Steelers vs Browns score: Pittsburgh overtakes Cleveland in Ben Roethlisberger’s likely last home game
In what was likely his last game at Heinz Field, the Steelers sent out Ben Roethlisberger as the winner. Pittsburgh’s 26-14 win over the Browns on Monday night also served as retaliation for the Steelers, who fell 358 days earlier to Cleveland in the AFC wild card round.
TJ Watt led the Steelers ‘dominant defensive effort with four sacks, while Najee Harris’ 188 rushing yards and a touchdown spearheaded Pittsburgh’s offensive offense. Watt is now one sack from equaling Michael Strahan’s NFL record, while Harris has broken 49-year-old Franco Harris franchise rookie racing record.
The victory kept Pittsburgh (8-7-1) alive in the AFC wild card race with a week left in the regular season. The loss allowed Cleveland (7-9) to end the season with a loss record one year after winning their first playoff game in 26 years.
Ahead of 19-7, the Steelers were scared when the Browns scored on Baker Mayfield’s one-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Bryant with 1:10 to go. But the Browns’ threat was short-lived after Minkah Fitzpatrick recovered the ensuing in-play kick. Three games later, Harris put the game on ice with his 37-yard touchdown on the sideline.
The Steelers struck first on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Diontae Johnson less than five minutes into the second quarter. Practice was extended after Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was penalized 15 yards after throwing Chase Claypool’s shoe on a third-and-10 play.
From there, the Steelers received 22, 30, 50 and 48 yard field goals from Chris Boswell, as Pittsburgh led 10-0 at halftime and 16-7 with about 10 minutes left. Led by Watt’s four sacks, the Steelers defense baffled Mayfield and the Browns offense. Pittsburgh sacked Mayfield nine times while setting up Boswell’s second basket on Ahkello Witherspoon’s interception in the second quarter.
Boswell added two more field goals to the Steelers tally before the Browns completed a 17-game practice with Bryant’s touchdown reception. Cleveland couldn’t complete the comeback, however, as Harris scolded for the decisive score three games after Bryant’s score.
The win gives Roethlisberger a 92-32 record at Heinz Field as a Steelers quarterback. Roethlisberger improved to 26-3-1 against the Browns, who passed the Findlay, Ohio native, in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Here are some takeaways from Monday night’s Steelers win:
Why the Steelers won
No surprise, if you’ve watched them at some point this season: defense, defense, defense. Roethlisberger may have been the man in the spotlight on Monday, playing what he even considered his last game at Heinz Field, but it belonged to Steel City “D”. With four sacks on a night Pittsburgh totaled nine, Watt managed to tie the all-time record in a single season, confirmed himself as defensive player of the year and made sure Mayfield didn’t. never feels comfortable in his pocket. Among other things, Alex Highsmith and Cameron Heyward were feasting up front, while Tre Norwood and Ahkello Witherspoon each knocked out Mayfield to keep Kevin Stefanski’s offense out of sync.
When they had the ball, Harris propelled all of their best practices, finishing with 188 rushing yards and slashing Cleveland consistently, including with a 37-yard dagger in the final minute. As for Roethlisberger, he was predictably ugly, struggling to push the ball down the field, but at least helped Pittsburgh win the possession time battle to come out on a high note.
Why the Browns lost
Stefanski’s offensive absolutely stinks. Rude? No. A year after literally winning the Coach of the Year title, his entire unit collapsed against the Steelers front. The line had no answer for Pittsburgh’s pass rush. The call to play inexplicably limited Nick Chubb, who actually gave them a chance when he touched the ball. And worst of all, Mayfield almost begged Cleveland to seek a QB upgrade this offseason, missing out steadily and steadily until the game was already out of reach. Jadeveon Clowney had two sacks, one of which was near-safe, and Greg Newsome was among the other defenders to show off his physique and keep Pittsburgh close to hand. But their defensive efforts failed against the run and, frankly, didn’t matter much anyway given how little life they had when the ball was in their hands.
You could say “kick off,” because that’s when the Browns apparently decided they weren’t going to showcase their best player, Chubb, and take Mayfield off the hook. But if you want to be specific, let’s go with Cleveland’s first practice of the second half. After struggling mightily to move or keep the ball for the first two quarters, Stefanski’s side fed Chubb twice to establish a third and 3 to their own 42. But Heyward then sacked Mayfield, forcing a punt. three and the Steelers responded with a field goal to extend their lead to 10. Not insurmountable, by any means, but in this lousy game, we wanted to.
Harris was the Steelers’ offensive MVP on Ben’s farewell tour in Pittsburgh, in large part because of tough races like this:
The Steelers (8-7-1) will close their 2021 season in Week 18 by visiting the Ravens (8-8), who just fell to the Rams on Sunday. Pittsburgh needs a win over Baltimore, plus a loss for the Jaguars to the Colts, to qualify for the playoffs. The Browns (7-9), meanwhile, already eliminated from the playoffs, will end the year with the Bengals (10-6), who clinched the AFC North with a victory over the Chiefs on Sunday.