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

Compassion ends on field

Stewart 1st pass TD

Zeier held to 67 yards

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 one 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. And then 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 was enough as far as the Steelers were concerned.

The Steelers practically knocked their old nemesis out of the AFC Central race with a 20-3 victory over the Browns last night before a crowd of 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 4:06 left that put the Steelers ahead 20-3.

Kordell Stewart, the former Colorado quarterback now playing flanker for Pittsburgh, also threw for a touchdown on his first NFL pass.

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

"Everybody keeps talking about Baltimore and bringing it up," said Browns coach Bill Belichick. "It's not as big as last week, but it's still there."

But Browns rookie quarterback Eric Zeier, who was held to 67 yards passing on seven completions, refused to use the upcoming move as an excuse.

"We're going to have to turn this around, and do something about our situation," he said. "We didn't make the proper adjustments. Baltimore is no excuse. We should be motivated past that now."

The Steelers started taking control of the game in the third quarter when their offense clicked immediately as O'Donnell led a drive from the Pittsburgh 40 to the Browns' 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 down to the 20, setting up Johnson for another field goal. This time Johnson converted a 38-yard attempt, hitting the right upright, but putting the Steelers ahead 10-3, with 8:32 left in the third quarter.

Zeier struggled most of the night, completing seven of 19 passes.

But constant Steelers' pressure (four sacks) was perhaps as big a factor as Zeier's rookie status.

"Anytime you can't protect the quarterback, it's the offensive line's fault," said tackle Tony Jones. "That's our responsibility. We had to dig deep down right now, to dig ourselves out. The question isn't what went wrong tonight, but what went right?"

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

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

Erric Pegram ran for 112 yards on 26 carries, 76 of them in the second half as the Steelers sat on leads of 7-3, 10-3, 13-3 and 20-3. It was their first 100-yard rushing game since the now-retired Barry Foster's 133 yards in the Steelers' 29-9 playoff victory over Cleveland last season.

The first quarter was filled with errors and dull football. National Football League officials like to call it parity.

Between the two teams, they managed only 90 yards of total offense in the quarter. Cleveland had 40 yards, the Steelers had 50. 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 to running back Earnest Byner on third down.

The Browns also had another big play nullified late in the quarter when running back Leroy Hoard (seven carries, 43 yards) ran from the Cleveland 42 down to the Steelers' 13, but Jones was called for holding.

Pittsburgh finally put together an impressive 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive midway in the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead.

O'Donnell, the former University of Maryland star, 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 down to the Cleveland 25.

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