PITTSBURGH - It was All Ben, All The Time at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon, and that was to be expected.
Ben Roethlisberger returned from his four-game suspension and had an efficient game in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 28-10 victory.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where your starting quarterback is suspended for the first four games of the season, this is the way you want him to come back: With two weeks of practice to knock off the rust, and facing an opponent that's not likely to make Super Bowl travel plans.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Ryan Clark (25) and Ike Taylor bring down the Browns’?Peyton Hillis.
But apart from the utter Ben-ness of Sunday's game was another demonstration of how the Steelers are playing defense.
When the team wilted down the stretch last season, the defense was in disarray.
Key starters Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu were knocked out by injuries. Veteran James Farrior was a step slow too many times.
Larry Foote, a presence on and off the field, was playing for the Detroit Lions. William Gay, a contributor in a part-time role, was overmatched as a starter.
Throw in the ages of Smith (34), nose tackle Casey Hampton (32) and Farrior (35) and there was legitimate reason for concern.
As the Steelers found out last year, you're often only a twisted knee or wrecked shoulder away from unwanted improvisation.
But right now, the Steelers are 4-1 and they owe a big part of that record to their defense.
They held the fort through the three-man quarterback roulette that unfolded during Roethlisberger's exile, and they contributed greatly in Sunday's win over Cleveland.
No one was more prominent than linebacker James Harrison, whose consistent bad mood has been a trademark of the Steelers' defensive unit for seven seasons.
Harrison delivered more knockouts than a Golden Gloves tournament, sending two Browns to the sidelines.
The first was Joshua Cribbs, whose helmet was slammed by Harrison's as LaMarr Woodley was making the tackle.
Later, Harrison made a flying tackle that ended receiver Mohammed Massaquoi's day.
"He's a beast," Hines Ward, no stranger to hard hits, said of Harrison.
"You see a guy like that - knocking guys out like that - he's a man on a mission. He set the tempo for everybody else, and that's what he brings to the table. He's our emotional leader. He's not really a vocal guy. He just goes out there and leads by example."
Harrison's hits took away a big part of the Browns offense. Cribbs is also a kick returner and the Browns like to line him in their wildcat formation.
With inexperienced Colt McCoy at quarterback, no doubt their game plan included some extra wrinkles to provide deception.
Because of Harrison, the Browns played more than half of the game without two of their receivers and a good part of their offensive scheme.
"It makes it tough," Browns coach Eric Mangini said. "You're planning to vary the attack with different things, whether it be the multi-receiver pack, the wildcat or whatever. We're out of that, and we're out of that with quite a bit of game left."
There's another effect, too. After watching two teammates wobble to the sidelines, probably a few of the Browns were keeping a close watch on No. 92 in the black and gold jersey.
As Ward said, Harrison set the tone, and it was an ominous one.
"It's always good beating up on Cleveland," Ward said.
Harrison gave that a literal meaning.
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