The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to begin their regular season against the division rival Cleveland Browns. All of the pre-game notes and speculation have been handed out already. All of the talking is over. It’s time for meaningful football. Feel free to discuss the game here.
The Steelers won the coin toss, and in a rare instance, chose to receive the ball. It’s truly a new season.
The opening kickoff went for a touchback. On first down, Ben Roethlisberger found Le’Veon Bell for five yards. On second and five, Antonio Brown took a screen pass 41 yards past midfield to get the opening drive off to a promising start.
Bell was stopped after just a yard following the long catch and run from the All-Pro Brown. David DeCastro was flagged for a false start. Roethlisberger found Bell on a short pass on second and 14 for 25 yards and into the red zone.
From the 15, Bell was able to find the right edge and took the ball up the sideline for 11 yards to set up first and goal. Going three wide, Roethlisberger drew to Bell, but the Browns defensive line stood strong and held the back to no gain. On second and goal, Bell got another try and caught the left side of the line and into the end zone, but Kelvin Beachum was flagged for holding.
Now second and goal from the 14, LeGarrette Blount entered the game. Roethlisberger overthrew to the back. On third and goal from a long way out, Roethlisberger was brought down by Paul Kruger, who beat Marcus Gilbert. Shaun Suisham connected from 36 yards out to give the Steelers an early 3-0 lead that felt like it should have been more.
Travis Benjamin returned the ensuing kickoff, and was tackled by Sean Spence, making his regular season debut. The Browns began their opening drive just outside their own 20.
Cleveland’s opening play went to running back Ben Tate off the right side for two yards. Tate found some real estate over the right side again for seven yards to set up third and one. On third down, the Browns quick snapped, and rookie back Terrance West was able to find the first down marker.
Brian Hoyer hit tight end Jordan Cameron 47 yards down the field over Lawrence Timmons to match the Steelers’ own big play on their opening drive.
Now inside the red zone, Jarvis Jones bounced off Andrew Hawkins in the backfield, but the receiver still gained only one yard on the end around. Miles Austin got around Cortez Allen for 14 yards, but an illegal shift penalty called the play back.
Brett Keisel in the game pressured Hoyer and forced an incompletion. On third and 14, the Steelers stopped a tight end screen for just a one-yard gain. The Browns tied it up with a field goal.
Dri Archer got his first touch on first down from the 20 for a four-yard gain. Bell off tight tackle was brought down by Kruger for no gain, but on third and six, Roethlisberger found Brown once again for 16 yards.
After a two-yard loss by Bell, Heath Miller caught his first pass for six yards to set up a third and six play. A Browns injury initiated a timeout.
Following the break, Roethlisberger looked deep for Markus Wheaton and hit the second-yard player for 40-yards over rookie Justin Gilbert. Inside the 20, Bell was stopped for a short gain.
On second and eight, Roethlisberger found Wheaton again over Gilbert for seven yards. On third and one, Blount burst up the middle for the first down and more, landing in the end zone for the first Steelers touchdown of the year, giving them a 10-3 lead.
William Gay made the stop on special teams well short of the 20, and the defense hit the back for a one-yard loss on first down. On a pitch and end around, Benjamin found the left edge, narrowly avoiding Troy Polamalu in the backfield, but the receiver was still short of the first down to close the first quarter. The Browns faked the run and Hoyer couldn’t hit his tight end on the stretch play, and Cleveland was forced to punt.
The first-down pass went to Archer, but the ball bounced on the reception and thus was incomplete. Roethlisberger held on to the ball and then forced on to the sideline, but Karlos Dansby got in front of Bell for the interception at the 34.
West picked up three yards on first down after the turnover. On second down, Jones beat the tight end to sack Hoyer for a loss of 10. On third and 17, Hoyer’s pass was short and incomplete. The Browns had to punt again.
From the 11, Bell was able to find the corner for seven yards to create some breathing room. On second and three, Bell cut back up the middle for five yards and a first down. After a Browns timeout, Roethlisberger used play action, but eventually had to throw it to Bell, who found room for an explosive play near midfield.
From the Browns’ 47, the first-down pass went to Wheaton for eight yards, his third reception of his first start. On second and two, Bell stutter-stepped his way to a first down up the middle to the 35. Escaping pressure, Roethlisberger fled the pocket to the right sideline and launched the ball into the end zone for Brown for a touchdown. The Steelers took a 17-3 lead.
The Browns were called for holding on the ensuing kickoff, giving Cleveland poor starting field position once again. Hoyer threw the ball away on first down with nothing open. Polamalu chased Tate down from behind on second down after a five-yard gain. On third and five from the 14, Hoyer’s pass was once again incomplete to the Browns’ rookie undrafted slot receiver.
Brown made several receivers miss on the ensuing return, but a failed attempt to hurdle the punter resulted in a boot to the face and a 15-yard penalty. Still, Pittsburgh took over at midfield.
Roethlisberger found Justin Brown for a first down after the punt return. On the second play, Bell twisted his way through the defense for a 38-yard touchdown, giving the Steelers a 24-3 lead.
After another good special teams stop, the Browns gained three yards on first down. From the 12, Tate was able to find about 25 yards in space off the left side. After a pair of carries by West, the Browns were in third and three. From the 43, Ryan Shazier got a hand on the pass to force another punt.
A block in the back on the punt return backed the offense up to their own 10. Blount took the handoff up the middle for three yards on first down. On second down, however, he came up just short of the line of scrimmage, setting up a treacherous third and long.
Roethlisberger found Brown on a screen that came up just short of the first down, giving Brad Wing his first chance to punt. A 57-yard punt was returned just four yards, and a hold backed it up a further 10 yards.
Starting from their own 15, Jason Worilds made his presence felt, bringing down Hoyer in the backfield for his first sack of the year. On second and 18, Hawkins was smashed down after a nine-yard gain on a screen, setting up third and eight following the two-minute warning.
Following the break, Worilds was flagged for a neutral zone infraction to make the third down more manageable, but the pass was ruled incomplete, once again to the rookie undrafted receiver, with Ike Taylor ripping the ball out. Brown fair caught the ensuing punt at the 31, but a holding penalty backed it up 10 yards more.
On first down, Roethlisberger found Justin Brown agaisnt Gilbert for a first down, but Brown was flagged for offensive pass interference, while Gilbert was flagged after the catch for unnecessary roughness. Net result was a mulligan.
On the new first down, Bell only picked up a short gain on a draw. On second and seven, Brown snagged a ball out of the air for 17 yards. Roethlisberger called a timeout with the half coming to an end. Wheaton caught a second-down pass for a first down after staying inbounds to get past the marker.
A quick pass to Miller picked up nine yards to make it third and one as the Steelers used their second timeout with 30 seconds remaining. From the 39, Roethlisberger found Miller over the middle for the first down to get within field goal range. Joe Haden was flagged for holding on a heave into the end zone.
With 12 seconds left and the ball on the 24, Roethlisberger scrambled up the middle with nothing imminent down the field to make Suisham’s job easier. The Canadian kicker extended the Steelers’ lead heading into the half to 27-3.