The Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the first half against the Cleveland Browns, sporting a 27-3 lead. Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown while running backs LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell both took the ball in.
On first down, Brian Hoyer found Andrew Hawkins for 16 yards, and Ike Taylor was flagged for a facemask, adding on 15 yards to the end of the play. Terrance West found room for 22 yards on the next play well into Steelers territory.
After a short gain, Hoyer found Miles Austin for 17 yards to set up first and goal. Isaiah Crowell punched it in from four yards out on second down, cutting the Steelers’ lead to 27-10.
Dri Archer showed some explosiveness on his kick return, returning it to the 40, but Terence Garvin was flagged for holding, adding yet another special teams penalty to a long list and giving the Steelers the ball at the six.
Bell picked up one yard on first down. Still feeling the pressure of the end zone, Roethlisberger handed off to Bell again for two yards to set up third and seven. Darrius Heyward-Bey came on for third down in a five wide set. Roethlisberger took off for a short gain with nothing open. A holding penalty was declined.
Brad Wing‘s punt was fair caught on the Steelers’ 49, but a hold on the Browns backed it up 10 yards.
The rookie West picked up six yards on first down. Keeping with the hurry up, Ryan Shazier planted the big back, but he stayed on his feet at first. On third and three, the short throw was incomplete, but the Steelers were flagged for hands to the face, resulting in a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down.
After the penalty, Hoyer found Austin to 20 yards down to the 28. An 11-yard pickup brought the Browns inside the 20. Crowell found a seam on second down and found the end zone from 15 yards out to cut the lead to 27-17 in short order. Barely five minutes gone in the half.
Roethlisberger threw to Justin Brown over the middle on first down for 18 yards. Browns cornerback Buster Skrine was injured on the play. He got up and limped to the sideline.
With a pause and a stutter step, Bell found six yards after the first pass. On second and four, Roethlisberger found Bell in the air for the first down, making a defender miss for a couple extra yards. Empty set, Brown somehow snagged a hot pass from Ben over the middle, but a hold on the defense gave them an automatic first down.
Bell somehow found an opening after it seemed the Browns had a shot at him in the backfield, gaining four yards. Roethlisberger was sacked on second down to make it third and 12. From the 43, the snap was on the ground and Roethlisberger had to contain it, resulting in another sack.
The Browns took over from their own 18 after the punt, picking up a yard on first down. Hoyer’s pass was complete for a first down. Steve McLendon made the stop on West for a loss of two on the following play. Hoyer’s second-down pass was incomplete with William Gay in coverage. On third and 12, Hawkins reeled in a 25-yard pass for the conversion.
Another 20-yard pickup off play action put the Browns inside the 25. West once again found room off the leaky left side for a first down. From the 14, West picked up two yards on first down.
On third and one, Hoyer missed handoff and resulted in a busted play for a loss, as the Browns had to settle for a field goal. Still, Cleveland was able to cut it to a one-possession game after entering the half trailing by 24 points.
Archer’s return of the ensuing kick only reached the 10-yard line. Roethlisberger’s first-down pass saw nobody home. On second down, he fired deep for Markus Wheaton, but the ball was overthrown. Roethlisberger was sacked on third down as Marcus Gilbert has struggled in pass protection. Wing punted from the back of the end zone, fair caught at the Browns’ 49.
Hawkins picked up five yards across midfield on first down. West picked up the first down. Looking deep, Taylor got in front of a pass in the end zone that should have been intercepted. Crowell, however, easily gained a first down and more off that porous left side.
On the following play, Shazier cut into the backfield to tackle Crowell for a four-yard loss, but Hawkins was left wide open at the first-down marker, inside the 10-yard line.
On first and goal, Hoyer found Benjamin in the far corner of the end zone to tie the game.
On first down, Heath Miller was flagged for holding, making it first and 20 from the 10-yard line. Bell picked up eight yards on first down, but only two on second down, setting up third and 10. Roethlisberger’s pass in Brown’s direction was incomplete.
However, the Steelers ran a fake punt at this crucial juncture, and Robert Golden found Antwon Blake for 21 yards.
Near midfield, Bell picked up five yards on two carries. On third and five, the pass to Justin Brown was incomplete. The ball was in his hands before getting hit by multiple defenders. Wing’s punt was fair caught near the 10. A personal foul made it half the distance to the goal.
Hoyer found his receiver for 13 yards from first down starting at the six. On the second play of the drive, however, West was bottled up for no gain. Pressure from Cameron Heyward forced an incompletion, but he was flagged for hands to the face.
West once again found room up the left side of the defense for nine yards. He escaped Cortez Allen at the third level for 29 yards into Steelers territory. Austin caught a short pass for three yards. Allen nearly intercepted the ball on second down, but it was ruled incomplete. On third and seven, after the failure to turn the ball over, Gay was in coverage with Hoyer forcing it in a tight window for an incompletion. The defense, finally, held to force a punt just outside field goal range.
The Browns were flagged for a delay of game, and then for a false start, before the punt. Cleveland nearly down the ball at the one, but it was ruled a touchback, just barely. Big break.
Roethlisberger found Bell on a short catch and run for 19 yards on first down. He stayed on his feet across midfield for a first down, going over 100 yards on the ground on the carry and closing in on 200 total yards.
From the 50-yard line, Bell could only pick up two yards on first down. Roethlisberger found Justin Brown for seven yards to make it third and one. The Browns smothered Blount far into the backfield for a four-yard loss, giving Cleveland the ball back with two minutes to play.
The Browns began their go-ahead attempt at the 20 after a touchback with 1:53 to play and two timeouts.
On first down, Heyward was able to get penetration and sacks Hoyer for a loss of six yards. On second and 16, double coverage resulted in an incompletion. 1:04 to play and the Steelers have two timeouts entering third and long. Gay cut down Hawkins on a screen in the backfield for a loss of five on the play.
The Steelers have just under a minutes and one timeout to win.
Brown let the punt roll all the way to the Steelers’ 43-yard line. Now 47 seconds remaining. Bell picked up two yards on first down. Wheaton went up to grab a first-down pass at the 44, using the Steelers’ last timeout with 20 seconds left. Roethlisberger found Wheaton across the middle for a huge 20-yard gain, and Ben got up to the line to spike the ball.
From 41 yards out, Shaun Suisham banged it home to give the Steelers the 30-27 victory with time expiring. They did their best to give the game away, but Roethlisberger and the offense finally cracked the scoreboard with no time left in the second half.