The Pittsburgh Steelers returned from their bye week to welcome and defeat the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field 33-18. Off the backs of Antonio Brown and James Conner, the Steelers overcame a rough and sluggish start to hold off their division rivals as they marched their way to victory.
Though the Steelers officially returned from their bye week at 1:00 pm EST, the team seemed to still be on vacation mode for majority of the first quarter. Down 6-0 at the end of the first quarter, the Steelers offense not only struggled to score points but they struggled to move the ball entirely. Zero first downs, an ugly interception and just 16 yards of offense was all the team had to show but a missed field goal by Browns’ kicker Greg Joseph, which would have put the Browns up 9-0 was the spark the Steelers needed.
It took just six plays and two minutes for the Steelers to take the lead after Joseph’s missed field goal as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on a 43-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline. Roethlisberger had a nifty pump fake on the play which drew the coverage in, leaving Brown open down the sideline.
Joe Haden got revenge on his former team on the ensuing drive. The former Cleveland Brown was able to intercept a deep pass from Browns’ cornerback Baker Mayfield.
The Haden interception was the catalyst for another Brown touchdown as the Steelers orchestrated a 16-play, 87-yard drive that took up over seven minutes and ended with the ball in the endzone. Facing a fourth and one at the Browns’ four-yard line, the Steelers elected to go for it and converted. A play later, a screen pass to Brown would give the Steelers a 14-6 lead. Brown finished the day with 6 receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
A horrendous special teams gaffe gave the Browns enough room to get back into the game as after a holding call on Bud Dupree in the endzone gifted the Steelers a safety, the Steelers had their own gaffe of their own on the following kickoff. A miscommunication between Brown, Roosevelt Nix and Ryan Switzer saw the live football roll right into the hands of the Browns. What was a 16-6 commanding lead turned into a tight 16-12 lead after Mayfield found Antonio Callaway on a 1-yard touchdown pass.
But just as Brown took over the first half, it was running back James Conner who took over the second half for the Steelers, barreling and punishing the Cleveland defense. On two drives that ended with a touchdown and a field goal respectively, Conner totalled 85 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown to give the Steelers a 26-12 lead. Conner added another touchdown late to rub salt in the wound, finishing with 146 rushing yards and 210 yards from scrimmage.
The Steelers’ defense did the rest of the work, suffocating Mayfield and his offense into submission. Mayfield threw for just 180 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, with majority of his yardage coming during garbage time. The Browns put up just 237 yards of offense, compared to the Steelers who had over 400 yards of total offense.
The Steelers will head into Baltimore next week to take on the Ravens with major implications in the AFC North on the line. The Ravens, 4-4, have lost three of the last four games and will be coming against a Steelers’ team that has won three in a row. Kick off is set for 1:00 pm EST.