'Big Ben' leads Steelers past Browns in emotional send-off

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Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFL game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field (AFP/Justin Berl) (Justin Berl)
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  • Ben Roethlisberger
    Ben Roethlisberger
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Ben Roethlisberger bid farewell to Heinz Field with a 26-14 win over the Cleveland Browns in what is likely to be the quarterback's final home for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.

With the clock ticking on the two-time Super Bowl champion's time in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger passed for 123 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers kept their NFL playoff hopes alive.

If this is to be the final lap of Big Ben's 18-year NFL career, Monday's performance turned back the clock.

"I am at a loss for words," the 39-year-old Roethlisberger said.

"I am so thankful for this place and these fans. There is no place like it.

"I have called this place home for almost half my life."

His family came onto the field to join him as many of the fans remained in the stadium well after the final horn sounded.

The future Hall of Famer took his time leaving the field, walking the perimeter of the stadium shaking hands of people who pressed up against the railings and soaking in the cheers from the adoring Steeler faithful who chanted "Thank you Ben" during the game.

"I wish I could bottle this and have it forever," Roethlisberger said.

"I was born in Ohio but I live here. This place Heinz Field is so special to me and means so much to my family."

The Steelers remain in the playoff hunt after the win over the Browns, who have been eliminated from the AFC postseason.

The Steelers (8-7-1) must now win their final game in Baltimore next week and receive some help to wrap up one of the conference's seven playoff spots.

They are a half-game behind the Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers entering the final week of the regular season. The Raiders and Chargers face each other next weekend.

Roethlisberger had plenty of help on Monday. Rookie Najee Harris ran for a career-best 188 yards and a touchdown while Chris Boswell kicked four field goals.

The same could not be said for embattled Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was sacked nine times, including four times by T.J. Watt.

"This is the story of my career. It is not always pretty but we found a way to win," said Roethlisberger.

Heading into the game, Roethlisberger ranked fifth in NFL history with 63,721 passing yards and eighth with 416 passing touchdowns.

This season, he has passed 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Harris had 28 carries and also broke the franchise's single-season rookie rushing record with 1,172 yards. He surpassed Hall of Famer Franco Harris, who had 1,055 yards in 1972.

Mayfield completed 16 of 38 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Browns, who dropped to 7-9 on the season. David Njoku and Harrison Bryant caught touchdown passes.

Mayfield told reporters after the game that he was dealing with some injuries and wasn't sure if he would be able to play next week.

"Now it’s time for me to start looking at what’s best for me and my health," he said. "I’m pretty damn beat up right now.”

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