More NFL coverage on D4, D10The Pittsburgh Steelers did what they had to do to beat the Cleveland Browns, who did everything possible to beat themselves.

The result Sunday: a 17-7 win by the Steelers to ensure themselves the easiest possible road to the Super Bowl. It's a trip the franchise hasn't taken in 15 years.Pittsburgh won Sunday on the arm of Neil O'Donnell and the back of Barry Foster, who ran for 106 yards despite two broken vertebrae. They also got plenty of help from the Browns, who had three turnovers and 10 penalties for 96 yards, including two that led directly to two Pittsburgh touchdowns in the first quarter.

"We're not going to say we're not the best. When you've won, you've won," Pittsburgh linebacker Greg Lloyd said. "You can't say we got lucky, because we won the game."

The win, Pittsburgh's seventh straight, left the Steelers at 12-3 and clinched both the AFC Central title and home field advantage for the conference playoffs. In six of the last seven years, the AFC team with the home field advantage has gone on to the Super Bowl. The Steelers themselves were the lone exception - two years ago.

Cleveland (10-5) is in the playoffs as a wild-card.

"There's a distinct advantage to being home. There's an energy we drew from the crowd today," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said of the 60,808 fans, the largest crowd ever at Three Rivers.

"Hopefully, that's a sign of what's going to take place in the future."

Sunday's game could be divided into two distinct parts - the first quarter, when the Steelers jumped to a 14-0 lead and outgained Cleveland 155-14, and the final three, when Pittsburgh sat back and watched Vinny Testaverde and the Browns self-destruct time after time.

The self-destruction actually started on the game's first possession, when Cleveland's Benny Thompson jumped offside on a Mark Royals punt on fourth-and-1 from the Browns' 45, giving Pittsburgh a first down. On the next play, Neil O'Donnell found Yancey Thigpen deep for a 40-yard touchdown pass as the ball went right through the hands of Cleveland safety Stevon Moore.

It continued on the second series when an interference call on Don Griffin set up a 1-yard TD run by Foster.

Then it was Cleveland's time to figure out ways to lose on offense, including:

- An interception Testaverde threw to Gary Jones to deprive the Browns of an almost sure field goal.

- Another interception by Chad Brown that set up Pittsburgh's other score, a 49-yard fourth-quarter field goal by Gary Anderson. "The ball was wet," said Testaverde, who was 21 of 42 for 250 yards.

- A taunting penalty on rookie Derek Alexander that stopped Cleveland's opening drive of the second half - just when the Browns seemed to have momentum. They had scored to close the first half on a 14-yard TD pass from Testaverde to Mark Carrier and the Alexander had just caught a 14-yard third-down pass to the Pittsburgh 39 when he drew the flag by spiking the ball near Lloyd.

"They were out there saying stuff, but I wasn't taunting," Alexander said. "It was definitely a crucial play in the game. It killed a drive. It pushed us back."

"We shot ourselves in the foot early on and put ourselves in a hole we couldn't get back out of," said defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry. "We have to put back-to-back games together and we can't do that with the mental errors and the costly penalties we made."

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, took care of the ball.