Steelers give Browns parting shot Departing Cleveland is dealt a 20-3 loss, its fifth in six games

Compassion ends on field

Zeier held to 67 yards, but keeps starting job

November 14, 1995|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

PITTSBURGH -- For nearly a week, football fans in Cleveland and Pittsburgh had become buddies, courtesy of Mr. Art Modell.

After Modell announced that his Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore eight days ago, Cleveland fans asked their Pittsburgh neighbors to wear orange armbands at last night's game in a show of support. Both groups were supposed to turn their backs to the field for a minute at the beginning of the game. And Steelers fans wore Browns T-shirts.

But that's where the hospitality ended.

The Steelers put their old nemesis into a deep hole in the AFC NTC Central race with a 20-3 victory over the Browns last night before 58,675 at Three Rivers Stadium.

Quarterback Neil O'Donnell and wide receiver Yancey Thigpen sealed the win for Pittsburgh (6-4) with a 9-yard touchdown pass with 6:13 left in the game.

Cleveland (4-6) has lost five of its last six games, including two straight since Modell's announcement.

"The question is not what went wrong, but what went right tonight," said Tony Jones, the Browns' starting left tackle.

It wasn't a bad defensive effort by the Browns, who surrendered 310 yards of total offense. But Cleveland's offense was horrendous.

The Browns had just 120 yards of total offense, only 10 in the second half. Cleveland rookie quarterback Eric Zeier completed only seven of 19 passes for 67 yards, and get this: The Browns didn't have a first down in the second half.

None.

"Yeah, it's frustrating," said Browns coach Bill Belichick. "We can't get anything going."

But Belichick said he will stick with Zeier, who made his third straight start last night, in place of Vinny Testaverde, who was having his best season in nine years as a pro.

"Eric is our quarterback, and he will be our quarterback next week," said Belichick.

This team definitely needs a shot in the arm. The Steelers started taking control of the game in the third quarter when their offense clicked immediately as O'Donnell took the Steelers from their own 40 down to the Cleveland 31. The drive stalled, though, and Norm Johnson's 48-yard field-goal attempt with 11:39 left in the period went wide right.

But nine seconds later, Steelers defensive end Ray Seals deflected a Zeier pass and linebacker Greg Lloyd made the interception and returned it to the Cleveland 43.

Six plays later, Pittsburgh had moved to the 20, setting up Johnson for another field-goal try. This time Johnson converted a 38-yard attempt -- it hit the right upright before going through -- to put the Steelers ahead 10-3 with 8:32 left in the third quarter.

Pittsburgh was on the move again later in the period. The Browns' Tom Tupa had a punt of 59 yards, but he out-kicked his coverage. Andre Hastings took the kick, darted through the middle, then moved right for a 56-yard return to the Pittsburgh 31.

The Steelers' offense was inept again, but who cared? Out jogged Johnson, who coverted on a 34-yard field goal this time to put Pittsburgh ahead 13-3 with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter.

"We have the talent to win, we're just going to have to dig way down to bring it out," said Jones. "I don't believe we came to play."

The Browns didn't use the move to Baltimore as an excuse, but there weren't too many happy players in the locker room, especially receiver Andre Rison, who had only two receptions for 22 yards.

The Browns felt just as bad after the first half. The first quarter was filled with errors and dull football. NFL officials call it parity.

The two teams managed only a combined 90 yards of total offense in the quarter, Cleveland piling up 40 yards. The Steelers had 30 yards passing, the Browns a paltry 2.

It gets worse.

Combined, the two teams had seven penalties for 65 yards. Pittsburgh advanced inside Cleveland territory only once, and that drive stalled at the Browns' 39.

Cleveland was just as ineffective. The Browns got as far as the Steelers' 37 on their first possession of the game, but Browns right tackle Orlando Brown was penalized 10 yards for holding on second-and-one. Zeier was sacked on second down, and he threw incomplete on third down to running back Earnest Byner.

The Browns also had another big play nullified late in the quarter when running back Leroy Hoard ran from the Cleveland 42 to the Steelers' 13, but Jones was called for holding.

Pittsburgh finally put together an impressive drive, going 75 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown midway in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.

O'Donnell, the former University of Maryland standout, was superb in the drive. On the first play, he completed a 24-yard pass across the middle to Charles Johnson to the Steelers' 49. Two plays later, on third down, O'Donnell threw across the middle again, this time on a 20-yard hookup to Ernie Mills to the Cleveland 25.

Then on a third-and-11 at the Browns' 26, O'Donnell waited patiently during a blitz and passed to flanker Kordell Stewart over the middle again for an 11-yard gain and a first down.

Stewart played the key part in Pittsburgh's touchdown -- but as the quarterback. The rookie from Colorado lined up in the shotgun behind center and took the snap while rolling to his right. With no receiver open, Stewart reversed his field, and then threw to Mills in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown on his first NFL pass.

Mills, however, may have been an ineligible receiver because he stepped out of bounds in the right corner of the end zone when Stewart initially rolled in that direction.

Cleveland pulled within 7-3 on a 29-yard field goal from Matt Stover as time expired to end the first half.

Zeier had completions of 17, 10, 8 and 6 yards during the 10-play, 53-yard drive.

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