Work in Sports
CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The "Dawg Pound" began the night with some loud barking for their beloved Cleveland Browns. By the end of the night, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned the cheers into helpless whimpers.
The Steelers made the Browns look every bit like an expansion team, rolling to a 43-0 rout in the first NFL regular season game at new Cleveland Browns Stadium.
A sellout crowd of 73,138 was on hand to celebrate the return of the Browns, who were back in the NFL after a three-year absence. But the Steelers, an old AFC Central rival, ruined the party and thoroughly dominated the Browns.
"The crowd was loud when we got started and the easiest way to take the crowd out of it is not to give them anything to cheer about," said Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who played and served as an assistant coach for the old Browns.
The Steelers (1-0) had 460 total yards to 40 for the Browns, held Cleveland to just two first downs and controlled the ball for 47:49 compared to 12:11 for the Browns. Pittsburgh ran 88 offensive plays and had 32 first downs while Cleveland ran just 28 offensive plays.
Pittsburgh rushed for 213 yards and held Cleveland to nine yards on the ground. Jerome Bettis led the Steelers with 89 yards on 18 carries.
Under new offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, the Steelers scored on eight straight possessions before Josh Miller punted for the first time late in the fourth quarter.
"Gilbride called a great game," Bettis said. "He kept their defense off balance. We didn't treat them as an expansion team.
They had experienced guys out there."
Kordell Stewart scored on a one-yard run in the first quarter and hit running back Richard Huntley with a five-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Huntley also scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter and caught a 21-yard TD pass from backup Mike Tomczak in the fourth quarter.
Rookie Kris Brown, a seventh round pick, kicked three field goals for the Steelers.
Stewart seemed more at ease in Gilbride's system and completed 15-of-23 passes for 173 yards. Tomczak replaced him in the third quarter and was 8-of-8 for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"Kordell did a great job of taking what they gave us," Cowher said. "We threw a lot at him. He's kind of absorbing it and we're going to keep throwing it at him."
Chris Palmer of the Browns suffered the worst loss for a coach making his debut since Weeb Ewbank of the Baltimore Colts absorbed a 48-0 loss to the Rams in 1954.
"We played poorly," Palmer said. "The defense just couldn't keep them off the field. We had mental errors. I'm disappointed the offense didn't execute. We were outmatched tonight."
Cleveland's Ty Detmer completed 6-of-13 passes for 52 yards.
Rookie Tim Couch, the first overall pick in the draft, was 0-for-3 with an interception.
"Everybody had a bad night tonight," Detmer said. "We never got out there thinking we're not going to move the ball. We knew they were fast on defense."
On Cleveland's first play from scrimmage, Detmer hit Leslie Shepherd with a 13-yard pass. However, three plays later safety Chris Oldham intercepted a pass by Detmer and returned it nine yards to the Cleveland 39.
Stewart hit rookie Troy Edwards with a 19-yard pass and Bettis broke off a nine-yard run to the Cleveland 11. Stewart then rushed for nine yards and scored on a one-yard run on the next play with 5:16 left in the quarter.
The Browns managed their last first down of the game when Detmer connected with Shepherd on a 19-yard play with a little more than four minutes left in the quarter.
The Steelers put together an 18-play, 79-yard drive which lasted 7:37. Brown missed a 30-yard field goal, but it was negated by an offside penalty against John Thierry. He later redeemed himself with a 19-yard field goal to cap the drive 5:04 into the second quarter.
On Pittsburgh's next possession, the Steelers drove 56 yards in six plays, capped by Stewart's TD pass to Huntley. The key play in the drive was a 42-yard pass from Stewart to Hines Ward.
A 28-yard field goal by Brown with six seconds left in the half increased Pittsburgh's lead to 20-0.
In the second half, the Browns ran 12 plays for minus-7 yards and an interception.
Huntley scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter to cap a 14-play, 76-yard drive. He rushed six times for 31 yards, and caught a 24-yard pass on a 3rd-and-12 play to highlight the drive.
In the fourth quarter, Brown kicked a 19-yard field goal, and Tomczak hit Huntley and Ward with scoring passes of 21 and one yard, respectively.
Couch relieved Detmer midway through the fourth quarter and had his first pass picked off by rookie safety Scott Shields and returned 12 yards to the Cleveland 29.
"I never expected it to be like this," Couch said. "I came in and forced the first one and after that point everything was downhill. We can't get any worse than we were tonight."