The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming out fresh from their bye week ready to resume play during the 2018 season, today playing host to the Cleveland Browns, with whom they tied in their season opener on the road. They do so, however, with heavy hearts following the events of yesterday in the city, which will be recognized before the game with a moment of silence.
There are a couple of notable names on the inactive list for the Steelers. We already knew that Marcus Gilbert at right tackle would not be playing, and his spot in the lineup again will be taken by Matt Feiler. Rookie wide receiver James Washington is also a (presumably healthy) scratch, the team favoring Justin Hunter. He and Ryan Switzer figure to split the third receiver reps.
The Steelers won the coin toss and deferred. The Browns got off a good initial return, but by the benefit of a hold that pushed them back. Baker Mayfield swung a pass to Duke Johnson in the right flat for eight yards to begin the game. Johnson took a checkdown for a first down on the next play but stayed down with an injury. Nick Chubb carried for four yards on the following play. Mayfield couldn’t get the ball to Chubb. On third down, he rolled out to his right under pressure and found Damion Ratley for 21 yards across midfield.
Bud Dupree was in the backfield with Chubb dead to rights, but he jump cut for eight yards to the left. Joe Haden was just a split second late in deflecting a ball intended for Antonio Callaway for 13. From the 20, Tyson Alualu made the tackle for a loss of one on a screen pass. Anthony Chickillo tackled Calloway on a screen pass on second down. Now third and three from the 12, Mike Hilton blitzed and made the tackle on the run for a loss to force the Browns to settle for a field goal.
The Steelers started their drive from the 11 due penalty. After a short gain by Antonio Brown on a screen pass, Vance McDonald added seven yards on a second screen to make it third and one. James Conner lowered his head for the first down, but Xavier Grimble was flagged for an illegal block in the back. Now third and 11, a short pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster came up seven yards shy. Jordan Berry’s punt benefited from a Browns penalty added 10 extra yards, so they start from their 40.
Mayfield’s first pass of the drive was a deep ball to Landry, incomplete. Desmond Harrison was flagged for holding Coty Sensabaugh on a screen to Callaway. Now second and 17, Callaway dropped a pass to set up third and long. L.J. Fort blitzed up the middle, running Mayfield off his spot and inaccurate down the field, incomplete. Ryan Switzer got a 23-yard return on the ensuing punt.
From the 38, Roethlisberger pump faked and lost the ball for an incompletion. Conner picked up four yards to set up third and six. Roethlisberger foolishly targeted Smith-Schuster, who was well-covered. His defender popped the ball up, which was intercepted by Derrick Kindred.
On first down, Chubb ripped off a long run through the defense down to the Steelers’ 36. Jon Bostic blitzed and Vince Williams was pushed out of a hole for another first-down run for the rookie running back. Now at the 25, this time he was dropped for a loss by Chickillo. Pressure forced Mayfield to throw it away on second down. I noticed Jordan Dangerfield in the game. Chickillo broke on the pass for a deflection that could have been intercepted. Instead, Cleveland added another field goal to make it 6-0.
Following a touchback, Conner lost the football after a short gain but it was recovered. He was stopped for no gain on second down. Now third and seven, Myles Garrett beat Alejandro Villanueva for the sack.
Mayfield spun away from both Watt and Heyward to find Landry down the field for an explosive play to end the first quarter. Chubb was dragged down for a loss to begin the second quarter. A Williams blitz along with Watt forced a throwaway. Now third and 10 from the 27, Hilton stuck to Landry for a tackle on a short gain to force yet another field goal attempt, but this 41-yard effort missed wide right.
Roethlisberger under pressure tried to slide a pass to Jesse James but couldn’t get it to him cleanly, incomplete. A screen pass to Brown around some window dressing lost a yard. Now third and 11, Roethlisberger finally connected to Brown for 15 yards and their first first down.
After trying to dump the ball off to Conner incomplete on a floater, he got a pass between two defenders to Hunter for another first down. Roethlisberger pump faked before finding Brown open down the field for the score from 40-plus yards out. Suddenly they lead 7-6.
Chubb picked up about 16 yards on two runs to begin the Browns’ subsequent drive. Following a three-yard gain, Johnson got back in the game following an early injury for two yards. On third and five, Mayfield scrambled for the first with no contain in the pocket. A short run by Chubb followed by a pass defensed by Hilton set up a third and eight from the Steelers’ 44. Mayfield went down the field, Joe Haden coming up with the interception, his first of the year.
Conner picked up six on first down from the 13, and then one, but a flag on Ramon Foster made it second and 13. Conner picked up most of those 13 on a screen pass behind Foster and Villanueva. On third and one, Roethlisberger got the early quarterback sneak for two yards. Stevan Ridley caught a pass for 10 yards to get the drive going.
Smith-Schuster secured a tough pass for six yards against Brien Boddy-Calhoun. From the 41, Hunter extended for the first down on a bubble screen. Or almost, anyway. Roethlisberger ran another sneak on third and inches for the first down. It was ruled a fumble lost, but he was clearly down.
Conner picked up four yards across midfield under three minutes to play in the half. T.J. Carrie should have had a pick of Roethlisberger on the following play, though there was a hold on Denzel Ward on the other side of the field. A neutral zone infraction followed.
A delayed draw to Conner lost three yards to make it second and eight on the other side of the two-minute warning. A back shoulder catch to Smith-Schuster picked up a good chunk of 19 yards. An 11-yard run from Conner brought the ball down to the 13.
Another Conner run added five with a spin move to the eight-yard line. Needing two yards on third down, Conner got most of it, but not all. On fourth and inches, Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for a short gain. With 10 seconds left, he hit Brown for his second score of the game.