The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half with a 14-0 lead, but it could easily have been 21-0 on just three drives. The offense stalled in the red zone twice on their first two drives, setting for field goals. The final drive before the half ended in a score, but it took two untimed played due to defensive penalties, with Le’Veon Bell getting the carry and the score for one yard out. A conversion to David Johnson made it 14-0.
The offense has moved the ball extremely well up to the red zone, with the running game proving very effective, which it should against a Browns defense that is among the worst in the league. Long down and distance situations for the Browns offense also helped enable Pittsburgh to register three sacks in the first half. Pittsburgh deferred to open the game, so they start now on offense.
The second half began with a touchback. Showing a heavy run look on first down, Bell did get the carry for nine yards, but a hold negated the run. A short throw to Antonio Brown went for three. A slant route to Cobi Hamilton was defended for an incompletion. On third and 17, a draw run just got back roughly to the original line of scrimmage as the Steelers punted for the first time. Jordan Berry‘s punt was fielded at about the 30 and returned beyond the 40, with Sammie Coates making his second special-teams tackle.
From the 46, a flea-flicker led to essentially a busted play that resulted in a throwaway. James Harrison was held on the play, but the penalty was not called. On second down, Ryan Shazier forced Duke Johnson out of bounds following a gain of four. On third and six, Johnson got loose behind Lawrence Timmons for a catch-and-run of 22 yards, down to Pittsburgh’s 29.
Kessler looked to the end zone for Corey Coleman, incomplete, with Artie Burns in coverage. Isaiah Crowell was stopped after a yard. On third and nine, with the blitz coming, Gary Barnidge could not hail in a slightly off-target pass with Shazier in coverage. The Browns elected to go for it on fourth and nine. A deep shot to Terrelle Pryor was completed, with the receiver probably getting away with a bit of a pushoff on Ross Cockrell, down to the one.
Crowell was dropped for a loss of two in the backfield, tackled by Daniel McCullers. Harrison got the sack on second down, in doing so passing Jason Gildon for the franchise lead in sacks. On third and goal from the eight, Kessler scrambled, with Tuitt making the tackle after gaining a yard or two. Rather than go for it, as they did earlier from the 28, the Browns settled for a field goal attempt, which was good, to make it a 14-3 game.
From the 25, Roethlisberger looked to check down to Bell on a screen pass, but he dropped it. That does happen every so often, believe it or not. He did pick up seven on the ground. On third and three, he this time did catch a slightly high check down pass and ran for the first, with Roethlisberger facing pressure from behind.
From the 37, Bell spun out of a tackle near the line of scrimmage to pick of four more yards on the ground. He got the call again on second down, picking up six. After a two-yard carry, Roethlisberger actually looked at another player, finding Antonio Brown for 11.
From Cleveland’s 40, Roethlisberger dropped back and found Brown again, this time for 13 yards. Back to Bell on the ground, the running back was stuck by Danny Shelton after two yards up the middle. A defensive penalty produced an automatic first down for a defensive hold. Hamilton, the target on the defensive hold, was called for an offensive hold on the following play.
On first and eight, on what was a 12-yard run by Bell, Roethlisberger handed off to Bell, who had room on the right side for a first down. He was speared to the ground out of bounds by the defensive back, but it set up first and goal.
From the seven, going five wide, Roethlisberger found nobody open and threw the ball out of the back of the end zone, using Ramon Foster to buy real estate between himself and the rushers. On second and goal, he fired short to Jesse James. The Steelers took a timeout in advance of the third-and-goal play. Roethlisberger threw looking for Ladarius Green on third and goal, but he could not come down with the contested pass. Instead, Boswell re-established a 14-point lead at 17-3, with Pittsburgh going 1-for-4 in the red zone.
Boswell’s kickoff went through the uprights. On the last play of the third quarter, Kessler was nearly sacked, taking a big hit, but was able to get the ball down the field, caught by Coleman for 16 yards. Timmons was flagged for roughing the passer as well, making it a 31-yard play, putting the ball at the Steelers’ 44 with an untimed down due to the penalty.
Josh McCown checked into the game after the hit. Timmons blitzed again, but McCown found Coleman, with William Gay missing a tackle on a modest reception. McCown checked down to Crowell for three to set up a third and four. From the 38, the rush got home on the blitz, with Arthur Moats getting his second of the day, and the Steelers’ season-high fifth sack of the game. On fourth and nine, however, the Browns still chose to go for it. McCown completed right at the sticks to Barnidge for a new set of downs.
Another blitz led to a deep pass in the end zone to Pryor, but too long and incomplete. On second down, the pass was wide over the middle. The Browns were docked for a holding call that was accepted. From the 44, a false start made it second and 25. McCown got the ball out to Pryor on the play for 15 yards to make it third and 10. From the 34, Sean Davis failed to get home on the blitz, instead allowing McCown to complete the pass to his back for 20 yards. That’s what happens when the blitz doesn’t get home.
Now from the 14, McCown hit Crowell for four. At the 10, however, Shazier was there to throw Crowell back for a loss of three on another pass. On third and nine, another blitz was late and McCown hit Barnidge right at the goal line for the touchdown, making it a 17-10 game. Burns was in coverage at the goal line. Check that, the Browns missed the extra point, making it 17-9, so an eight-point game.
Starting from the 25, the drive started with a three-yard screen to Brown. Bell was limited to two on the ground on second down. On third and five, Roethlisberger did manage to avoid a sack, but was forced to throw into empty space, as the Steelers went three-and-out for the second time in six drives–though the other four all produced scores on long drives. Berry’s punt was fielded at the 20 and returned nearly to the 40.
Starting from the 38, the four-man rush got home, with Tuitt finishing it off for his second sack of the day, his third of the season, and the team’s sixth sack of the game. On second and 17, Davis was in coverage on an incompletion to Barnidge. Timmons walked back the blocker on the blitz, but McCown got the ball out. Timmons was flagged for illegal hands to the face instead, which is a five-yarder, but also an automatic first down. Another bad defensive penalty.
Timmons got his revenge with an 11-yard sack, beating Crowell. Now second and 21, from the 25, Coleman pulled in the pass on a long throw that was a few yards short of the first. Mike Mitchell hit him hard but he held on. On third and five, McCown’s throw sailed over everybody’s head, and the Browns elected to punt in a one-score game and almost six minutes to play.
The Steelers opened the drive with an outside run to the left that picked up five for Bell. From the 20, he was held to no gain. On third and five, on a big down, Roethlisberger fired deep quickly to Brown as he stumbled. Joe Haden got away with a hold, of course, to force a three-and-out, not even using a timeout with about four minutes to play. Berry’s punt ended up at the 22.
A hold on the return pushed the Browns back inside the 15. McCown’s ball sailed on him on first down, forcing Pryor to elevate, and Mitchell leveled him on the incompletion. He stayed down injured. The hit was clean, to be clear.
On second down, the blitz got to McCown, flushing him into the end zone. The quarterback lost the ball and Javon Hargrave recovered it in the end zone for the Steelers’ first defensive touchdown of the year. Shazier will be credited with the strip sack. Very poor decision by McCown. It was Pittsburgh’s eighth sack of the day, by the way, tied for the most by any team this season.
With 3:36 to play, the Steelers hold a 24-9 lead, with Baltimore and Cincinnati currently trailing in their games. The Cowboys have a seven-point lead over the Ravens and are in the red zone.
From the 25, the Browns were flagged for a delay of game, because they are the Browns. The Steelers brought a late blitz that chased McCown out of the pocket. He gained six, but took a huge hit from behind by Tuitt for his efforts. On second and nine, Burns did a nice job of making the tackle on a screen to Crowell for one yard. McCown’s third-down pass was incomplete, high, intended for Pryor, who checked back in. On fourth down now, McCown did get the ball out to Pryor, who stretched for the first down at the two-minute warning.
Bonus Ravens coverage: The Cowboys are on the nine on second and seven with 2:07 to play. Ezekiel Elliot was stopped for no gain on second down. On third and seven from the nine, on the other side of the two-minute warning, they stayed on the ground, picking up three. The Ravens used their last timeout on fourth and one. The field goal made it a 10-point, two-possession game with under two minutes to play and the Ravens out of timeouts.
From the 35, McCown faced a six-man blitz and found Pryor for 12. At the 47, he fired incomplete, tipped incomplete, perhaps by Daniel McCullers. Mitchell nearly got in front of a pass for an interception, but instead it was incomplete. Timmons hit McCown as he threw to force an incompletion. Johnson was dropped for a loss on a screen pass on fourth down, lost the ball and the fumble was returned for a touchdown, but McCullers was flagged for roughing the passer, negating all of that and giving the Browns a new set of downs.
From the Steelers’ 38, McCown found Crowell for nine. He narrowly escaped a sack before throwing the ball away on second down. McCown threw the ball pretty much right to Burns on third down for what should have been an interception. He ran the receiver’s route for him. On fourth and one, Crowell got the draw carry to move the sticks. A timeout with 27 seconds remaining was called.
From the 27, McCown had Coleman down the field, but the Steelers defended it. Mitchell was there to combat the catch and force an incompletion. On second down, Jarvis Jones was held, but it was not called. The quarterback scrambled for five yards. On third and five, he was nearly sacked by L.T. Walton but got the ball out. Now fourth and five, he completed to Barnidge as the Browns used their final timeout with one second remaining for some reason, in spite of the fact that they could not possibly win. The Steelers will win, and the Ravens lost, so the two are now tied at 5-5 at the top of the division.
On the final play of this game, meanwhile, McCown just threw to Johnson, hit by Burns to force an incompletion. Meanwhile, the Bengals had the ball on Buffalo’s 27 needing a touchdown with three seconds to play. The pass was incomplete, and Cincinnati lost. It was a perfect Sunday for Pittsburgh, notching a win and seeing the rest of the AFC North lose. Happy Sunday, folks.