"We have a lot of veterans who know what January football is all about," said safety Ryan Clark. "Now's the time to go play it. We kind of limped in and it would have been huge to get a bye and get guys healthy. Now we have to go and play better on the road. I believe this team can win anywhere."
Phil Dawson kicked three field goals for all of Cleveland's points.
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward had five catches and became the eighth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career catches.
Ward grabbed a shovel pass in the fourth quarter, and although it lost three yards, it got him to the milestone. Ward and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice are the only players with 1,000 receptions and more than one Super Bowl win. Ward was embraced by his teammates when he came to the sideline after his catch, but it was one of the few things worth celebrating on a sloppy day for the Steelers, who dominated the stat sheet but couldn't put the Browns away.
"It's the happiest negative-yard catch I've ever had," Ward said. "I always try to put team ahead of personal goals. But 1,000 catches and over 12,000 yards is not bad considering I was a third-round pick."
Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison was well-behaved.
The hard-hitting Harrison, who was suspended for one game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy on Dec. 8, had little impact on the game. He was credited with three tackles, but none of them will need to be reviewed by commissioner Roger Goodell.
"We played sub-par today, but got a win," Harrison said. "We need to step up next week and get better — a lot better."
Without Mendenhall, the Steelers' game plan was out the window.
And with Roethlisberger slowed by his tender ankle, Pittsburgh had to make due and did enough to improve to 23-4 against Cleveland since 1999.
With the score tied 6-6 in the third, Polamalu's interception of Wallace at Cleveland's 43 set up the Steelers' go-ahead score.
On 3rd-and-2, Wallace rolled right, and feeling pressure from backup linebacker Jason Worlids, forced a pass to tight end Evan Moore that Polamalu read perfectly and picked off near the sideline.
"Troy made a great play," said Wallace, who went only 16 of 41 for 177 yards and lost all three starts as McCoy's replacement. "I probably shouldn't have thrown it."
Roethlisberger completed two passes and the Browns jumped offsides to put it at the 7 before Redman took a handoff right and weaved his way in to make it 13-6.
Notes: Roethlisberger improved to 80-33 as a starter, 34-9 against AFC North opponents and 14-1 vs. Cleveland. ... Steelers TE Heath Miller had 2 catches, giving him 336 for his career, one more than Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. ... Dawson finished 24 of 29 and has 1,155 points — 194 behind club leader Lou Groza. Dawson is hoping to be back for a 14th season with Cleveland, which placed the franchise tag on him this year. "I gave my heart and soul to this team this year," he said. ... Browns RB Peyton Hillis left with a knee injury after gaining 30 yards on 10 carries.
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