Though it has not exactly been pretty, things are currently breaking in favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who enter the second half leading 14-9 on the strength of two touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger. Two turnovers have helped the Cleveland Browns to three field goals. Meanwhile, in New York, the Buffalo Bills lead the New York Jets 16-7 in a game the Steelers need the Jets to lose to make the postseason.
Antonio Brown fumbled to start the game, but has gone off for 10 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The offense around him hasn’t done much, though Markus Wheaton had a 40-yard reception on the Steelers’ final drive that led to a touchdown, and has two receptions for 49 yards overall. DeAngelo Williams suffered an ankle injury on his only successful run of the day for six yards. He was carted off, but returned to the field, though has not returned to the game. He was classified as questionable to return, but ruled out before the third quarter began.
The Browns open the half with the ball after deferring to start the game. Austin Davis has largely struggled, being sacked four times. The Browns began their drive at the nine after a penalty. An incompletion on first down yielded to a short rush for Isaiah Crowell. On third and long, the pass was defended for an incompletion. Brown fielded the ball at the 38 for a fair catch. In the meantime, the Jets recovered a fumble, but gained only two yards before settling for a field goal, cutting the lead to 16-10.
Fitzgerald Toussaint was stopped after a two-yard gain. Roethlisberger was picked off on the following play by Craig Robertson, returning the ball 38 yards to the nine. Crowell was stopped after four yards to the five. The second-down pass was overthrown into double coverage. On third and goal from the five, James Harrison intercepted the ball at the goal line, but, showing his age, did not return it 100 yards, stopped after five yards to the six-yard line.
Toussaint was good for three yards on first down. Roethlisberger took a shot deep and incomplete for Darrius Heyward-Bey. On third and two after an offside penalty, Roethlisberger looked Heyward-Bey’s direction again, hitting him this time for a 66-yard gain, only just tackled by the ankle to save the touchdown.
At the 21, Toussaint only got back to the line of scrimmage. Roethlisberger misfired to Brown near the right sideline, setting up third and 10. Roethlisberger went back to Heyward-Bey in the back of the end zone, but the ball was just too long. Chris Boswell‘s 39-yard field goal made it 17-9 to give the Steelers an eight-point lead again. Meanwhile, the Bills are in the red zone.
After a return out to the 27, Crowells was able to escape for nine yards. He was stopped for a loss of a yard to set up third and two. Davis took a big hit under pressure, but got the ball off to Duke Johnson, who made two defenders miss for the first down. Bad defense. Johnson picked up four, tackled by Vince Williams, as Johnson stayed down. Davis scrambled for 17 yards down inside the 35 on second down.
Crowell squirted through again for a gain of three yards. On second and seven, Davis kept it for a three-yard gain. On third and three, this time, Johnson was held short of the first down, though he escaped Harrison’s initial tackle attempt for an extra yard or two. On fourth and one, Davis picked up the first down on a keeper up the middle, to the 23.
On first down, Davis threw incomplete deep in Ross Cockrell‘s direction. On second down, Crowell picked up four up the middle. It was Barnidge against Lawrence Timmons for the first down.
A completion to Darrius Jennings went for nine yards, losing but recovering the ball. But a penalty on Terrell Pryor for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play pushed them back 15 yards, making it second and 17. An illegal contact penalty on Harrison made it first down.
From the 15, Crowell was able to turn the corner for four yards. On second down, he was stuffed at the line. On third and six, Davis threw to nobody, seemingly not on the same page with Pryor. The Browns settled for a field goal to make it 17-12. Meanwhile, the Jets added a touchdown to make it 19-17.
Wheaton was tackled at the 19-yard line after a short return. Taking over from there, Roethlisberger just barely completed to Miller in tight coverage, a risky throw that could have been intercepted. From the 30, he stepped up to escape a sack and hit Brown for the first time in the second half for a 16-yard reception.
From the 46, Toussaint shook one tackle for three yards. Another Toussaint carry was stopped after a yard. On third and six, Roethlisberger threw to Heyward-Bey down the field, who was well-covered, and the receiver prevented an interception. Ross Ventrone downed the punt at the two-yard line, preventing it from rolling into the end zone.
After a false start and a delay of game, naturally, Davis connected with Barnidge for 20 yards. From the 21, the throw was incomplete off of Pryor. Timmons sacked Davis on the following play, with the ball squirting loose, and Arthur Moats recovered for the Steelers at the eight-yard line. Roethlisberger hit Wheaton for the score at the back of the end zone after flushing out to his left, his third touchdown of the game. This is the only road game this year in which he has hit multiple touchdown passes. Going for two, Roethlisberger completed to Toussaint for the conversion, having plenty of time to throw. The Steelers now lead 25-12. In the meantime, the Bills recorded a red zone interception to maintain their two-point lead.
The Browns fumbled on the ensuing kickoff as the Steelers begin to climb back into the turnover margin, the fumble appearing to be forced by Anthony Chickillo, with Brandon Boykin recovering. Pittsburgh took over at the 28. Toussaint was good for four on first down. Brown caught his 12th pass of the game for 17. On first and goal, Toussaint was stopped for no gain. A four-yard end around Brown brought the Steelers to the two. On third and goal, Roethlisberger threw the ball behind Brown in the end zone for what should have been the easy touchdown. The Steelers tried to run the run option. The field goal made it 28-12. The Bills added a field goal to make it 22-17 with under four minutes to play.
A defensive hold put the ball on the 22. After an 11-yard completion to Jennings, Davis turfed the ball after coming under pressure. On second down, it was Benjamin for 17 yards across midfield. Another defensive hold was another five-yard penalty and first down. From the 42, Davis looked vertically, but incomplete in Cockrell’s direction. Allen blitzed again late from a deep position but could not get home, Davis completing for nine to Barnidge. An incompletion was negated by an illegal shift, making it third and six instead of fourth and one. Stephon Tuitt notched his first sack since the bye week to make it fourth and 14, pulling him down by the jersey. Davis’ pass was intercepted by William Gay.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was hit as he threw on a third and nine play, intercepted on the lofted pass by Manny Lawson at the Buffalo 34. With 1:51 to play, the Jets have two timeouts remaining.
A pair of rushes from Toussaint made it third and three. He was dropped for a loss of a few on third down, however. Taking over at the 20, Davis’ first pass was incomplete. A 15-yard catch for Benjamin brought the game to the two-minute warning. Fitzpatrick was picked off again to end the game. The Jets lost.
Tuitt sacked Davis again, recording his first two-sack game of his career, though he also had a sack-and-a-half once, now with 6.5 for the season, just a half-sack behind Cameron Heyward. On second and 13, Barnidge was tackled after an eight-yard gain, inbounds. On third and five, Davis’ pass was incomplete. On fourth down, the pass was complete but short of the stick, resulting in a turnover on downs. With 1:05 to play, that should do it.