Steelers tied atop AFC North after win over Browns

The Steelers (5-5) are tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North after Sunday's efficient mowing down of the winless Browns (0-11). Here's what we learned from Pittsburgh's 24-9 win over Cleveland:

1. Employing a conservative but effective game plan, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ran this contest like a preseason affair, barely dipping into the playbook during a game that saw running back Le'Veon Bell pile up 201 total yards on 36 touches. Milking the clock from wire-to-wire, Big Ben helped the Steelers chew up a wild 18-plus minutes over Pittsburgh's first two drives. Bell (28/146/1) crossed the 100-yard rushing mark midway through the third quarter against a Browns defense allowing a ridiculous 158.6 ground yards per game over their past seven tilts. Fantasy heads will scoff at Roethlisberger's 4.6 yards per attempt, but the real-life game script never asked him to do more than lob paint-by-numbers throws to Antonio Brown (8/76) and Bell (8/55) against a sub-zero Browns pass rush.

2. It was a minor victory for Cleveland's woeful defense to hold the Steelers to field goals over their first two drives, but Hue Jackson's offense took another step back. Rookie passer Cody Kessler was picked on the opening drive for an attack that finished 4 of 15 on third down and plummeted to just 3.4 yards per play against a swarming Pittsburgh defense that piled up eight sacks. Kessler completed just three first-half passes before a vicious Lawrence Timmons hit knocked him out of the game with a possible concussion in the third quarter. That brought on veteran Josh McCown, who engineered a touchdown drive before suffering a strip sack that Pittsburgh's Javon Hargrave took into the end zone for a game-ending touchdown. Nothing will change in Cleveland until this ghastly front five learns to protect the quarterback and open holes for a unit that ran for just 33 yards.

3. How little does Steelers coach Mike Tomlin think of Cleveland's offense? Pittsburgh's final drive before the half told us everything we need to know. Nursing a 6-0 lead, the Steelers refused to kick a field goal, with Roethlisberger firing an incompletion into the end zone as the second quarter expired. A Browns penalty handed Pittsburgh a fresh set of downs with 00:00 remaining, but the Steelers again refused to kick, with Big Ben throwing another incompletion. Yet another Browns penalty was called, though, giving the Steelers one final shot. Refusing to give up, Pittsburgh handed the ball to Bell, who punched it in for the score. The Steelers then dialed up a two-point conversion to go up 14-0 at the break.

4. With his second half sack of Kessler, ageless Steelers pass rusher James Harrison set a franchise record with 77.5 takedowns over his remarkable 14-year career.

5. Tied atop the AFC North with Baltimore, Pittsburgh now faces upcoming games against the Colts, Giants, Bills, Bengals, Ravens and Browns. As for Cleveland, the ominous 0-16 season remains in play barring an unlikely win over their next five tilts.