While it hasn’t been pretty, the Steelers take a delicate 7-0 lead into the second half against the Cleveland Browns, who have done very little on offense. James Conner accounts for the only score and the majority of the yardage on the day. Ben Roethlisberger has been intercepted three times, twice by rookie Denzel Ward, though the third interception was on Jesse James.
Tyler Matakevich made the tackle on the opening kickoff, the Browns being penalized on the return for an illegal block in the back. T.J. Watt buried Tyrod Taylor on the play, beating the tight end Darren Fells. That was Watt’s second sack of the day, the Steelers’ fourth overall. Carlos Hyde picked up a short gain on second down, but Javon Hargrave was flagged for a hold, an automatic first down.
Hargrave came back and made the tackle on the following play. Artie Burns lost his cool going up against Jarvis Landry, receiving two penalties on the play, first throwing him down and then removing his helmet. Hyde got by Joe Haden up the right sideline with a forceful run to the 48 of the Steelers. The Browns continued to churn out successful runs with both Hyde and Nick Chubb, now at the 20.
As Duke Johnson gets his turn, he is tripped up in the backfield, gaining just a yard with forward momentum. Taylor scrambled for a 19-yard touchdown on the following play, escaping up the left side with minimal contain. Tyson Alualu was on the right edge, Daniel McCullers also on the field. Taylor beat Burns at the goal line.
Now in a tie game, Ryan Switzer got a chance to return the kickoff, getting to about the 26 after taking the ball out of the end zone. Roethlisberger kickstarted the second half with play action to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who took a quick slant for a long catch-and-run all the way down to the seven or so.
Now first and goal, Conner took the ball down to the two on the same kickout run that he scored on from four yards out in the first half. On second and goal from the two, they ran the same play, this time cutting inside to cross into the end zone, but the score was negated by a hold on Maurkice Pouncey. Back to the 12, Roethlisberger hit Justin Hunter for the score, but an illegal hands to the face penalty by Marcus Gilbert negated that as well. That’s two touchdowns wiped out by penalties on back-to-back plays.
Still second and goal but now from the 22, this time he found Antonio Brown on the back-shoulder throw for the score, a 22-yard touchdown reception and just his third catc hof the day. Rookie Ward had good coverage on the play.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) September 9, 2018
The Steelers coverage unit stopped the ensuing return at the 15, and an illegal block in the back pushed the Browns back to their own eight. Taylor had a lot of time to throw before finally finding David Njoku for an eight-yard gain, but the tight end stayed down at the end of the play.
On second and two, Hyde picked up five yards up the middle. Taylor looked deep for Landry on the following play, incomplete. This time Hyde was dropped for a loss by Watt and Vince Williams. Now third and 12, Taylor, Watt got his third sack of the day, the team’s fifth, after looking like he was blocked initially. Taylor held on to the ball too long.
A good punt return from Switzer set the offense up at the Browns, 39. Conner got a good head of steam for a run up the middle for 17 yards, hitting 100 yards from scrimmage on the day. He broke through behind a pull by David DeCastro for the 22-yard score. That’s two touchdowns, 90 yards rushing and 32 yards receiving on the day through the first 40 minutes of the game.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) September 9, 2018
Tyler Matakevich made a great stop on the ensuing kickoff, making the tackle at just the 11. Hyde was stopped for just two yards on first and second down. Now third and eight, Taylor found Jarvis Landry open, getting past Mike Hilton for a big gain across midfield. He landed on the football, however, and came off the field, holding his ribs.
Off play action, Taylor threw into the end zone for Josh Gordon, but Joe Haden came back into the play the break the pass up. On second down, he led Njoku too much on a quick slant. Now third down, Njoku dropped the ball on a corner route, Terrell Edmunds coming in late to make sure he couldn’t secure it on second effort. Switzer called for a fair catch around the 15.
Pittsburgh feeding Conner now, the second-year back picked up four yards on first down. After another two on second down, it was third and four, going to a passing formation. Roethlisberger completed to Hunter for the conversion for an out to the left.
At the 26, Conner rolled to the 31, hitting the 100-yard rushing mark on the day with a five-yard gain. He was tripped up for a short gain on second down. Facing another third and four, Roethlisberger found Brown coming over the middle for a catch and run for a nice gain. Conner on the blitz pickup there helped make it happen.
Switzer was back in the sidecar on the following play. Roethlisberger bobbled the snap and threw an errant pass to Smith-Schuster. From the Browns’ 49, it was Conner for nine yards. Now third and one, Roethlisberger RAN A QUARTERBACK SNEAK for the conversion.
Inside Cleveland’s 40, Roethlisberger used play action to fire a quick slant, but Jamie Collins got a hand on it and nearly intercepted it on second effort. Instead, just an incompletion. On second and 10, Conner took a sweep right and got hammered for no gain. His leg was pinned underneath him, but he popped up and stayed in. In fact, he got the carry on the draw for a gain of five, trying to get into field goal range, but they decided to settle on a punt instead. Jordan Berry’s punt was fair caught at the 12.
Burns was in coverage on the left side of the defense on that play against Gordon, drawing a pass interference penalty. I guess Tomlin wanted to get him off of Landry. After a short completion to Landry, Cameron Heyward recorded his first sack of the season, but Stephon Tuitt had the initial pressure that enabled Heyward’s. That’s the Steelers’ sixth sack of the day. On third and 15, the three-man rush got absolutely nowhere, but Taylor still checked it down to Njoku, who was quickly tackled by the miniature Hilton for a four-yard gain.
Following a great punt out of bounds with no return, B.J. Finney came in for David DeCastro, Chukwuma Okorafor also coming back in, getting good work as an extra lineman. Conner shouldered his way forward for about seven, but it was negated by a hold on Gilbert, his second penalty of the day.
Now back to the seven, looking at first and 17, they stayed on the ground, Conner getting nothing this time. Another short run made it third and 13. Roethlisberger tried to hit the corner to Brown, incomplete, making sure to throw a ball only his receiver could possibly make. Now punting deep in his own end, Berry’s short punt hit a Brown, recovered by Sean Davis to maintain possession. The officials amazingly missed the ball bouncing right off of Nick Chubb’s helmet, Mike Tomlin obviously challenging the ruling on the field. And yet the ruling on the field stood as called.
The awful Berry punt left the Browns in Steelers territory. Taylor’s first pass went to the feet of Johnson. Desmond Harrison was flagged for his third penalty of the game, but it was declined. Hilton was able to get in front of a pass to Landry to break it up and force a third and long. Dupree got hammered after coming in unblocked, Harrison with the peelback block, which should have been a penalty. Instead, Taylor scrambled for the first down and more.
Cameron Sutton was in coverage against Rishard Higgins on a deep pass into the end zone to force an incompletion. Sutton replaced Haden, who was ruled out for the rest of the game with a hamstring injury. From the 23, Taylor’s pass went out of bounds to Antonio Callaway. Third down, after six straight incompletions, he added another on a screen to Johnson. Dupree might have gotten a piece of it. Going for it on fourth down with under eight minutes to play and down 14, Dupree sacked Taylor, but he was offsides. Now fourth and five, Taylor was under pressure by Williams, overthrowing Landry in the end zone for a turnover on downs.
Conner got the ball yet again, but this time he was stripped from behind by Myles Garrett, picked up by Jabrill Peppers. Roethlisberger tackled Peppers as he neared the goal line, the ball going out of bounds.
Getting a first and goal from the one, Hyde punched it in quickly to make this a one-score game, 21-14.
Taking over at the 27, Roethlisberger came out throwing, finding Smith-Schuster for a first down to the 45 for 18. Roethlisberger couldn’t handle a low snap, picking the ball off the ground, with Garrett coming from behind and knocking the ball out for the turnover. Cleveland now at the Steelers’ 37 down by seven with over six minutes to play.
Hyde got one yard on first down, lost four on second, the loss by Watt. Hilton had coverage on Landry to break up a hurried short pass, forcing a punt.
Pinned down at the five after the punt, Conner wrapped his arms tightly around the ball up the middle for a seven-yard gain to climb away from the back of the end zone. He took a similar approach for a two-yard gain on second down. On third and one, Roethlisberger fired a quick pass to Brown for the conversion in the flat.
With under four minutes to play, from the 17, it was Conner again but for just a yard, still grasping the ball with both arms. He was lucky to get back to the line of scrimmage on second down. Facing third and nine, the Browns used their second timeout before Roethlisberger handed the ball off to Conner as he was being sacked, just to pick up a short gain. Berry finally got at least a bit of distance on one of his punts, but it was returned to about the Brown’s 45.
Taylor found Higgins beyond Sutton for a big gain up the right sideline. Now at the Steelers’ 17, he went back to Sutton, hitting Gordon for the touchdown to tie the game.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) September 9, 2018
But the Steelers have 1:58 remaining with a timeout to score a field goal or a touchdown, and they have a kicker who has come up in the clutch consistently.
Switzer returned the kick out past the 30, taking about five seconds to do so. Roethlisberger misfired over the middle looking for James, the pass nearly intercepted. He was wild looking for Hunter to the left on second down, quickly getting into third and long. The Browns would have plenty of time if the Steelers have to punt. A quick pass to Brown was stopped for just a gain of one yard. Berry’s punt barely traveled 40 yards, fair caught just inside the Browns’ 30.
Johnson gained four yards up the middle, then Taylor threw the ball out on second down. He eventually found Landry for the conversion in front of Davis, then again to Landry for 11. The ball was spiked near midfield with 23 seconds remaining. The Steelers were flagged for having too many men on the field. Taylor looked for Gordon against Sutton, but the second-year man was able to pick off the ball to force overtime.
Tyrod Taylor is looking for Josh Gordon… But instead his pass is PICKED Cameron Sutton!
And we’re heading to OT in Cleveland. Wow.
— NFL (@NFL) September 9, 2018
The Browns won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball to begin overtime. Starting at the 25 following a touchback, Hyde leaned forward for two yards. Rolling out under pressure, Taylor was able to get the ball to Landry for seven. On third and one, Davis flashed at the last moment to break up a deep pass looking for Njoku. He had an interception negated by penalty earlier. Switzer called for a fair catch at the 17.
Following a penalty, Roethlisberger underthrew a deep ball that was broken up. On second and 20, he was sacked after being unable to keep his feet scrambling away from pressure. Now third and 31, the Steelers just tried to get what they can on a quick screen to Brown. The Steelers got a break when Peppers pulled the trigger early for a fair catch.
Starting inside the 20, Hyde escaped a couple of tackles in the backfield but was forced out of bounds for no gain. Taylor scrambled for no gain to make it third and 10. Sutton cut down Johnson on a pass after a seven-yard gain to force a punt. Roosevelt Nix pushed the protector into the punter’s lane, resulting in a shank.
Taking over at the 45, Ward broke up the pass to Brown down the field. This time Roethlisberger found Brown over the middle, taking a shot from the safety but popping back up for about 12 yards. Now in Browns territory, Conner was lucky to get any positive yardage, picking up two. Putting four receivers on the field, Roethlisberger found James, who was able to move the chains near the 30.
Conner added about three yards to the 28. He lost two on second down. With an empty backfield, the ball went to Conner for about six yards to take the ball inside the 25, setting up Chris Boswell for a 42-yard potential game-winner in the pouring rain. But he missed it left.
The Browns take over from the 32 after the miss. Taylor’s pass was dropped by Landry. Hilton’s blitz forced Taylor to throw an errant pass to Johnson incomplete. Now third down, Taylor rolled out to his left but overthrew his receiver deep to force a three-and-out on three incompletions. After a Switzer return, Roethlisberger took over at the 26.
A quick pass to Brown went for 12 over the middle. Looking for Smith-Schuster down the team, Randall had good coverage to force an incompletion. He suffered a cramp and had to leave the game. Roethlisberger was sacked and lost the ball yet again, rookie Genard Avery beating Gilbert. It was picked out of the air and returned deep, but a penalty pushed it back to the 24.
The Browns lined up for the game-winning field goal, but Watt got penetration up the middle to block the ball. So the Steelers come out with a tie.