To the Cleveland Browns, it was Steelers linebacker James Harrison who was the game's impact player. Twice.
Roethlisberger, cheered loudly during his first game in 91/2 months, returned from his four-game suspension to throw three touchdown passes, and the Steelers shut down a Browns offense that was depleted by Harrison hits during a 28-10 victory on Sunday.
With the Steelers (4-1) leading 7-3 but backed up to their own 4 late in the third quarter, Roethlisberger completed passes of 50 yards to Mike Wallace and 36 yards to Heath Miller on successive plays.
Three plays later, Hines Ward fought through two potential tacklers on an 8-yard touchdown catch that made it 14-3.
Roethlisberger also threw scoring passes of 29 yards to Wallace and 14 yards to Miller. He finished 16 of 27 for 257 yards during his first regular-season game since he was accused of, but not charged with, sexually assaulting a Georgia college student in March.
At the time, numerous Steelers fans professed to be outraged with the quarterback's actions. Except for 20 sign-carrying protesters outside Heinz Field, that anger wasn't evident as Roethlisberger received numerous loud ovations from the standing-room crowd of 65,168.
"I started thinking about it on the way here," said Roethlisberger, who once worried that his reception would be chilly. "Before the game I got emotional. To hear the cheers was something special. I got a little emotional."
The Browns (1-5) couldn't get into the end zone until rookie Colt McCoy threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Ben Watson with Pittsburgh already up by 18 points.
McCoy (23 of 33, 281 yards, five sacks) didn't look overwhelmed in his first NFL start, but he played with a depleted cast after Harrison hits sidelined wide receivers Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi with head injuries during the second quarter.
"We had our hands full with those guys," McCoy said. "They're really fast, they're really good."
The Steelers , beating Cleveland for the 13th time in 14 games, moved into first place in the AFC North as Baltimore (4-2) lost to New England.