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Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers offense fail to take flight

CLEVELAND -- The Pittsburgh Steelers reached back for the fastball that put so many games away last season.

With a manageable two-touchdown lead already lost in a flurry of punts and fumbles, the Steelers' offense still had the Browns right where it wanted: Ben Roethlisberger taking the ball from the shotgun, 48 seconds left in overtime, 62 yards from the end zone.

Seconds later, Roethlisberger was picking himself off the FirstEnergy Stadium turf after another sack-fumble, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva had his face buried in his hands and the Browns thought they had set up a victory with linebacker Joe Schobert's recovery.

For both teams, the 21-21 tie was as messy as the nasty conditions it was played under. But the Steelers' passing game went flat for several long stretches, which must be concerning entering Sunday's matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs' video-game offense.

Six turnovers is inexcusable for any team, let alone one expected to be upper tier.

The Steelers' final nine drives resulted in five punts, three fumbles, eight first downs and a missed field goal, offsetting a reasonably good defensive performance and sullying the debut of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.

"It's just frustrating that you can’t make the plays down the stretch," said Roethlisberger, who finished 23-of-41 passing for 335 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. "We didn’t make them."

Sunday was a strange day for Roethlisberger, who posted several impressive plays but got burned by risky ones. He made plays with his legs (a throwback 15-yard run with a vicious stiff arm? No one expected that) and hit a 67-yarder to JuJu Smith-Schuster. His back-shoulder throw to Antonio Brown for a 22-yard score was vintage for the duo. The offense appeared to try some run-pass option plays to varying success.

The offensive line played a large role in the team's four sacks, three of which resulted in fumbles.

"I think we all took some turns [with that]," Pittsburgh guard David DeCastro said.

And Browns defensive end Myles Garrett might have been the best player on the field for stretches.

But Roethlisberger also missed throws he typically makes, held the ball longer than usual at times and never really heated up with Brown despite the 93 yards together. Their signature plays by the sideline weren't popping.

The two were on opposite pages on a deep-ball interception in the first half, with a safety closing over the top.

"We've just gotta find a way to connect," Brown said. "We don't make excuses."

The Roethlisberger-Brown pedigree suggests the two will catch fire. And Roethlisberger is known for the occasional struggles on the road. But even in sluggish games, the Steelers usually find a way to put teams away, especially this team.

The Steelers had won 80 straight games when leading by 14 or more points to start the fourth quarter, according to ESPN stats and information data.

Pittsburgh guard Ramon Foster simply called it "one of those days."

The Steelers should hope so.

"Momentum is a helluva thing," Foster said. "We got kind of stagnant and just didn't finish."