It’s debatable as to who started it, but it’s abundantly clear who finished it. That would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, or more to the point, former Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who picked off the final pass of the game by Baker Mayfield to preserve a 20-13 victory.
With the win, the Steelers’ second in a row and sixth in their last seven, Pittsburgh is now 7-5 on the season, currently in a two-way tie for the second wildcard spot with the Tennessee Titans after the latter beat the Indianapolis Colts. The Browns, meanwhile, are now 5-7 and clearly outside of the pack with four games left to play.
One thing that hasn’t been much of an issue for Haden since coming to the Steelers has been getting his hands on the ball. Finishing those opportunities and turning them into interceptions, however, had been another matter. He had multiple opportunities for interceptions last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, for example, and against the Los Angeles Rams, as well.
But he finished this one for his second interception of the season, and another big one, not unlike his interception against the New England Patriots late last year in terms of importance. This one, though, sealed the game. There was still plenty of time left to play in that one, even though it was a key moment.
Haden’s interception was the second takeaway for the defense and fourth in the past two weeks after they were blanked in that category the last time they faced the Browns. Bud Dupree also forced a fumble on a strip sack that was recovered by Cameron Heyward.
But the defense needed that last one, especially with a rough late sequence. After the two-minute warning, Devlin Hodges inadvisably threw the ball away on third and six to stop the clock. Jordan Berry then punted into the end zone for a touchback.
The Browns got some life when Dupree was flagged, highly questionably, for roughing the passer two plays later, during a game in which the officiating was consistently a talking point because of the dubious nature of their rulings.
The momentum seemed to be swinging in Cleveland’s direction before Mayfield threw wide to Jarvis Landry down the field from the 40-yard line with 1:17 to play. I’m sure not many Steelers fans were comfortable with where the team was sitting before that ball was released.
But the defense came through, once again, and this time it was one of their oldest members, the 30-year-old Haden, who has 13 passes defensed on the year now with two interceptions. He had a good overall game, and a strong season in general, in the year that they’ve needed him, and the secondary as a whole, to step up most.