PITTSBURGH (AP) — Antonio Brown crossed the goal line to seal another lopsided Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the Cleveland Browns and decided it was time to provide the exclamation point.
The All-Pro wide receiver executed a forward flip at full speed and drilled the landing to close out a 30-9 romp. Jokingly asked afterward about what score the somersault received from the judges, Brown flashed a smile and softly said “10.”
Technically they don’t give those out anymore in gymnastics, but hey, Brown could be forgiven for the oversight. The Steelers, after all, are perfect against the Browns at home whenever Ben Roethlisberger is in uniform.
The Pittsburgh quarterback ran his record at Heinz Field against the Browns to a perfect 11-0 after coming off the bench to throw for 379 yards and three scores. Not bad for a player who began the week wearing a walking boot and spent the rest of it rehabbing a sprained left foot. Funny, that looked just fine when Roethlisberger came on to replace Landry Jones, who exited in the first quarter with a left ankle injury.
Jones went to the locker room and returned with the ankle heavily taped. He felt healthy enough to return but by then Roethlisberger was back to doing what he does when facing the Browns, though Roethlisberger felt obliged to share the moment with his backup as the clock ticked down.
“He said, ‘Hey, congratulations, first win as a starter,’” Jones said with a smile. “I told him I appreciate it, thanks for coming in.”
Roethlisberger’s passing total was the most in NFL history by a player who didn’t start. Jones jokingly called Roethlisberger “the most expensive backup in the NFL.”
One who was worth every penny while leading the Steelers (6-4) to a second straight victory heading into their bye week. While the AFC North might be out of reach thanks to unbeaten Cincinnati, Pittsburgh will be in the playoff mix heading toward December.
“I feel like we’re getting hot at the right time,” linebacker Arthur Moats said. “Time to get healthy and make a run for it.”
There is no such optimism in Cleveland. The Browns (2-8) have lost five straight and are 2-13 in their last 15 games under coach Mike Pettine despite a career-high 372 yards passing from Johnny Manziel.
“I don’t want to say that it was positive, after a game like this, but at least I learned a little bit today,” Manziel said.
Some other things we learned after Roethlisberger improved to 19-2 against the Browns.
BROWN DELIVERS: Facing a Cleveland secondary minus three starters, Brown went to work. The All-Pro finished with 10 catches for 139 yards and two scores. He has 27 receptions over his last two games, the third-highest total in NFL history. Brown has 79 catches through 10 games, a gaudy number that would be obscenely higher if Roethlisberger hadn’t missed a month with a sprained left knee.
BIG JOHN(NY): Manziel showed flashes of his Heisman Trophy-winning form, surviving six sacks and a facemask that turned his head nearly 180 degrees on his way to turning the Steelers into believers even while Cleveland’s coaching staff remains skeptical.
“Heck of an athlete, heck of a nice arm,” Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons said of Manziel. “He has all the intangibles that might make him a great quarterback one day.”
STATUS QUO: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said there would be no major changes during Cleveland’s bye week, though Pettine understands his floundering team needs to change course quickly.
“Where we are right now isn’t good enough,” Pettine said. “We’re challenged as a staff to do a little soul searching, come up with some answers and make sure when we come out of this break, we’re ready to go and ready to snap this streak.”
LAND OF OPPORTUNITY: Though Pittsburgh’s defense allowed Manziel to get loose, the Steelers still made a series of big plays. Mike Mitchell picked off one of Manziel’s passes at the goal line and Pittsburgh recovered a pair of Cleveland fumbles.
“If we can be consistent and let this be a building block then we can say down the road this was a good game,” defensive end Cam Heyward said.
INJURIES: Browns WR Andrew Hawkins remained at a Pittsburgh hospital overnight for observation after sustaining his second concussion in three weeks. … Jones said he’s not sure of the severity of his ankle injury. Pittsburgh’s other quarterback, Michael Vick, has been dealing with a hamstring issue.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL