In what was more than likely QB Ben Roethlisberger’s final home game as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Steelers turned back the clock to win the game with their run game and defense. RB Najee Harris ran for 188 yards and the Steelers defense racked up nine sacks as they beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 on Monday Night Football.
The Steelers picked up a first down on their opening drive but they punted the ball away after failing to convert a third-and-14. P Corliss Waitman’s punt travelled 53 yards and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones was tackled at the Cleveland 12, but a facemask against CB Justin Layne and the Browns took over at their own 27. The Browns gained 20 yards on a second down completion but didn’t pick up another first down after three straight incompletions by QB Baker Mayfield and punted away.
After an eight-yard first down run by RB Najee Harris, he picked up six yards on first-and-ten but on second down Roethlisberger was incomplete to WR Chase Claypool and a false start penalty cost the Steelers five yards. On third-and-nine, a completion to Harris cost the Steelers two yards and Waitman punted the ball 43 yards to the Cleveland 27. RB Nick Chubb ripped off a 32-yard run to open up the drive, but the Browns would only gain eight more yards before trying to go for it on fourth-and-seven. Mayfield’s pass on fourth down was tipped by Cameron Heyward and fell harmlessly to the ground, and the Steelers took over at their own 38.
The Steelers got two first downs to move to the Cleveland 41, the second coming on a fourth-and-one conversion by FB Derek Watt. On third-and-ten, WR Diontae Johnson gained five yards on a reception and on fourth-and-five, Roethlisberger’s pass to TE Pat Freiermuth was deflected by DT Malik McDowell and the Browns took over at their own 36-yard line. Chubb gained four yards on first down, but Mayfield’s second down pass was deflected by OLB T.J. Watt and Watt came through on third down to sack Mayfield. P Dustin Colquitt (who started 2020 as a member of the Steelers) had a short 36-yard punt that was downed at the Pittsburgh 34.
After a seven-yard run by Harris, Roethlisberger hit WR Ray-Ray McCloud for 11 yards and a first down. After a seven-yard Harris reception got a first down on second-and-five, Roethlisberger was incomplete to McCloud and then Johnson dropped a pass that likely would’ve set up third-and-short. On third-and-ten, the Steelers threw a screen to Claypool and he only gained three yards, but after the play DE Jadeveon Clowney inexplicably threw Claypool’s shoe and was assessed a fifteen-yard penalty that gave the Steelers the first down. Eight-yard and a five-yard runs by Harris set the Steelers up with first-and-goal, and Roethlisberger threw the 417th regular-season touchdown pass of his career, this one to Johnson and the Steelers took a 7-0 lead after K Chris Boswell’s extra-point.
The Browns went three-and-out on their next drive that included a key pass deflection by rookie DL Isaiahh Loudermilk on second down. McCloud returned Colquitt’s 52-yard punt 15 yards to the Pittsburgh 37 and the Steelers offense came out. They also went three-and-out, and the Browns drive began at their own 26-yard line, trailing 7-0 with 7:09 left in the first half.
On the first play of the drive, CB Ahkello Witherspoon picked off Mayfield and the Steelers got right back to work in plus territory at the Cleveland 43. On second-and-ten, Harris picked up 14 yards, bringing him up to 69 yards for the half. Another first down, this time on a completion to Freiermuth, brought the Steelers inside the redzone at the Cleveland 16. On third-and-seven, McCloud caught a pass over the middle for nine yards and hung on through a hit from S M.J. Stewart to give the Steelers first-and-goal at the four-yard line. Three straight incompletions by Roethlisberger led K Chris Boswell to come out, and Boswell’s 22-yard field goal was good and the Steelers took a 10-0 lead with 3:02 left in the first half.
The Browns picked up a first down on a nine-yard completion to WR Jarvis Landry before eventually driving to the Pittsburgh 39, but Mayfield was sacked by Watt for a loss of seven and the Browns were forced to punt.
The Steelers got the ball back before the end of the half but couldn’t score, and they went into the half with a 10-0 lead. The Browns went three-and-out on their opening drive of the second half, and the Steelers would take over at their own 22 following Colquitt’s punt. After an incomplete pass downfield to Johnson, Harris broke a 30-yard run for his longest run of the season. The run also gave Harris 1,085 yards on the year which helped him break Franco Harris’ rookie rushing record. The Steelers eventually moved to the Cleveland 12 on a two-yard completion on third-and-ten, and Boswell gave the Steelers a 13-0 lead with a 30-yard field goal.
Cleveland got a first down on their next down but were still forced to punt after DT Montravius Adams forced Mayfield to slide for no gain on third-and-seven. McCloud muffed the punt but recovered it at the Pittsburgh 5. The Steelers went three-and-out and had to punt from their own end zone, and Waitman’s punt was nearly blocked but he got it off for a 53-yard punt that was returned to the Pittsburgh 48. A 39-yard catch and run by Peoples-Jones on first down gave Cleveland a first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 9. After two runs by Chubb, TE David Njoku came down with a three-yard touchdown reception and the Browns cut the Pittsburgh lead to 13-7 after K Chase McLaughlin made the extra point with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Steelers went three-and-out, and the Browns offense took the field down one score. On the first play of their drive, OLB Alex Highsmith sacked Mayfield for a loss of five. However, on second down Mayfield and TE Austin Hooper connected for 21 yards and a first down. A first down run by RB D’Ernest Johnson was called back due to a holding penalty that cost Cleveland 10 yards, and three straight Mayfield incompletions led to a punt. Colquitt appeared to injure himself on the punt, which only managed to go 21 yards and it gave the Steelers great field position at their own 43-yard line.
Harris picked up ten yards on a first down carry, but that would be the only first down Pittsburgh would pick up. Boswell came out for a 50-yard field goal that was right down the middle, and the Steelers took a 16-7 lead with 9:45 left in the game. A two-yard loss by Chubb after a tackle by Highsmith led to a sack by OLB Derrek Tuszka, and the Browns were facing third-and-17. A holding penalty against G Wyatt Teller set the Browns back another ten yards, and then a false start brought them back another five yards. A three-yard run by Johnson on third-and-30 brought fourth down, and the Browns got yet another penalty, a delay of game, before the fourth down punt. Colquitt punted away from the back of the end zone, and his 47-yard punt was returned to the Cleveland 37 by McCloud.
Pittsburgh couldn’t punch it in the end zone, but Boswell made a 48-yarder and the Steelers extended their lead to 19-7. The Browns picked up a first down, but after an eight-yard gain to set up second-and-two, Mayfield was sacked on back-to-back plays, first by OLB T.J. Watt (his fourth of the game) and the second by OLB Alex Highsmith. On fourth-and-19, the Steelers were flagged for defensive pass interference and the Browns got a new set of downs. Cleveland drove to the Pittsburgh 45 after a Mayfield first down scramble on third-and-ten, and then another third down conversion on a 15-yard reception to Peoples-Jones moved Cleveland to the Pittsburgh 22. A questionable pass interference call gave Cleveland first-and-goal on the one-yard line, and Mayfield completed a pass to TE Harrison Bryant for a touchdown. Cleveland made the extra-point, and the Browns cut the lead to 19-14 with 1:10 left in the game.
The Browns attempted an onside kick, and it was recovered by S Minkah Fitzpatrick. With 1:09 left, Roethlisberger came out for what was likely to be his final series at Heinz Field. A first down run by Harris gained four yards, and on second down he picked up another four. On third-and-two, Harris ran for 37 yards (which broke his earlier mark of 30 yards for the longest carry of the season) and a touchdown. The Steelers went up 26-14 after Boswell’s successful extra point.
As cheers of “Thank You Ben” echoed throughout Heinz Field, the Steelers defense got a stop thanks to an interception by S Tre Norwood and secured the 26-14 win. Roethlisberger came out for one last snap, as he knelt down to secure the win.
The win kept the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive at 8-7-1, but it’ll still be a tough task for the Steelers to get in. Pittsburgh needs to beat the Baltimore Ravens, they need the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Indianapolis Colts, and the Las Vegas Raiders to not tie the Los Angeles Chargers. The Steelers will play the Ravens at 1:00 p.m. in Baltimore next Sunday.