Welcome to “Quick Yinzing”, a fast reaction article where a member of the SCU staff gives their initial post-game impressions without digging into any films, stats, or other analysis. It’s as real as that car ride home or sobering down at the bar following the game!
In a game that was forced into overtime, the Pittsburgh Steelers - soaked to the bone with the ever-present rain - gave up a two-touchdown lead to the Cleveland Browns that resulted in both teams trying for field goals and the game ending as a draw. Truthfully, the Steelers gave the Browns too many opportunities with five turnovers. If the Steelers defense hadn't blocked the field goal attempt in the final seconds of overtime, it may have been a Browns win. Here's how it all went down.
The Steelers opened up the game in their big set on offense and used a heavy dose of James Conner as both a rusher and receiver, but couldn't get much going in their first series. The story was pretty much the same on the second series beyond a nice catch-and-run by Conner and a short pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. But, the Browns didn't fare much better. T.J. Watt got his first sack of the game on Tyrod Taylor but was penalized for allowing his full weight to fall on the quarterback. With the Steelers defense playing tight man-to-man coverage, Taylor was forced to use the QB option and earn yardage with his feet.
In the second quarter, Ben Roethlisberger found a wide open Smith-Schuster in the Joker set and then Big Ben watched as he threw his first interception of the game trying to thread the ball in tight coverage. On the sideline, you could see Ben tell Randy Fichtner, "I didn't see him", about Denzel Ward. Ward would grab two interceptions on the day. In the next series, Roethlisberger would go to two run-play option plays - one to Jesse James and another to Antonio Brown - before being roughed by Myles Garrett. That set up Conner's first NFL touchdown on a rush, putting the Steelers up 7-0.
Although Jarvis Landry had a big catch when Joe Haden lost track of a long ball, the Steelers defense held strong as Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward both applied pressure in bringing Taylor to the ground. Sean Davis grabbed an errant throw, but a penalty on Terrell Edmunds negated the pick. When the Steelers got the ball back, Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown were not on the same page and the Browns got another interception. Jon Bostic got the ball back for the offense when he sacked Taylor, but when Jesse James allowed a ball to hit his fingers, he tipped it right into Ward's hands for another interception.
Watt started the third quarter off right with a sack on Taylor. He would play a pivotal role in the second half for Pittsburgh, including the blocked field goal to end the game. With the game starting to get chippy, Watt's play (four-sacks on the game) wasn't helped when Artie Burns lost his cool with Jarvis Landry and drew two penalties; unnecessary roughness and for removing his helmet on the field of play. That gave Taylor an opportunity to scamper for a touchdown and tie the game, 7-7.
When the Steelers had two touchdowns negated due to penalties on the offensive line (what would have been Conner's second touchdown and a TD for Justin Hunter), Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown climbing the ladder and still getting both feet down. The Steelers would go up 21-7 when Conner later grabbed his second touchdown with a nice run.
Things went downhill after that. Browns fans headed out of the stadium due to little offense - and then, suddenly, Cleveland was back in the game despite Joe Haden going high altitude over Josh Gordon to knock down a potential touchdown pass and Cam Heyward earning another sack. Conner, sure-handed the entire game to that point, had the ball squirt loose and Jabrill Peppers was able to recover the ball. It set up a Browns touchdown. Cleveland then recovered a bad snap between Maurkice Pouncey and Roethlisberger and tied the game in their next offensive series with a long touchdown pass against Cam Sutton.
Both teams had a chance, offensively, to win the game. Both were forced to punt. That made things very tight as Cleveland looked for its first win in, well, forever. The Steelers offense was able to get the ball down the field to set Chris Boswell up for the game-winning field goal, but he missed it wide left. Cleveland then made their own move for the win and sent their field goal unit in, but Watt's play and that of the Steelers defense would not allow the ball to get anywhere near the uprights. Final 21-21.
Overall, it was the turnovers that made the draw possible. Bruce Arians, in the booth, said the rain was playing a factor, and maybe it did. He also cursed on national television. That doesn't excuse five turnovers in a game the Steelers had and nearly gave away.