The first half did not exactly go as planned for the Pittsburgh Steelers, even with a blocked punt to start the game that was recovered for a touchdown, but they did start to look more the part on their final offensive drive of the second quarter–that is to say, Antonio Brown did, as he accounted for the vast majority of the yardage, and Jesse James caught a Ben Roethlisberger four-yard touchdown pass to give them a 14-7 lead heading into the locker room.
Pittsburgh will get the ball to start the second half, and they will look to build off their late momentum. The defense has been able to pick up a couple of sacks, including ones from Anthony Chickillo, Cameron Heyward, and Joe Haden. Of significant note is that Stephon Tuitt left the game after the first possession.
JuJu Smith-Schuster fielded the opening kickoff for a touchback. Roethlisberger’s first pass of the second half was behind his receiver for an incompletion. On second down, out of a five-wide set, Roethlisberger was sacked by Carl Nassib off the left edge around Alejandro Villanueva. On third and 18, Roethlisberger’s pass was far too deep looking for Martavis Bryant. Jabrill Peppers muffed the punt and recovered at his own 40 on a 43-yard net punt.
DeShone Kizer found Corey Coleman on a backshoulder throw in front of Haden. From the Steelers’ 36 now, Isaiah Crowell pushed forward for four yards. Seth DeValve got the pass off the left sideline for the first down and more, down to the 11. Crowell was limited to just one on first down. T.J. Watt and Tyson Alualu were there for the sack on second down with the pocket collapsing. On third and 16, Kizer was flushed out of the pocket and forced to scramble, picking up several yards but well shy of the first, hammered by Alualu and Ryan Shazier. A field goal by the Browns’ rookie kicker made it 14-10.
The offense back on the field, this time Roethlisberger hitting Bryant on a hotly-contested comeback for 14. Bell was able to pick up about three. Roethlisberger looked deep for Brown on the next play, incomplete, but Jamar Taylor was flagged for pass interference, adding 43 yards. From the 18, Ben scrambled to his right and checked it down to Bell on the move for 10. On first and goal from the eight, Bell backed his way into the pile for two yards. Bell got the carry again for about four to get down to the two. On third and goal following a timeout, Roethlisberger found James again for another touchdown on a short pass inside after coming off a block. The Steelers expanded their lead to 21-10.
Boswell’s first kickoff of the second half went out of the back of the end zone. The defense cleaned up a quick-hitting screen, with William Gay the first in and Ryan Shazier among others cleaning up. Watt cleaned up another sack that was really on the quarterback more than anybody. On third and 18, Gay hammered Ricardo Louis to break up a pass, but he was flagged for an obvious unnecessary roughness penalty, which will definitely result in a fine. The Steelers would have been off the field if he didn’t do that.
Kizer looking for Coleman by the left hash drew a defensive holding penalty on Artie Burns. Kenny Britt caught a pass in front of Haden for 12 yards. From midfield, Crowell caught an edge for about seven in the middle before Vince Williams made the tackle. But the defense was able to hold from that point forward to force a fourth and two and a half. The Browns went for it from the 42.5, the ball went to Seth DeValve in the flat around Gay for the conversion.
Chickillo got the sack on Kizer, but the officials flagged Watt for a late hit…a questionable call. That pushed the Browns to the 29 now. Naturally, Watt got redemption on the next play with an interception, the first turnover for either team.
A short pass to James earned about two yards. James Conner did a nice job of falling forward for five yards on second down. Now third and three, Roethlisberger found his favorite target for about eight yards for his seventh reception on the day, already over 100 yards. At midfield, Conner churned his legs for three or four. Off play action to Conner, Roethlisberger found Brown again down to the 30.
After a one-yarder from Conner, Roethlisberger looked to wing one down the field, but the pass was batted at the line. On third and nine now, Roethlisberger wanted to hit Bryant down the seam, but did not get enough elevation on the pass, tipped and intercepted at the goal line and returned past the 30. Smith-Schuster made the tackle.
Javon Hargrave pushed the center into Kizer and got the sack for a loss of nine, but Britt should have had the first down on the next play if not for a straight drop. On third and 19, a short pass to DeValve forced a punt. Eli Rogers fielded the punt with a decent return when he had room to run.
From the 24, Bell took a pitch up the middle for just a yard. After a five-yard pickup on second down, a quick slant to Brown was converted after he double-caught it with the cornerback harassing him.
From the 42, a first-down run from Bell was wiped off the board for a Smith-Schuster hold, his second of the day. Bell caught the pass out in the flat after a double-catch, but lost a yard to set up second and 21. After an incompletion, Bell got the draw and just pinballed off of a couple of defenders for no gain. Darrius Heyward-Bey induced a fair catch, but not inside the 20.
Kizer overthrew Duke Johnson on the first play of the drive, getting past Haden. A screen to Crowell, however, was able to pick up the first down. Louis, back on the field, took a big hit from Mike Mitchell but held on down the field for 29 yards. Crowell made several players miss for a big down gain on a screen down to the 11.
Gay upended the back on first down after a gain of a yard. Burns and J.J. Wilcox held David Njoku short of the first down to set up third and two. Kizer threw the ball away with nobody open. Wilcox injured himself laying a big hit on Coleman at the goal line, resulting in a touchdown. The personal foul assessed on the ensuing kickoff. For the two-point conversion attempt, Crowell was unimpeded into the end zone to make it a three-point game.
Smith-Schuster fielded a pooch kick to get the Steelers up at the 20. Off play action, Roethlisberger tossed a screen for James, who actually…made somebody miss?…for eight yards. Bell got the first down, but Maurkice Pouncey was flagged for a hold. Now second and 12, Roethlisberger bought time in the backfield and threw to Brown in the scramble drill, coming up between two defenders to make the big catch. The Browns challenged the play, but the call on the field stood.
From the Browns’ 44, Bell finally found a crease for about 13 or 14 yards to get a first down down to the two-minute warning, sealing the first victory of the season.