The Pittsburgh Steelers held Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to just 119 yards passing, completing 10 of 18 pass attempts for one touchdown and two interceptions, the first of which was returned for a touchdown by third-year safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, his first takeaway of the year after having seven last season.
According to Fitzpatrick himself, however, that was not the key to their shutting down a Browns offense that had been averaging over 37 points per game over the past four weeks and over 30 points per game for the season to date. It certainly helped, but it starts on the ground.
“We stopped the run”, he told Aditi Kinkhabwala about what the key was in shutting down the Browns’ offense. “They’re a big run team, averaging almost 200 yards a game. The D-line, the front seven did a great job of stopping that and allowed us to play our game on the back end. Like I said, just stopping the run is what did it”.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 18, 2020
The Browns were first in the NFL entering the game with 942 yards on the ground in the first five weeks of the season, averaging 188.4 yards per game, including eight rushing touchdowns, which also ranked as the fourth-most in the league.
They had been without starting Pro Bowl runner Nick Chubb for the majority of the previous two games. They put up 124 yards last week against a tough Indianapolis Colts defense. The week before that, they rushed for over 300 yards, of which Chubb had 43. D’Ernest Johnson had 95, Kareem Hunt 71.
Today, Hunt totaled just 40 yards on the ground on 13 carries. Johnson was held to a single yard on four rushing attempts. Dontrelle Hilliard was their most successful back, gaining 29 yards on four attempts, 28 of which came in garbage time on the Browns’ final possession.
As a team, the Browns finished the game with just 77 rushing yards on 22 carries, averaging 3.4 yards per rushing attempt, with no carry going for more than 19 yards—no explosive plays. 124 yards on the ground the week before was their lowest total of the season.
This is an offense built around the running game, and they have shown an inability to do that when they are playing from behind. The Steelers were able to jump out to a quick 10-0 lead and that helped prevent the Browns from ever getting anything going on the ground.
The defense had six tackles for loss, though they didn’t all come against the run. Stephon Tuitt had a big stop near the goal line on third and long on which he forced a fumble. The Browns were able to recover, however, and punt on the next play, but it was testament to the futility of Cleveland’s ground game on the day.