The Pittsburgh Steelers got off to their typical slow post-bye start with three three-and-outs in the first quarter. The Cleveland Browns marched up and down the field but had to settle for three field goal attempts, making two of them.
The offense awoke in the second quarter, however, with Ben Roethlisberger connecting twice–once on a long ball, one short–for touchdowns to give them a 14-6 halftime lead. They enter the third quarter with possession.
The drive began at the 25 with a touchback. After a one-yard run, Roethlisberger bought time for a long, long throw to Brown that was nearly complete. Now third and nine, he found Vance McDonald for the first down, picking up extra yardage, 22 in total, running over Derrick Kindred.
From the 48, Roethlisberger dumped the ball off to Conner for an easy first down. Off play action, Roethlisberger grounded the pass after he saw the designed throw was not open. On second down from the Browns’ 38, Conner came around on a drag route for another first down through the air, showing good hands for 13.
Down to the 25, Ryan Switzer could not hold on to a Roethlisberger pass, a drop over the middle. Stevan Ridley caught a floater of a checkdown, but Kindred ripped the ball out, recovered by Denzel Ward for the Steelers’ second turnover of the game.
Nick Chubb got things started for the Browns with a positive run. Bud Dupree dropped him for a loss on second down, however. Now third and nine, Baker Mayfield’s pass sailed, intended for Jarvis Landry, resulting in a three-and-out. Britton Colquitt’s punt reached the 25, Switzer returning to the 34.
To start the drive, Roethlisberger again found McDonald for 18 yards. Following a short gain by Conner, Reothlisberger couldn’t connect long with JuJu Smith-Schuster, a missed pass interference on the play. He left the field after that. On third and eight, Roethlisberger went long for Justin Hunter but the ball was too long. Jordan Berry’s punt was downed inside the five.
After a one-yard run on first down, Dupree was held in the end zone by Desmond Harrison for a safety. Stunningly, Switzer sidestepped the free kick and allowed the Browns to recover, gaining possession deep in Steelers territory. Cameron Heyward was then flagged for roughing the passer.
Now at the 12, Chubb was stuffed for a loss. Landry added seven to make it third and four. From the six, an incomplete pass was negated by a pass interference penalty on Terrell Edmunds, first and goal at the one. Chubb was stuffed on first down. Mayfield was sacked on second down, but negated by another defensive hold, this on Joe Haden. Back to first and goal on the one. Mayfield connected with Antonio Callaway, beating Coty Sensabaugh for the score, who was flagged for pass interference anyway. Three coverage penalties in a short span. The Browns then missed the extra point to make it 16-12.
Conner made two tacklers miss on a long run of 30 yards to open the drive. He added another 16 on the following play. Roethlisberger connected on a pass to Brown for the first down down to the 12, and Conner found the corner for the touchdown, his eighth of the year, to give the Steelers a 23-12 lead.
T.J. Watt recorded a sack against Mayfield, his seventh of the year. Desmond Harrison, responsible for the safety, was called for a hold on second down. Now third and 14, Mayfield had to throw the ball away due to pressure by Watt.
Roethlisberger got the ball out to Conner again for a 15-yard gain. After dropping the ball and throwing it away, he found Conner a second time for 13 yards to end the third quarter. He is currently at 66 receiving yards, the second-highest of his career, to go along with 96 rushing yards.
Roethlisberger found Jesse James for six yards, but Conner lost two on second down despite forcing a missed tackler. Now third and six from the 24, Roethlisberger overthrew Hunter in the end zone, incomplete. Chris Boswell added a field goal to make it 26-12.
Haden forced a loss on a screen to Landry on first down. Chubb picked up about eight on a catch to make it third and three. Stephon Tuitt, who had a sack negated by penalty earlier, finished off that drive with a sack to force a three and out.
After a good return by Switzer to the 42, a short pass to James and then a run for a loss by Conner led to a third and eight. Ward broke up a pass intended for Brown to force a three and out for the Steelers. Berry’s punt was fair caught at the 15 and a penalty pushed it back to the eight. Sensabaugh, with a foot injury, is replaced by Cameron Sutton, not Artie Burns.
Chubb did pick up 10 yards to start the drive, Watt tackling him after a short gain on the second play. Now second and eight, another Landry screen went for another loss. On third and nine, Mayfield’s pass was too long on a wide cross to Landry as the rain pours, resulting in a three and out, three in a row for both teams combined. Switzer called for a fair catch at the 35.
Working with a two-possession lead, the run game became the focus, Conner getting a five-yard run on first down to hit 100 on the ground. On second and five, he added another four off the right side, making a defender miss. On the short-yardage opportunity, out of 22 personnel, Conner got the ball and just got the yard needed.
From the 40 following a delay of game, they stuck to the ground on first and 15, Conner adding eight. On second and seven, he found an open lane for a 10-plus gain, getting a breather after the run. Jaylen Samuels checked in and got his first NFL touch for a seven yard run up the middle. He fell forward for three. Samuels kept it going for a couple more runs, setting up a third and four. With Conner back in for the possession down, he got the ball, and the dagger, placing it squarely in the Browns’ backs with another touchdown, his ninth of the year.
Up 33-12, the Steelers defense merely had to close out the game, but the Browns were not ready to give up, Landry converting on third and four. The rookie back Hilliard made a few tacklers miss for a 23-yard reception down to the 39. A wide open Callaway added 11. Mayfield just missed a touchdown to Landry on a broken play. Haden almost got his second interception of the game on third down. Now fourth and six, Mayfield did find tight end Seth DeValve in the end zone for a garbage touchdown. Going for two points and missing, the final score it 33-18, with Joshua Dobbs taking the final kneeldown.