The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns are set for round two. The Steelers barely took round one with a last-second field goal at home after the Browns tied it in the second half with a deadly ground attack.
But the Steelers are hoping to have fixed their rushing defense, and the Browns are without one of their backs today. They’re also without three of their key defensive linemen, which means the Steelers could be in for a nice day on the ground instead.
Dri Archer returned the opening kickoff to only the 14-yard line. Lance Moore started in a three-receiver set. Markus Wheaton caught the first pass of the game for six yards, with Le’Veon Bell picking up three on the ground to make it third and one. Bell lost a yard on a pitch with Tashaun Gipson making the stop.
Brian Hoyer‘s first pass fell incomplete. On second down, Troy Polamalu was able to trip up Ben Tate for a three-yard loss. Cameron Heyward recorded his third sack of the year on third down. With a 43-yard punt, the Steelers regained possession on the 35.
LeGarrette Blount started the next possession, going for eight yards on first down. Bell back in the game picked up the first down on a four-yard run. After another three yards from Bell, Archer ran off left guard for four yards to set up third and three. Bell found the left end for 12 yards and a new set of downs.
After a pass interference penalty set up first and goal, the Steelers actually ran the ball, gaining a yard or two. From the five, they stayed on the ground with Bell for two yards, setting up third and goal from the three. Blount got the carry from a four-wide set, but was stopped after one yard. Shaun Suisham got the Steelers on the board first.
Lawrence Timmons cut through the line on first down to tackle Tate for a loss of two. On second down, he picked up the lost yardage plus one or two for another third and long. With Hoyer under pressure on third down by Jason Worilds and Sean Spence, the quarterback had to get the ball out of his hands, which fell incomplete.
The Steelers took over from midfield, with Archer getting the carry up the middle for five yards. Blount fought his way for four yards up the right side to set up third and one. After 13 straight runs excluding the pass interference, Ben Roethlisberger used play action to throw Justin Brown open for the first down.
Antonio Brown could not get back to the line of scrimmage on first down. Bell made some nice cuts for nine yards to set up a manageable third down. Five wide, the pass went to Bell for eight yards to end the first quarter.
From the 24, Blount gained close to six yards for another trip inside the red zone. A hole flashed open but closed quickly on second down to set up third and three. Roethlisberger had Wheaton for the first down, but the receiver could not get turned around fast enough. Either the hold on the punt was bobbled or the Steelers tried to run a fake, but either way, the results were disastrous, with Brad Wing losing 15 yards on the play on the 32-yard line.
With Heyward pressuring Hoyer on first down, the quarterback was forced to throw the ball away on first down. Spence made a good stick on Isaiah Crowell for a short gain. On third and six, Hoyer connected with Miles Austin just across midfield for 17 yards.
After a play action bootleg, Hoyer threw across the field, finding Jordan Cameron wide open down the field to set up first and goal. Crowell walked into the end zone on second down to take a 7-3 lead.
Archer once again ran the kickoff out of the end zone and was stopped well short of the 20. Roethlisberger threw over the shoulder to Bell on first down, but he was ruled out of bounds. He picked up about four on the ground on second down. The pass for Wheaton was broken up by Buster Skrine on third down. Spence was flagged for a false start on the punt. Wing’s punt was short and fair caught at midfield, but the Browns were flagged for holding as well.
From the 40, Tate ran up the middle for two yards, but gained nothing on second down. Heyward, however, was flagged for being offside. Tate tried to cut back to the outside, but Cortez Allen made the tackle for no gain to set up third and two. Cameron beat Allen down the field for a 51-yard touchdown, putting the Browns up 14-3.
On first down, Archer found the right sideline for 15 yards. Bell followed suit for seven yards. He was short of a first down on a pitch on second down. On third and one, Roethlisberger used play action to target Wheaton down the field, but the pass was too long. Wing punted down to the 15 and Ross Ventrone made the tackle on the spot.
But Crowell ran up the right sideline for 10 yards on first down. Hoyer found Taylor Gabriel for 24 yards on the next play. From midfield, Crowell was stopped after three yards. Crowell added another 16 yards on the next play. He dropped the ball following that, but a block from Hoyer helped him gain a yard. Gabriel had the ball at the 10, but a hit from Mike Mitchell knocked the ball loose. Hoyer found Austin, making a sliding catch, for a first down into the red zone.
After a six-yard run from Tate down to the 10, on third and two, he just barely got a first down to set up first and goal. Tate walked through the middle of the defense for eight yards into the end zone to take a 21-3 lead.
Archer once again set the Steelers up short of the 20-yard line with his kickoff return. Antonio Brown caught his first pass of the day on a back shoulder for a first down. Roethlisberger was incomplete to Wheaton on the next play. On second down, he went back to Brown again for another chunk behind the coverage. Across midfield, Roethlisberger tried to squeeze one into Bell, but it was incomplete. He was wide to Wheaton on second down. On third and 10, Bell picked up just two yards on a screen pass as the two-minute offense failed, giving the Browns 1:34 with two timeouts.
On first down, Gabriel couldn’t hold on the Hoyer’s pass. Tate was tripped up after two yards and a lot of lateral running on second down. Andrew Hawkins could not secure the third-down pass just behind him.
Roethlisberger threw down the field to Moore in tight coverage for an incompletion. He scrambled and threw deep to Justin Brown, but his foot was out of bounds. With eight seconds to play, Bell took a screen pass 16 yards to the 46-yard line for one hail mary attempt. Instead, he went short to Antonio Brown, who picked up only half the yardage.