Despite blowing a 27-3 first half lead, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to hang on and beat the Cleveland Browns 30-27 in their 2014 regular season opener at Heinz Field thanks to a 41-yard field goal by kicker Shaun Suisham as time expired.
Suisham’s game winning kick was set up by second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton, who hauled in a 20-yard pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the Browns 24-yard-line with under 30 seconds left to go in regulation. That catch followed an 11-yard reception by Wheaton that moved the ball into Browns territory.
Wheaton, who missed a lot of playing time during his rookie season due to a finger injury, finished the game with six receptions for 97 yards. Last season the former third-round draft pick out of OregonState caught six passes for 64 yards all season.
After catching five passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in the first half, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown failed to register a catch in the second half.
As for Roethlisberger, who finished the game 23-of-34 passing for 365 yards with one touchdown and one interception, he threw for a career-high 278 yards in the first half on 16 completions.
After only giving up 101 yards of offense in the first half, the Steelers defense couldn’t seem to stop the Browns in the second half. With a heavy use of misdirection runs ands play-action passing, the Browns offense scored 24 unanswered points on their first four second half possessions.
Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer played reasonably well against the Steelers after a shaky first half and he finished the game 19-of-31 passing for 230 yards and one touchdown.
The turning point of the game seemed to come midway through the fourth quarter when Steelers upback Robert Golden connected with gunner Antwon Blake on a fake punt pass on fourth down from the Steelers own 20-yard-line. While the Steelers offense couldn’t convert another first down on that drive after that 25-yard play, it provided a big boost in field position that allowed punter Brad Wing to pin the Browns back deep inside their own territory thanks to his 38-yard punt.
The Steelers defense still struggled on that ensuing drive, but managed to keep the Browns from scoring a fifth-consecutive possession.
The Steelers defense allowed the Browns to rush for 183 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in the game and three of those runs went for 22 yards or more. Browns rookie running back Terrance West finished the game with 100 yards rushing on 16 carries after replacing starter Ben Tate, who was forced from the game in the first half with a concussion.
The Steelers will have a short amount of time to fix things as they will play the Baltimore Ravens on the road Thursday night. The Ravens lost their Sunday regular season opener to the Cincinnati Bengals at home 23-16.