The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to pick up in the second half where the left off in the first, because, quite frankly, that was all they had going for them. The first 25 minutes or so of the game were pretty bad, allowing Robert Griffin III to throw his first two touchdown passes of the season, trailing 14-0 to the Browns. The Steelers narrowly avoided another score when Ryan Shazier intercepted Griffin at the goal line.
DeAngelo Williams only narrowly avoided a safety twice on the ensuing possession. Demarcus Ayers nearly came up with a wonderful 20-yard reception on third and 10, but the Browns challenged and the play was overturned. The Steelers punted, but they got another break when a bad snap on the next play was recovered by Sean Davis, who has the team’s only sack during the game. The offense finally showed signs of life thereafter and ended the half with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Williams from Landry Jones. Jones has been sacked twice, both on third downs.
Williams opened up the second half with a two-yard run. A screen to Williams picked up 17 yards for their longest play of the game. He added about three yards on the following play. Jones tried to get it out to Williams again as his release valve, but couldn’t quite get it to him. On third down, Jones tripped over Gilbert’s foot for the third sack of the game.
A short pass to Crowell began the Browns’ first drive of the half, going for one. Bud Dupree got around the right tackle to strip Griffin for his fourth and a half sack of the year, but the Browns recovered. A short pass on third and 16 resulted in a three-and-out.
Williams picked up three yards on first down from the 39. A reverse for Ayers was blown up easily for a loss of 12. On third and 19, the draw to Toussaint gained 12. The Browns fair caught the ball at the 15.
Crowell found five yards up the middle on first down, and added seven to move the chains. Atkinson was stopped in the hole on the next play. Griffin eventually scrambled to his right and tried to hit Pryor for the first down, but he was ruled out of bounds. On third and nine, Cockrell was in front of Corey Coleman to force a punt. Eli Rogers had a decent return on the punt, but it was negated by a holding penalty by Tyler Matakevich.
From the 24, Jones got the ball out to Ayers for six yards. Cobi Hamilton made the tough grab over the middle down the field on the second play of the drive, with Jones stepping up into the pocket. From the 47, a screen to Williams lost a yard. Jones looked down the field to Ayers, who dropped the ball. On third and 11, Jones was intercepted throwing in the direction of two targets, but it was Boddy-Calhoun catching the pass off the high throw. He initially was ruled to have returned it for a touchdown. The scoring review ruled that he fumbled the ball–thanks to Darrius Heyward-Bey’s efforts–out of bounds before crossing the plane, meaning that the Steelers get the ball back for a touchback at the 20-yard line.
A run sweep to the right went for 11 yards. He picked up another first-down run on the next play. He was able to turn the corner on a defender for seven yards to the left on three straight runs. A screen to Fitzgerald Toussaint picked up about seven and another first down as the offense is finally showing some rhythm. After just a two-yard gain from Toussaint, he made a man miss for a 15-yard catch-and-run.
At the top of the fourth quarter, from the 25, Jones threw a pass whistling out of bounds in Ayers’ direction. He went back to Ayers on the next play, making a defender miss for the first down. A blitz up the middle forced Jones to short-arm a pass for James, who caught it for two yards. On second and goal, Ayers drew a pass interference pass on Joe Haden to set up first and goal from the one. From the 23 personnel, Williams punched it in from one yard out for his sixth touchdown of the season, and the fourth rushing touchdown–and second of the game.
Crowell was stopped after no gain on first down, but picked up five on second. On third down, Griffin connected with Pryor over the middle of the field for a big down to the 48. Crowell caught the edge for another 10.
From the Steelers’ 40, Atkinson was limited to two up the middle. Artie Burns was just a quarter of a step short from having a pick six on the next play. Andrew Hawkins picked up 10 yards to the 28 on third and eight.
Javon Hargrave made the hustle play to stop a screen pass for a loss of one. Griffin kept it for about six. On third and five, Daniel McCullers just made the play of his career, beating the center and reaching his large mitt across from him to rip Griffin down for a loss of eight. And then the Browns missed a field goal that would have given them the lead back. Good job, big man. Hargrave, in the meantime, is being evaluated for a concussion. Which is not good, considering that he suffered a concussion just a few weeks ago and missed a week because of it.
Williams added four yards on first down. Jones finally caught Heyward-Bey on a deep shot all the way down to the 11. On first down from there, Jones looked to have Jesse James for the score, but the second-year tight end could not bring it in. Williams was stopped at the line of scrimmage on second down. On third and 10, Jones found Ayers on a crossing route for the score. The Steelers take a 21-14 lead, scoring 21 unanswered.
Mario Alford was knocked out of bounds past the 30-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. Jarvis Jones–yes, Jarvis Jones–sacked Griffin on the first play. Also, big news, Hargrave was back on the field. On second and 14, Crowell got loose for a big 67-yard run, making Shazier miss. Down the field, Crowell turned Davis and Burns inside out, but they brought him down at the five. Atkinson got in on the first play from the goal line to tie the game with a little over three minutes left to play.
Hamilton muffed the kickoff and was only able to return it out to the 11. With 3:22 to play in a tie game, Williams took a snap out of the Wildcat and kept it for a gain of just one. Roosevelt Nix got his second catch of the day, but it was a bit long in the development and he was stopped after two or three. On third down, Jones had no feel for the blitz and got hammered for the fourth sack of the day, spoiling the Steelers’ chance to give up their fewest sacks in a season and resulting in a three-and-out with two minutes to play and giving the Browns good field position for a chance to win it.
Berry got off a long punt, but a 17-yard return put them around midfield. Crowell was cut down after two on first down. Beating the blitz, Pryor got Burns trying to jump an underneath route, but the receiver ran past him and Griffin found him down to the five. Crowell was stopped after two yards, but he fumbled, and the Steelers recovered. After a false start pushed them back to the one and a half, Williams was lucky to pick up one on first down. Williams picked up another yard as the Steelers appear to be playing for overtime. Williams bounced a run outside for 17 and the Steelers used a timeout with 34 seconds remaining.
A hold on Villanueva negated a nice catch on the sideline by Ayers. Now on first and 20…Rogers is flagged for a false start. So on first and 25, Williams got tackled for a loss, so the Steelers ran out the clock to head to overtime.
So now, for the first time this season, in the only meaningless game, the Steelers get extra football that pretty much nobody wants. The Browns started with the ball. From the 31, Griffin’s pass was batted it down at the line of scrimmage. Hawkins got nine on second down. On third and one, Atkinson picked up 11 by keeping his feet through contact. From Pittsburgh’s 49, a quick pass to Coleman got 10. Griffin got the keeper and found the corner for nine. From the 30, Crowell gained eight.
After a false start, Crowell was dropped after a two-yard gain. On second and 13, Coleman got 11. Holding on Cockrell gave the Browns a first down. From the nine, Crowell was stuffed on first down. A blitz from Timmons forced Griffin to throw it away. On third and goal, Mike Mitchell was flagged for a facemask that gave the Browns half the distance to the goal. Mitchell got screwed. Point blank.
Griffin’s first pass on first and goal was out of bounds. The screen pass was nearly blown up right away, and he kept going back for a huge loss. On third and goal from the 16, Timmons’ second blitz forced Griffin out of the pocket to throw the ball away. The Browns did hit the 33-yard field goal. The Steelers must score on this drive to avoid a loss.
From the 25, Williams was hit for a loss of one on first down. Jones found Rogers for six to make it third and five. Hamilton picked up yet another contested third-down catch thereafter. From the 41, Jones found Rogers for 19 down to the 40-yard line. Joe Haden made a great play to break up an inside-slanting pass to Ayers on the next play. Jones looked deep for Hamilton, but he couldn’t get the space inside to make a good attempt at it. So on third and 10 from the 40, a quick-hitter to Rogers picked up eight. Going for it on fourth and two, Ayers picked up another catch on a crossing route for the first down. Jones to Hamilton for the game-winner on the next play. Seven-game winning streak heading into the playoffs.
Hey, if they have to go into overtime in a meaningless game, they better win, right?