CLEVELAND — Pittsburgh Steelers’ four-point fourth-quarter lead was in the hands of its back-up running back Isaac Redman.
Those hands proved to be unreliable.
Redman fumbled on two consecutive Pittsburgh possessions to the Browns golden opportunities to take the lead.
As if the Browns wanted to display a microcosm of the 2011 season, their offense failed to score any points off the two turnovers.
“We just got to keep trying and keep giving (the offense) the ball,” said Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who recovered Redman’s second fumble with 5:49 left in the game. “It just didn’t go our way.”
It went the Steelers way for the 16th time in 17 meetings between these two teams including two times in 2011. Yet, for the second time this season, the Browns defense held the Steelers offense in check.
“(The defense is) opportunistic,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “We kept points off the board. With our team you can’t look at total yardage. You got to focus on points surrendered and turnovers and those types of things. We found away to get some fumbles.”
In two meetings against Pittsburgh, the Steelers have scored 27 total points. The Browns lost to the Steelers at home to end the 2010 season 41-9.
“We’re really close,” Haden said. “It’s just like I said, it’s a couple of plays. We’re losing by four points, losing by six points. We just need to find a way at the end of the game to come up with a big play, come up with the big stop, come up with the score and the season will be totally different.”
On Sunday, the Steelers’ big play came midway through the third quarter.
Pittsburgh tied the game at 6 with 9:47 left in the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, Troy Polamalu intercepted Seneca Wallace.
“Got lucky I guess,” Polamalu said. “They just had a flat curl route and I was just going wherever the ball was going.”
The Steelers then drove 43 yards in six plays culminating in a 5-yard touchdown run by Redman.
In the end, the Steelers scored seven points off the Browns one turnover. The Browns scored zero points off the Steelers two turnovers.
“We need to find a way to get more points and we’ll find a way as we move forward,” Shurmur said.
This season, the Browns allowed 307 points (19.1) while scoring 218 (13.6).
“(The offense) did some things well again tonight,” Wallace said. “We showed a lot of improvement. Greg (Little) had a big game against Arizona. Peyton (Hillis) started to run the ball well. We moved the ball. We showed a lot of improvement and the guys continued to work hard. That’s all you can ask for. Hopefully that will carry over into the offseason.”
CRIBBS WALKS THE WALK: After calling this game the Browns “Super Bowl,” Cribbs finished with a season-best 91 yards receiving on seven catches. He also had three special teams tackles to finish as the Browns’ team leader with 14.
“I know how important this game is to the fans,” Cribbs said. “That’s what football is all about – snowy, rainy, muddy. The conditions are excellent for football. I love it, our fans love it and we just have to find a way to win. I try to do everything I can to help my team win.”
“Josh shows up in these types of games,” Shurmur said. “He’s a very tough player. He loves to play the game. When the conditions get bad and things get gritty, that’s when Josh shows up. That’s what I appreciate.”
DAWSON DOES IT AGAIN: For the fourth time this season, all the points in one game were off the right foot of Phil Dawson.
Dawson kicked a 26-, 45- and 49-yarder in the swirling winds at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“Today was a really tough day,” Dawson said. “The wind, the temperature, the wet and the field, it was the perfect storm. You have to either use (the weather) to your advantage or let it sink you. I had to make a decision several years ago to figure out how to make it my advantage and kick well here.”
Dawson finished the season 24-for-29 on field goals, 20-for-20 on extra points and, most notably, 7-for-8 from more than 50 yards.
“I gave my heart and soul to this team this year,” Dawson said. “I feel pretty good about it.”
Entering this season, Dawson was given the Browns’ franchise tag and he signed a one-year tender for about $3.25 million. He will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
SHEARD SIZZLES: Browns rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard sacked Ben Roethlisberger around the 10-minute mark of the second quarter. The 13-yard loss forced the Steelers to try a 45-yard field goal that went wide left.
Sheard finished this season with 8.5 sacks, which is the second-most by a Browns rookie since Kamerion Wimbley had 11 sacks in 2006.
HILLIS HURT: Browns running back Peyton Hillis injured his knee in the second half and did not return to the game. Shurmur said after the game there was “nothing more to report” on his injury.
DRAFT POSITION: Since the Browns won 10 games in the 2008 regular season, the franchise has 18 regular-season wins in four seasons.
This year, the Browns finished with the league’s third-worst record at 4-12.
Indianapolis Colts, at 2-12, will have the first pick in April’s draft followed by St. Louis Rams (2-12), Minnesota Vikings (3-13), Browns (4-12) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12).
AFC NASTY NORTH: Three of the four AFC North teams qualified for the playoffs this season. Baltimore is the No. 2 seed followed by Pittsburgh at No. 5 and Cincinnati at No. 6.
The Browns went 0-6 against their three AFC North opponents.
“We’ve got to win games and I’m obviously not at peace with that (record),” Shurmur said. “We’ve got to win more games and that’s the bottom line and I get that. Now, we’ll get to the business of doing what we have to do to get our team as right as we can make it for next season.”