The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to secure their first division win today in three tries, and they will be doing so in a battle of the backup quarterbacks between their own Landry Jones and the Cleveland Brown‘s Johnny Manziel. While Ben Roethlisberger is actually active, it is as the number two quarterback, and would only play if necessary. The Browns’ Josh McCown is inactive.
Also inactive due to injury for the Steelers are outside linebacker James Harrison and tight end Matt Spaeth, among others. For the Browns, two members of their starting secondary–cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner–are out, as is starting left guard Joel Bitonio. Below are the full inactives for both sides:
LB Terence Garvin
TE Matt Spaeth
LB James Harrison
S Shamarko Thomas
T Byron Stingily
QB Mike Vick
RB Isaiah Pead
CB Joe Haden
G Joel Bitonio
S Donte Whitner
WR Dwayne Bowe
TE E.J. Bibbs
CB Justin Gilbert
QB Josh McCown
The Browns won the coin toss and elected to defer. Following a touchback, Jones opened the game by getting Roosevelt Nix his first career touch, a pass for a 10-yard gain. DeAngelo Williams lost four yards on the carry on the following play. On second and 14, he could only pick up one yard. Jones’ screen pass to Antonio Brown only picked up eight, forcing the Steelers to punt. Jordan Berry‘s punt settled at the 23-yard line.
Starting in the base defense, Manziel dropped back to pass on first down, but his pass dribbled out of his hand as he attempted to throw, picked up by Arthur Moats. From the 12-yard line now, Jones avoided pressure to hit Martavis Bryant for five yards. On second and five, Williams gained only little more than one yard around right guard. Jones forced a throw into double coverage, and ended the play on the ground. Marcus Gilbert walked back into and rolled on his foot. Chris Boswell gave the Steelers the lead with a 24-yard field goal.
Boswell’s kick was returned from shallow in the end zone and brought out past the 25. From the 28, Isaiah Crowell got the first carry, stopped for a short gain. Bluffing an end around, Stephon Tuitt chased Manziel and tossed a hard pass to Crowell that he could not handle, which was nearly intercepted. On third and nine, Manziel hit a big play down the field for 61 yards.
Down to the 10, Croweel was stopped for a short loss. On second down, Manziel tried to squeeze the pass to his target into the end zone, broken up by Mike Mitchell. Now third and goal, Lawrence Timmons was able to bring the shifty Travis Benjamin down at the five-yard line to force a field goal attempt, which was good to tie the game.
Roethlisberger took over, and his first pass was a quick deep shot to Brown, just a bit over the head of the receiver. On second and 15 after a false start, his second pass hit the defender’s back looking for Brown breaking toward the middle. On third and 15, Brown somehow found the real estate after a short pass over the middle to move the sticks on a crossing route, benefiting from a couple of blocks.
Roethlisberger’s next pass was complete to Heath Miller, but for just one yard. He went long again, this time to Bryant, connecting on the bomb for a 44-yard gain, but Pierre Desir was able to cut him down from behind. Williams, for the first carry of the drive, managed just one yard as the ground game struggles mightily to get going. On second and nine, Roethlisberger completed to Markus Wheaton for seven yards. On third and two, the pass was tipped by Nate Orchard attempting to get the ball to Brown in the flat. Boswell reclaimed the lead for Pittsburgh with a 33-yard field goal to make it 6-3.
After an illegal block in the back, Manziel began from the seven. A quick screen to Benjamin picked up four. Another quick screen to the back, Duke Johnson, was stopped after just a yard, but a facemask penalty gave the Browns a first down.From the 27, Johnson was able to pick up nine out of the backfield. Anthony Chickillo, seeing his first snaps on defense, made the tackle after a first down.
Sean Spence was not fooled on a trick play that wound up with the ball in the hands of Benjamin, bringing him down on the reverse for a loss of seven yards. Back to the 34, Johnson was able to get back three yards. On third and 14, Manziel was able to complete for a 17-yard gain to Brian Hartline. Off a bootleg, his next pass was too high for an incompletion. Andrew Hawkins caught the screen pass, which was high and off-target, with the Steelers able to swarm by the time he gathered himself for a loss of one. On third and 11, Timmons was able to harass Johnson just enough to get him falling to the ground short of the first, forcing a punt.
Jacoby Jones called for a fair catch at the nine-yard line, but muffed it, and just barely was able to fall on it at the spot. He struggled to get under his two kickoffs that he settled for touchbacks as well. The veteran has certainly not had a good start to his career with Pittsburgh in five quarters plus one play.
Landry Jones returned from the locker room, but Roethlisberger remained in the game. His first pass was a completion to Brown for eight yards. On second and two, a quick out to Brown moved the chains. From the 27, Williams’ best rush of the game of five yards was negated by a penalty on Cody Wallace, the team leader in infractions. Now all the way back to the 17, Williams was dropped for a loss. On second and 17, after a neutral zone infraction, however, Roethlisberger hit a deep shot to Bryant on a fingertip catch, but he was stripped from behind gaining yards after the catch. The Browns took over at the 14-yard line after a 64-yard reception.
Steve McLendon wrestled Crowell down for a four-yard loss on first down. Manziel was complete to Gary Barnidge for 17 yards tot he 27. Barnidge was open for an 18-yard gain approaching midfield. Mitchell was dinged on the tackle. Hawkins picked up eight yards across midfield, but Johnson was hit for a short loss on second down, and a hold moved them back to second and 12. A would-be sack from Moats was negated because he brought the quarterback down by the facemask. He twisted his head around and had to leave the field.
Manziel returned before the next snap, however, and completed for seven yards. At the Steelers, 35, Allen wrapped Johnson up for a loss of four on a run blitz. On third and seven, Manziel was swarmed by a number of defenders, this time making the sack count. It was Timmons ultimately recording the sack. Punting on fourth and 17, Jones this time managed to successfully secure a fair catch inside the 10-yard line, so that is a step in the right direction.
After a short two-yard completion to Brown, Roethlisberger stepped up to hit his favorite target again for 11. Past the 20, Jesse James got his first catch of the game, for just a yard or two. Roethlisberger stepped up in the pocket again and this time found Miller with room to run, crossing midfield for 27 yards.
On the Browns’ 49, a deep shot to Bryant was incomplete, but Philip Gaines was nagged for pass interference, while Barkevious Mingo also drew a roughing the passer penalty. The latter was obviously declined, setting up the offense at the 14. After an incompletion to Williams on first down, a quick pass to Miller picked up eight yards. On third and two, Roethlisberger was sacked, tripped up as he tried to step up or scramble again, settling for a third field goal to extend the lead to 9-3.
That was the plan, but a persona foul on the Browns gave the Steelers an automatic first down, half the distance to the goal. From the four, a quick pitch and catch to Brown gave Pittsburgh the first touchdown of the game, his fourth touchdown of the year. The two-point attempt was a completed pass to Brown to extend the lead to 14-3.
On first down, Allen stripped the ball from behind on Hawkins, with Jarvis Jones recovering his second fumble in as many week, this one in excellent field position. From the 36, a dump off pass to Williams was taken 15 yards to the 21. Roethlisberger completed quickly to Wheaton at the sticks at the 10 for first and goal. Williams brought the Steelers up to 0 rushing yards on the day with a three-yard gain to the two-minute warning. From the seven, Williams got the handoff, trying to break the run outside, cutting inside, but he was stripped, Miller fortunately recovering at the three. On third and goal, Roethlisberger and Brown connected on a quick pass, but was stopped at the one. Going for it on fourth down, an incomplete pass to Brown on a deflection was negated by a defensive offside penalty. The second fourth-down attempt sailed away from Bryant in the left corner of the end zone.
The Browns took over at the half-yard line with 1:35 to play and a timeout. On first down, Manziel dove forward just to create some room as Mike Tomlin used his first timeout. Crowell was stopped for no gain on second down, triggering a second timeout. Timmons put a great hit on the back. On third down from the one, Manziel went vertical to Benjamin, but the ball fell incomplete, saving the Steelers from using their last timeout. Punting from the back of the end zone, the punt settled at the Browns’ 47-yard line.
With 1:05 on the clock and a timeout on hand, Roethlisberger has 47 yards of real estate to make up for the failed fourth-down attempt at the goal line.
Following a false start, Roethlisberger hit Brown over the middle for 21 yards. From the 32, Roethlisberger hit an effortless deep shot to Bryant for his fifth touchdown reception in as many games, his fourth catch of the game for 145 yards.
Cameron Heyward blew up Crowell for a loss on first down as the Browns were content to let the half expire. Cleveland gets the ball after the break.