The Steelers were able to score the final 10 points of the first half to draw even with the Cleveland Browns, with Devlin Hodges finding James Washington for a 30-yard touchdown. Washington is having yet another good game, helping out his quarterback. The run game has not done a great deal, but has had a few moments. We also saw the return of the wildcat package.
Arguably the biggest development, with the neutralizing score late, was the fact that Baker Mayfield hit his throwing hand on Bud Dupree’s helmet. He ran into the locker room just before the half was over to get it looked at, so if he doesn’t return to the game, that’s obviously huge. The Steelers start the second half with the ball.
Kerrith Whyte back to return the kick, has the opportunity to do so, bringing it out past the 30. They opened in a run set, two backs, Whyte and Jaylen Samuels in. Play action, a short pass to Whyte, who picked up about five before losing the ball, then recovering. An illegal formation on Alejandro Villanueva wiped out the whole play anyway. Now first and 15, Hodges had plenty of time to throw before eventually checking it down to Samuels, who had plenty of room for about 20 yards.
At the 41, Samuels got the carry around right end for eight. On the next snap, he really lowered the boom on a defender for the first down and extra yardage. Diontae Johnson was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the play, shoving Juston Burris in the face, even though Burris initiated the chippiness.
Back to the 41 anyway, Washington came up with yet another huge catch, this down the right sideline, beating Denzel Ward. Yet again, there was early contact by the defender. It’s Washington’s first 100-yard game.
Benny Snell backed his way for nine yards on the following play as the Steelers are now deep in Brown territory, at the seven. But Snell was dropped for a big loss of six on the following play, a really questionable decision by the rookie to work his way backward. Now third and seven, Hodges lofted one up toward Deon Cain in traffic, incomplete, but Denzel Ward was flagged for pass interference. First and goal at the one.
Back into a run-heavy set, Trey Edmunds at fullback. Snell with the first touchdown of his career up the gut as the Steelers take a 17-10 lead.
The Browns’ first drive of the half began with a false start on Nick Chubb. He got three on the subsequent play. Mayfield found Jarvis Landry over Mike Hilton for a good gain to about the 40. He’s been their biggest threat.
A simultaneous catch went to the offense, with Stephen Carlson and Steven Nelson. The catch went for three, and Chubb got five across midfield. This time he was held to just a yard. A quick throw to Landry got six. On third and three, it was a carry for Chubb, who was held up about a yard short. Freddie Kitchens elected to keep his offense on the field on fourth and one, Chubb going over the top as though at the goal line to keep the drive going. I’ve honestly never seen a running back do that outside of the goal line.
Now at the 38, Vince Williams pressured Mayfield to get a screen pass out too early, incomplete. A play-action pass to Landry got maybe four with Joe Haden on the tackle, but a holding flag was thrown anyway. Now second and 20 back to the 48, instead. The pressure got home for the first time in the half, with Bud Dupree ultimately forcing the sack, punching the ball out, and recovering. He now has eight sacks on the year and four forced fumbles. I believe it’s the first time ever that both Watt and Dupree have back-to-back games with sacks at the same time.
Now starting at the Browns’ 46, Snell bulldozed his way ahead for 14 yards after looking like he was stopped after five. That’s Benny Snell Football.
At the 32, it’s Snell again for about four before taking a big but clean hit. James Conner and Roosevelt Nix fired up on the sideline for him. Now second and six, a false start on Vance McDonald, however. On second and 11, Hodges checked down to Snell for four yards. Within field goal range on third and seven, Hodges scrambled for the first down. He looked like he knew he was going to take that play all the way if it was open. Not a bad decision by any means.
First and 10 at the 20 now, back to the ground for Snell after about four yards. Whyte checked in after that run. Off play action, Hodges rolled out and found Nick Vannett for a first down. On first and goal, Snell was limited to about two, down to the seven-yard line, at the end of the third quarter. Now at the top of the fourth quarter, Hodges again decided to keep the ball, getting to the three. On third and goal from that mark, three receivers in, he lost the ball trying to throw left-handed after play action. Mack Wilson wasn’t fooled at all and immediately pressured him, blowing up the play. Tried to get cute, did Fichtner. Chris Boswell did connect to make it a two-possession game, now 20-10 as the Steelers have scored on four consecutive possessions. That’s three point off of a turnover there. They had no takeaways in the last game against the Browns.
After making the tackle at the 18 on the kickoff, the defense quickly put the Browns into a third and seven, with Watt forcing a bad throw on second down with a well-timed leap into the throwing lane on a right-side screen. From the 21, Dupree narrowly missed his second sack of the game, but ultimately Sutton finished it to force a three and out. The punt went out of bounds at around the Steelers’ 30.
With a two-score lead and 12 minutes to kill, it’s likely the ground game for much of the rest of the way. Snell got nothing on first down, however. On second from the 39, Hodges went over the top and threw too high for Johnson. The ball hung worryingly after Johnson touched it, but it fell incomplete. Now third and 15 after a false start, with Washington, Johnson, and Cain on the field, Hodges threw underneath to McDonald, who got about 12. Jordan Berry’s punt was fielded at the 13 and returned to the 19.
Mayfield finally connected with Beckham for a positive play. Down to the Steelers’ 38, once again Mayfield finds Demetrius Harris, now inside the 20 as the Browns are moving quickly. At the 14, Mayfield was flushed out of the pocket but threw incomplete out of the back of the end zone. He probably should have had a touchdown on the next play to Harris, but the ball popped out as he tried to land. The 6’7″ tight end needed about every inch of his frame to even have a shot at that catch. Terrell Edmunds put a hit on the tight end that may have influenced the play as well. Harris was slow to get up.
On third down, Mayfield was sacked for the fourth time of the game, and again it was a mass of Steelers. Javon Hargrave made the sack, but Heyward and Dupree get the credit for splitting it. The field goal did make it a one-score game with over seven minutes to play.
The response drive opens with a touchback. Immediately, Hodges threw an interception off a miscommunication with Diontae Johnson, Terrance Mitchell coming up with the ball and returning it a good way down to the Steelers’ 30.
Mayfield quickly looked for Landry for about 27 yards, but incomplete. Edmunds made a good open-field tackle on Kareem Hunt for no gain on a screen pass to the right. Now third and 10 quickly, Mayfield was sacked, this time Hargrave finishing his own sack for a eight-yard loss, pushing the Browns back to the 38. Austin Seibert lined up to attempt a long field goal, but punted instead. Stephen Carlson nearly downed it at the one, but may have touched the ball while on the goal line, so it’s being reviewed.
Specifically, Mike Tomlin challenged the ruling, which he would have to do, of course. Incredibly, the call on the field stood. Baffling, really. Now after a false start, it’s first and goal from the half-yard line. Snell rushed for 11 or 12 yards on the first play, however, with David DeCastro and Matt Feiler providing the running lane. He got about four one play later. Samuels didn’t have much room, maybe one if that, to set up a key third down. Mack Wilson was injured on the play. And finally, Johnson comes up with his first reception of the game for 14 yards and the critical third-down conversion. A minor blemish on the play, as he didn’t say inbounds.
Benny Snell picked up four yards of Benny Snell Football on the first play after that big conversion as the clock ticks south of three minutes to play. But then a false start, making it second and 11. The Steelers have been making their life much more difficult today with pre-snap penalties. Vance McDonald flagged. Snell got roughly the penalty yardage back as the Browns used their first timeout. Now third and six, Hodges connected with McDonald, who caught the ball short of the sticks, but was able to escape two defenders to get the first down, as Hodges converts two big third downs on what they hope is the final drive of the game.
With 2:32 remaining, at the 43, it’s back to Benny Snell Football, getting three yards. The Browns called their final timeout with 2:28 remaining, so the Steelers will be able to run the clock down to at least 1:15 or so with the two-minute warning. Now in the wildcat, Samuels kept it and was banged hard, going down flush after just one yard. That sets up yet another big third and six on the other side of the two-minute warning. Hodges foolishly threw the ball away on third down, stopping the clock. Awful brain fart from the rookie there. Berry punting now with 1:53 to play as his punt rolls into the end zone.
The Browns have 1:45 to tie the game with a touchdown.
From the 20, Mayfield had his first pass attempt broken up by Fitzpatrick looking for Landry. He was hit as he threw on second down, an incompletion, Dupree flagged for roughing the passer. It looks like a bad call on the officials, unless there was slight helmet contact.
Now at the 35, a short completion to Hunt for five. Mayfield’s next pass was intercepted by Joe Haden on an off-line pass to end the game. The Steelers are now 7-5, having gone 6-1 in their last seven.