The Steelers will enter the new year with their best record since 2004 but without the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
Playing without five offensive starters and with a third-string center for much of the game, the Steelers held off the pesky-but-winless Cleveland Browns, 28-24, in the regular-season finale Sunday on an 11-degree day at Heinz Field.
The win gave the Steelers a 13-3 record heading into the postseason, their best finish since going 15-1 in 2004. But the New England Patriots, also 13-3, defeated the New York Jets, 26-6, to claim home-field advantage in the AFC.

Armed with a first-round bye, the Steelers will open play in the divisional round Jan. 13 or 14 at Heinz Field.
The Browns, who erased a pair of 14-point deficits to forge a 21-21 tie early in the third quarter, completed just the second 0-16 season in NFL history, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in that category.
JuJu Smith-Schuster completed his rookie regular season with nine catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. His biggest play, however, was a 96-yard kickoff return that gave the Steelers a 28-21 lead in the third quarter.

Landry Jones, starting in place of a resting Ben Roethlisberger, completed 23 of 27 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Stevan Ridley, playing for Le’Veon Bell, had 83 yards rushing and a touchdown.
The Steelers, needing five sacks to tie the franchise single-season record of 55, brought down Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer six times.
Tyson Alualu got the record-setting sack early in the fourth quarter.

The defense held the Browns to minus-16 yards in the first quarter but spent the rest of the game giving up yards in chunks. The Browns finished with 374 yards, and Kizer had 314 passing.
A forced fumble by William Gay and interception by Sean Davis in the fourth quarter helped the Steelers stave off the upset. A final Browns drive ended at the Steelers 27 inside the two-minute warning when Corey Coleman dropped a pass at the 11 on fourth-and-2.
Coach Mike Tomlin sat Roethlisberger, Bell, defensive end Cam Heyward and offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro. Wide receiver Antonio Brown missed his second game in a row because of a lower-leg contusion.

Pouncey’s backup, B.J. Finney, left in the first half with a right thigh injury. That left the Steelers with their third option at center, Chris Hubbard, who finished the game and had some wayward snaps to Jones.
Rashard Higgins had two touchdown catches for the Browns, his second pulling Cleveland into a 21-21 tie with 10:54 left in the third quarter.
The score remained tied for all of 12 seconds.
Smith-Schuster took the ensuing kickoff at the 4 and sprinted 96 yards for a touchdown, eluding three potential tackles as he ran to the end zone.
It was the first time a Steelers player returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Antonio Brown’s 98-yarder on Sept. 19, 2010, at Tennessee.
Zane Gonzalez kicked a 51-yard field goal with 2:04 remaining in the quarter to pull the Browns within 28-24.
The Browns answered with touchdowns after the Steelers had taken 14-0 and 21-7 leads.

Kizer, who had one completion of at least 40 yards the entire season, had a 56-yard touchdown pass to Higgins and a 54-yard completion to Josh Gordon that set up a 2-yard touchdown run.
Jones threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Smith-Schuster early in the second quarter. Ridley added a 4-yard touchdown run.
In the first quarter, Darrius Heyward-Bey scored a 29-yard touchdown on a reverse to provide the Steelers a 7-0 lead.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.