PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh played like it didn’t want its season to end. Cleveland looked as though it couldn’t wait to pack things up and go home.
The Browns got their wish. The Steelers did not.
Le’Veon Bell ran for 90 yards and a touchdown as Pittsburgh drubbed lifeless Cleveland 20-7 on Sunday. It wasn’t quite enough to secure an unlikely playoff spot. The Steelers (8-8) were eliminated from postseason contention when San Diego edged Kansas City 27-24 in overtime on Sunday evening.
Pittsburgh went 6-2 over the final eight weeks to rally from a miserable start, but failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season.
The rapid development of Bell helped Pittsburgh’s remarkable turnaround. He broke Hall of Famer Franco Harris’ team record for total yards from scrimmage by a rookie by combining for 96 yards in the muck at Heinz Field. Bell finished with 1,259 total yards in just 13 games, 24 more than the mark of 1,235 Harris set in 1972.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 179 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions as Pittsburgh (8-8) won its third straight to avoid the franchise’s first losing season since 2003.
Roethlisberger finished with 4,261 yards passing, the second-highest total in team history to his 4,328 in 2009.
Jason Campbell passed for 240 yards for the Browns (4-12), who lost seven straight to end the year.