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Roethlisberger dazzles hometown crowd as Steelers rally

Nov 19, 2006 - 9:26 PM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Despite being bruised and battered throughout a frustrating contest, Ben Roethlisberger ultimately enjoyed a triumphant homecoming. In doing so, he may have saved the Pittsburgh Steelers' season.

Roethlisberger threw a game-winning four-yard touchdown pass to running back Willie Parker in the final minute to lead the Steelers to a 24-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

It was the 12th time in the last 13 meetings that Pittsburgh (4-6) has beaten its AFC North Division rival.

A native of Lima, Ohio, Roethlisberger has been a huge part of that success, entering with a 3-0 record and a 99.4 passer rating against the Browns (3-7).

Roethlisberger attended Findlay High School (roughly 125 miles from Cleveland) and was the runner-up for 1999 Mr. Football honors in Ohio. He went on to star at Miami (Ohio), rewriting virtually every school record.

But despite throwing three interceptions and being sacked twice, Roethlisberger spearheaded an electric fourth-quarter comeback and kept alive the Steelers' slim hopes of returning to the postseason.

"It wasn't going well early," Roethlisberger said. "You thought to yourself, 'Here we go again.' But there was never a feeling of we're in trouble. I never felt we were in trouble."

"We're just trying to win one week at a time," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "I don't know if we've dug too deep of a hole, and maybe we have, but that group right now is playing and they're playing hard."

Cleveland took a 20-10 lead with 9:21 remaining thanks to Joshua Cribbs' 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. But Pittsburgh answered on the next possession thanks to Roethlisberger, who orchestrated a 17-play, 79-yard drive capped by Parker's one-yard TD run with 4:19 left.

"Those things happen," Cowher said of Cribbs' touchdown. "You just can't dwell on it. This team's been hardened through the course of the season. This football team has not given in to any circumstances it has been handed to this point."

The Steelers' defense stood strong on the ensuing possession, giving Roethlisberger just over three minutes to move the offense 77 yards. He did so with time to spare, directing an 11-play drive to give Pittsburgh a 24-20 lead with 39 seconds remaining.

"(Roethlisberger) was a very determined young man," Cowher said. "He was good, he battled today. We had some tipped balls that went the other way, but I like the way he kept playing."

Pittsburgh faced a 2nd-and-goal from the Cleveland 4 when Roethlisberger flashed his improvisational skill, rolling to his left before flipping the ball under-handed to Parker for the game-winner. Roethlisberger finished 25-of-44 for 272 yards and two TDs.

"I started to scramble and I was getting ready to run it," he said. "Then I saw Willie right in front of me. I knew he'd get in, so I just kind of flipped it to him."

"Ben did a great job improvising," added Parker, who ran for 46 yards on 16 carries. "My man actually blitzed. I knew I had to hurry up and get out. It was a great job by Ben and the offensive line."

The Browns had one final chance for the victory after Charlie Frye completed three straight passes to move the ball to the Steelers 22 with three seconds left. But Cleveland's bid at a miracle win fell short when Braylon Edwards could not come up with Frye's batted pass in the back-left corner of the end zone.

"It is disappointing for everyone because we played so hard this week and we were close," said Frye, who went 17-of-27 for 224 yards. "But they stole the win from us."

Cleveland jumped out to a 10-0 halftime lead thanks to second-year cornerback Daven Holly, who intercepted Roethlisberger and returned it 57 yards for his first career TD.

It also was the first career interception for Holly, who picked off Roethlisberger again later in the quarter to thwart a potential scoring drive.

But with Pittsburgh trailing, 13-3, in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger found rookie Santonio Holmes for a 20-yard score to cut the deficit to three with 9:33 left.

"There was no quit in anybody, offensively or defensively," Roethlisberger said. "It's about never quitting. It's about fighting to the end. A lot of people were putting us down and out. That's what really showed to day, that we're going to fight no matter what."

Hines Ward had 81 receiving yards on seven catches while Holmes added five receptions for 75 yards for the Steelers, who have won six straight meetings with the Browns.

"It was a sense of urgency," said Ward, who persevered through an injured ankle down the stretch. "We were behind the 8-ball, and someone had to step up and make a play. The receivers kept stepping up, and I can't say enough about Ben. He rose to the occasion and made a big play when it counted."

"Defensively, we couldn't get off the field," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "Their quarterback made some plays. That is the way it goes in the NFL."

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