The Pittsburgh Steelers close out their regular season schedule against the Cleveland Browns, hoping that it won’t be their last game of the season altogether. To ensure that, they must win today, and the Jets must also lose, but the Steelers can only control part of that equation, leaving the rest up to the Bills.
They will have nearly a full complement of players in order to do so, with Martavis Bryant active after dealing with an illness during the week, but the Browns will not be so lucky, down several cornerbacks. Starter Charles Gaines is inactive as his girlfriend is in labor, while Tramon Williams will also not play.
Inactives for the Steelers:
QB Mike Vick
T Byron Stingily
DE L.T. Walton
RB Jordan Todman
WR Sammie Coates
LB L.J. Fort
CB Doran Grant
Inactives for the Browns:
QB Johnny Manziel
WR Marlon Moore
CB Tramon Williams
RB Glenn Winston
CB Charles Gaines
WR Dwayne Bowe
LB Armonty Bryant
The Browns won the coin toss and deferred, meaning, once again, the Steelers will open the game with the ball–for about the 15th time this season. Markus Wheaton returned the opening kickoff to about the 22-yard line from the one.
Ben Roethlisberger took the field to start the game, as did Darrius Heyward-Bey in an 11 look. The pass went to Heyward-Bey for an eight-yard pickup. On second and short, out of the shotfun in an empty backfield, Roethlisberger overthrew Antonio Brown on a simply short pass. On third and two, it was another short pass angling toward the sideline to Brown for the conversion.
From the 33, DeAngelo Williams took the pitch, but only picked up a yard for his first carry of the day, giving him 900 yards for the season. On second and long, Roethlisberger found Brown for the first down, making one defender miss for the first down, but the ball spilled out before he was tackled, recovered by the Browns with good field position.
Taking over from the 39, Austin Davis threw a quick bubble screen to Travis Benjamin for a short gain. Isaiah Crowell was bottled up for no gain on second down. On third and five, Davis overthrew his receiver down the field, and the ball bounced right off of Mike Mitchell‘s chest for what should have been an easy interception. The Browns went for it on fourth down from the 34 and completed, but came up a yard short. The Steelers take over again at the 30.
On first down, following a false start, Williams was stopped after a two-yard gain up the middle. On second and 13, Roethlisberger found Brown on the left side, again making the cornerback miss against a big cushion for a gain of 27 yards. After a check down to Williams for seven, Roethlisberger went back to Brown for the first down.
From the 34, a screen pass to Bryant was snuffed out for no gain. Roethlisberger hit Brown on a vertical slant for another big gain of 26 yards that set up first and goal. On first down, Roethlisberger completed to Williams for six yards to the two, then found Heath Miller for the touchdown to take the 7-o lead, pulling the ball down before finding him in the back of the end zone. Chris Boswell‘s extra point broke a tie with Kris Brown for the most points scored by a rookie or first-year player in team history.
The Browns got a long return on the ensuing kickoff, but it was brought back by a block in the back, with Ross Ventrone the one drawing the penalty. Taking over from the 21, Davis connected with Gary Barnidge for six yards. The quick slant to Benjamin produced five yards, but he took a good clean hit from Antwon Blake at the end of it.
From the 33, Benjamin was able to draw an illegal contact call against Blake down the sideline for a five-yard penalty. From the 38, Ryan Shazier was able to chase Davis for the sack, with the young quarterback failing to throw the ball away after clearing the pocket. The result was a six-yard loss. On second down, Duke Johnson was tackled for a loss of one, setting up third and 17. Will Allen came storming up the middle on a blitz for his fourth sack of the season.
On first down, Roethlisberger threw an interception to Jordan Poyer for yet another short field after a turnover.
On first down, the Steelers were able to stop the screen pass for no gain at the 24. On second and 10, however, Crowell found the hole on a stretch run for 14 yards down to the 10. Crowell tried to cut back on first and goal, which resulted in a loss. Under pressure, Davis threw to Benjamin for an incompletion forced by Blake. On third and goal from the 11, more pressure chased Davis to the sideline, where he was forced to throw the ball away, with Allen blitzing again. Still, Cleveland managed to net a field goal off of the turnover.
Following a touchback, the Steelers opened with another 11 set minus Bryant, which is how they started the game. Once again, Williams was stopped after a short gain. On second down, Roethlisberger bought lots of time before finally finding Wheaton on a nice pass for nine yards and the first down.
The first quarter ended with a loss of one for Williams. A false start on David DeCastro made it second and 16. After that, Roethlisberger connected with Brown on back-to-back big plays of 20 and then 19 yards, putting him over 100 receiving yards for the day. Bryant had the following pass go through his hands. Williams had his first successful run of the game for six yards, but he stayed down after the play, his knee hitting the ground. He was carted off. On third and four, Roethlisberger completed to Brown, but for just one yard. Boswell was no good from 48 yards out, his third miss of the season.
In case you were wondering, the Bills are leading the Jets 13-0. Karlos Williams, brother of Vince Williams, has one of Buffalo’s two touchdown runs.
Following an illegal hands to the face penalty, a short pass to Barnidge for five yards put the Browns near midfield. Crowell was good for seven to the Steelers’ 46. He was stopped for no gain on the following play. On second down, the defense held after a yard. Now third and nine, the pass was broken up in double coverage, with the potential for a turnover there. The Browns were forced to punt from the 44, Brown letting the ball by downed at the seven.
Fitzgerald Toussaint was stopped after about two yards up the middle. On second down, he fought his way forward for about five yards, setting up third and three. Roethlisberger pump faked and nearly threw another interception to Poyer. Benjamin let the punt bounce before fielding it at the 36, able to return it 12 yards to the 48-yard line.
On first down, Davis threw over the middle to Garnidge for nine. Crowell got out to the edge for the first down. After a four-yard gain, Davis found Darrius Jennings for the first down. Johnson fought for seven yards to the 15. On second and three, however, he was brought down at the line by James Harrison. On a key third down, the Browns false started, but Jennings got the first down after Blake missed the interception attempt.
Davis’ first-down pass from the 11 was tipped at the line. Johnson could not secure the pass on second down. On third and 10, Blake notched the first sack of his career on Davis, who simply held on to the ball too long. A field goal made it 7-6. In the meantime, the Jets got on the board with a touchdown pass, making it a 13-7 game.
On first down after a touchback, inside of two minutes, Roethlisberger threw incomplete to Miller toward the sideline. Roethlisberger completed for 40 yards down the field to Wheaton on the next play as the Steelers used their first timeout. From the 40, Roethlisberger threw high to Miller, but he brought it in for five yards. Another high pass was fielded by Brown for 18 yards, a first down, and another timeout.
From the 17, Roethlisberger looked end zone for Wheaton incomplete, overthrown. He connected with Brown for the scored and the 14-6 lead as the snow broke out.
On first down, the Browns picked up 12 yards to the 32 with 48 seconds and two timeouts. Johnson shook multiple tackles on the following play not only for the first down, but getting out of bounds, on what was a clear defensive failure.
From the Steelers’ 48, Davis under pressure threw short down the field off his back foot. On second down, Arthur Moats sacked Davis for a loss of nine. On third and 19 back to the Browns’ 43, Terrell Pryor beat Blake down the field for a 42-yard gain down to the 15. With 17 seconds with no timeouts remaining, Davis threw incomplete to Pryor with Blake breaking up the pass. On second down, his pass found nobody in the right corner of the end zone. On third down with nine seconds, another incompletion resulted in a field goal attempt that forced a field goal attempt to send a 14-9 margin into the locker rooms.