It wasn’t pretty, but then again, what really was in 2012?
Nevertheless, the Steelers ended the season on a high note Sunday, beating the battered but frisky Cleveland Browns 24-10 at Heinz Field.
The game featured a number of scuffles between the teams, and included Steelers C/G Doug Legursky taking a shot at Browns LB Craig Robertson, and then later on Cleveland NT Phil Taylor taking down Steelers OT Kelvin Beachum.
In the end, it was almost like a Steelers-Browns game that actually mattered.
“It was a pretty grimy game,” Legursky said. “That’s the way we like it. At the end of the day, there are no hard feelings, we were competing to win.”
The Steelers led 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter when Cortez Allen forced a fumlbe on Browns WR Travis Benjamin, and returned it to the Browns 27.
They converted the turnover into their last TD of the season, a Ben Roethlisberger 12-yard TD pass to Plaxico Burress, who played well in what could be for the second time his last game with the Steelers.
“It was nice, it was fun,” Roethlisberger said. “They doubled him every time we got down there but that time they didn’t. He’s a big body down there and made a great catch.”
Burress didn’t get all that much of a shot to be a big part of the team after being signed due to injury, but at least walks away with his head high after being a big part of the last win of 2012.
He could be a part of the Steelers future, more so if the team winds up losing Mike Wallace, who didn’t play Sunday and will almost for sure explore free agency and look for a huge deal somewhere.
As for Burress, he said after the game he would like to keep playing.
“I understand it’s a business,” Burress said. “I am just going to keep working hard, I know I will be back somewhere.”
Some of the other Steelers highlights included the running of Jonathan Dwyer, who rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries, and will be one of the backs the Steelers will take a long look at this offseason.
Safety Troy Polamalu picked off an early Thad Lewis pass, but overall the game was rather sloppy, with the score tied 3-3 late into the second quarter.
The Steelers took a 10-3 halftime lead when Roethlisberger threw a one-yard TD to Leonard Pope with :47 seconds left in the half.
The score came after a Josh Gordon fumble that was recovered by Allen.
Cleveland tied the game at 10 in the third quarter when Lewis hit Greg Little with a score after the Browns caught the Steelers sleeping with a fake punt.
The Steelers countered with a drive that ended with Roethlisberger hitting Antonio Brown from 9 yards out with 4:39 left in the third to make it 17-10.
The Burress score put the final nail in the Browns coffin and avoided the Steelers first sweep of Cleveland since the 1988 season.
With many question marks, the Steelers wind up the year at 8-8, and now will face a number of tough decisions that will make this a most interesting offseason.