Troy Polamalu, the Pittsburgh Steelers safety, returned to the starting lineup after missing two games, as the Steelers crushed division rival Cleveland Browns 41-9 on Sunday.
Polamalu was out for two games but did not miss a beat during the downtime. He intercepted a pass by Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy in the first quarter. On the ensuing possession, the Steelers scored a touchdown.
The win was an important one for the Steelers (12-4), who were trying to stay a game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens and, with the win, clinched the number two seed in the AFC, earning themselves a first-round playoff bye. The Steelers will play the highest-ranked team who survives the wild card round.
For the Browns (5-11), this may have been head coach Eric Mangini’s last game. According to NFL.com, Mangini is to meet with the team’s president Mike Holmgren to discuss his future. The Browns have lost four straight.
With the Steelers taking an early lead in the first half, Pittsburgh was able to rest quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the second half. Roethlisberger completed 15 of 22 of his passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Rashard Mendenhall rushed for two more touchdowns.
The Associated Press noted that Roethlisberger has thrown 158 consecutive passes without an interception.
McCoy was generally dominated by the Steelers defense. He threw three interceptions and was sacked four times.