried to hold back his tears but failed. He grabbed Ashley, his wife, and their three children's hand and walked into the tunnel.

His performance on the field -- 24 of 46 yards for 123 yards with a touchdown, a pick and a touchdown -- was notable only for its inefficiency. According to STATS, he became the first quarterback since 1950 to win a game with at least 40 attempts and less than 150 yards.

However, the numbers were irrelevant in a career that spanned 18 years and included two Super Bowl wins.

Roethlisberger played. Steelers won. It continues as it always has.

Pittsburgh (8-7-1), will finish at.500 for the 18th season. This is the same as every year since Big Ben was selected by the Steelers with the 11th pick in 2004.

He said, "That's been my story." "It's not always easy, but we always find a way.

To make it to the playoffs, the Steelers must win against Baltimore next week. Roethlisberger admits that a loss by Indianapolis or Jacksonville would be a defeat for them.

It still exists. That's largely due to rookie Najee Harp, who ran for a career best 188 yards and a touchdown. T.J. Watt, a linebacker, sacked Baker Mayfield four more times to give him 21 1/2 points on the season. This was one less than the NFL record that Hall of Famer Michael Strahan set in 2001.

Roethlisberger won the night. After Roethlisberger was introduced, the "Let's go Ben!" chants were replaced by "Thank You Ben!" when the 39-year old took a knee to win his 26th victory over the team that passed him in the draft almost two decades ago.

Roethlisberger stated, "This is my home." "And I just, although I am aware that I was born in Ohio, I still live here and will always be here," Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger's family is the only group more anxious than the Browns to see him retire. Cleveland (9-9) -- eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday -- was defeated by Roethlisberger 326-1.

Inexplicably, the Browns put the game on Mayfield’s tired shoulders instead of feeding running back Nick Chubb in the face of the NFL's worst rush defense. Chubb ran 12 times, for 58 yards. Mayfield completed only 37 passes for 185 yards, with two touchdowns.

Mayfield stated, "If anyone doubts how much I want it to be, turn on this tape." "I just kept swinging. This is who I am. This is who I have always been.

Although Mayfield is preparing to have surgery on his left shoulder, his unpredictable season has made it difficult for him to see the long-term for a team that has seen instability for decades.

Pittsburgh is a different place.

Roethlisberger, then 22, was 22 when he assumed the role of Tommy Maddox, an injured player, in Week 2 his rookie season. He was a tireless leader of the franchise, achieving a level of success that almost rivaled the Super Steelers in the 1970s.

Roethlisberger admitted this week that all signs pointed to his 18th season as his last. Although his tank is empty, it's not full. He showed glimpses of his "Ben" prime, though, briefly.

Here's a shoulder fake. There's a step up in the pocket. The feet aren't as agile as they once were. His arm isn't as precise as it was in the past. His field-stretching heaves are mostly replaced by dinks, dunks, and other defensive moves that protect him behind an offensive line not nearly as talented than the ones he led to the postseason with regularity.

Roethlisberger's entire career has been marked by one thing: his mastery over the Browns.

Roethlisberger's win over Cleveland was a small act of revenge, less than one year after he had thrown four interceptions in a home playoff loss to Cleveland.

This night was to be Cleveland's launching point into 2021. The Browns will have to watch the playoffs at home due to injuries and inconsistency from Mayfield, among other things.

Pittsburgh is not so lucky. The NFL's first 17 game season concludes with Pittsburgh having something to lose.

Roethlisberger stated, "We have another game." "We have to continue fighting."

It's the same as ever.

INJURIES

Browns: CB Greedy Wilkins was injured in the first quarter and LB Sione Takitaki sustained a shoulder injury during the second. CB Denzel Ward was forced to leave in the third quarter due to a groin problem, further reducing the safety net for a secondary who is missing John Johnson and Ronnie Harrison.

NEXT

Cleveland: The season ends at home against AFC North champion Cincinnati on Sunday.

Pittsburgh: Baltimore looks to win the second consecutive season. Jacksonville will be watching.

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