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The Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Cleveland Ohio and did what they expected to do, and what you and I expected them to do: Win the game, which they did in a 21-18 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers are now 1-0, and the Browns are 0-1. Although it’s just one game, and the 1968 Steelers also started 1-0 before finishing 1-13, winning that first game can set the tone for the rest of the season, especially when your team has committed to being ‘all in’ on winning a Super Bowl, which is the case with the Steelers.
Of course, fans and media alike have always considered it an easy win for the Steelers when they face the Browns. After all, they did sweep the Browns the last two seasons, and the Browns finished an awful 1-15 last season. Some folks may fell like the Browns are the doormat of not only the AFC North Division but also the NFL. They’re expected to just roll over against teams like the Steelers and lose about 10-15 (maybe 16) games a year.
Well, apparently no one sent the Browns that memo, because 1. It’s a new season when every team starts 0-0, and after the Browns had a pretty decent draft with hopes of improving in 2017 and 2. despite the loss, the Browns kept it close most of the game. And I still stand by the fact that it doesn’t matter what two teams have done or what their record is or was: On Any Given Sunday, a team can ‘show up’ and beat their opponent. It happened in 2014, 2013, 2009, 2006 and 1991 when the Steelers faced a struggling Browns team and lost.
Let’s be honest, many Old-School Steelers fans are still stuck in the 70’s when the Steelers truly dominated the Browns every season, but of course, that was the first Browns team that played from 1946-1995 and then left Cleveland and became the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers are facing the new Browns team which began in 1999 and at times (well, lots of times) have looked like the first Browns team: Horrible. But dominance means victory, which is what the Steelers did against the Browns today.
So for those who were disappointed that the Steelers only beat the Browns 21-18, ask yourselves this question: What if the Steelers would’ve lost to the Browns today? That should help put things back to perspective.
Despite the close margin, the Steelers did trail the Browns at all in this game, and they took an early 7-0 lead after forcing the Browns to punt on their first possession. The special teams then made their mark when LB Tyler Matakevich stepped in front of Browns P Britton Colquitt) and blocked the attempted punt, which rolled into the endzone and stayed there until Steelers LB Anthony Chickillo fell on it for the score. It was the first blocked punt for a TD for the Steelers since 1998. The Steelers also blocked a punt in the preseason as well, so they might be a unit to keep an eye on this year.
You might want to keep an eye on Browns rookie QB DeShone Kizer as he showed great poise in his first regular-season game. I remember watching Kiser at Notre Dame, and I came away impressed. He was also impressive on his team’s next drive as he drove the ball down the field on the Steelers defense like he’d been doing it all his life and he eventually scored his first NFL TD on a 1-yard sneak, which tied the game at 7.
It was easy to think that the Browns stole the momentum after that, but I figured it was a matter of time before the Steelers imposed their will on the Browns and the Browns at times submitted their will to them.
One of the Steeler players who helped his team impose their will on the Browns was TE Jesse James who caught the Steelers new two touchdowns on consecutive drives. Maybe he’s still ticked off over the Steelers acquisition of TE Vance McDonald because Head Coach Mike Tomlin felt the position needed improvements, but James played as he did in last year’s Divisional Round Game vs. KC: Pretty good. James scored on a 4-yard TD pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger in the 2nd quarter and on a shovel pass from Big Ben in the 3rd quarter to extend the Steelers lead to 21-10. James finished the game with six catches for 41 yards.
James was good, but he wasn’t the best receiver on the field. That honor belonged to the best WR in the NFL: Antonio Brown. Although he didn’t score a TD (to the dismay of those who wanted to see him dance) But Brown had an incredible game in which he causes 11 passes for 182 yards, including an incredible leaping catch in front of 3 Browns that helped seal the victory for the Steelers. He also had an impressive 55-yard catch that helped st up James first TD.
Roethlisberger also helped impose the Steelers will on the Browns as he passed for 263 yards, two scores and an interception that was tipped near the endzone. For those who think retirement is on his mind, needed to watch this game. Big Ben wasn’t flashy, but he got the job done for his team.
The Steelers defense also imposed their will on the Browns as they may have found something that has been truly missing the past few seasons: Their pass rush. The Steelers sacked Kizer 7 times today, including two from 1st round pick TJ Watt, who continues to look like Kevin Greene in my opinion. Just like his brother JJ Watt (of the Houston Texans), TJ Watt knows how to get to the QB and if he keeps it this up, he will be fun to watch. Watt also got his first NFL interception when he snatched a Kizer pass out of the air late in the 3rd quarter.
Other Steelers who got sacks today: Chickillo (2), DT Jason Hargave (1), DE Cam Heyward (1), and new Steelers CB Joe Haden, formerly of the Browns. The Steelers need this type of production from it’s defense, especially if they want to get past the New England Patriots when it counts.
Unfortunately, the Steelers also had their struggles as well: As good as the defense was, the pass defense still needs work as they committed several penalties that helped aid the Browns on offense. They should know better than to lead with their helmet, which is what CB William Gay and S JJ Wilcox often did. And of course, it drew flags. Plus, Wilcox’s hit on Brown’s WR Corey Coleman came after Coleman crossed the goal line after Kizer found him on a 3-yard score to close the Steelers lead to 21-18. Wilcox would then leave the game after getting shaken up on his hit.
RB Le’Veon Bell also struggled in his first action since the last year’s AFC Championship Game. As we know, he missed all of the training camp and the Steelers Preseason games because he waited to sign the $12.1 million Franchise Tag. Well, Bell didn’t help his cause or the Steelers as he finished with 32 yards on only ten carries. I know that Bell will eventually come around, but I would love to ask him how missing training camp has helped him so far.
All in all, the Steelers got the W. That’s all that matters. Sure the offense could’ve scored more, and the defense could’ve played better on specific drives, but it’s only the first game of the season, with 15 more to go. Tomlin and his crew will make adjustments and improvements as the season goes on, but I bet they’ll tell you that it’s easier to make those adjustments when you win. And if you’re trying to secure Homefield advantage or even a first-round bye for the playoffs, then piling up those wins are crucial. No matter how pretty of ugly they are.
So go ‘head and call the Steelers 21-18 win vs. the Browns an ugly win. And I’ll tell you this: A win is a win, and no matter how you look at it, the Steelers are 1-0.
Notes: DE Stephon Tuitt left the game with a shoulder injury early in the first quarter. This comes a day after Tuitt signed a six-year contract extension worth $61 million. Chickillo filled in for LB Bud Dupree, who was inactive because of injury. Roethlisberger surpassed HOF Fran Tarkenton for 10th place in career completions (3,811) in NFL history.
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Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 18
Sept. 10, 2017
- The Steelers are now 71-58 in regular-season history against the Browns, 28-37 on the road and 15-4 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
- Pittsburgh is now 5-2 against Cleveland in Kickoff Weekend games and has won each of the previous four Week One matchups in series history.
- Pittsburgh has won each of the previous five regular-season games vs. Cleveland and three consecutive on the road.
- Pittsburgh improved to 11-6 in regular-season games against Cleveland in the month of September (5-5 on the road in the month).
- Pittsburgh has won eight consecutive regular-season games, dating back to Nov. 20, 2016, at Cleveland.
- Pittsburgh has won five consecutive regular-season road games, dating back to Nov. 20, 2016, at Cleveland.
- Pittsburgh improved to 11-4 in its last 15 season-opening games (since 2003).
- The Steelers are 43-36-4 all-time on Kickoff Weekend. The team’s 43 wins in Week One of the regular season are tops in the AFC (fifth-most in the NFL):
Team Kickoff Weekend Wins AFC Teams
Denver 37 (Plays on Monday Night)
Indianapolis 33 (Game in Progress)
LA Chargers 32 (Plays on Monday Night)
New England 32
- The Steelers are 445-282-2 during the regular season since 1970.
- The defense totaled seven sacks – the team’s most sacks in a game since eight on Nov. 20, 2016 at Cleveland.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
- Improved his regular-season record to 104-57 since becoming the Steelers’ head coach in 2007 (45-36 on the road).
- Improved to 7-4 as the Steelers’ head coach on Kickoff Weekend.
- Improved to 18-3 as the Steelers’ head coach in regular-season games vs. Cleveland (8-3 on the road).
- Is now 78-43 in regular-season games vs. AFC teams (34-27 on the road).
- Improved his head coaching record to 42-19 vs. AFC North opponents (19-12 on the road).
- Improved to 20-15 in regular-season games during the month of September (9-12 on the road during the month).
- Is now 79-14 when the Steelers hold a lead at halftime.
QB Ben Roethlisberger
- Completed 24-of-36 passes for 263 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for a 95.0 passer rating.
- Improved to 124-60 as a starter during the regular season (55-38 on the road).
- Increased his Steelers franchise record for the most wins as a starting quarterback to 124 (Terry Bradshaw, 107).
- Is now 21-2 against Cleveland in the regular-season as a starter (11-2 on the road).
- Increased his record among NFL quarterbacks in career totals against Cleveland to 436 completions, 5,753 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes.
- Has compiled a record of 50-17 as a starter against AFC North opponents (24-10 on the road).
- Surpassed Philip Rivers (3,811) for the 10th-most pass completions in NFL history, now with 3,828 in his NFL career:
MOST PASS COMPLETIONS IN
Rk. PLAYER, YEAR NFL HISTORY
- John Elway, 1983-98 4,123
- Eli Manning, 2004-current 4,072 (Plays on Sunday Night Football)
- Warren Moon, 1984-2000 3,988
- Drew Bledsoe, 1993-2006 3,839
- Ben Roethlisberger, 2004-current 3,828
- Philip Rivers, 2004-current 3,811 (Plays on Monday Night Football)
- Surpassed Fran Tarkenton (47,003) for the ninth-most passing yards in NFL history, now with 47,077 in his NFL career:
MOST PASS COMPLETIONS IN
Rk. PLAYER, YEARS NFL HISTORY
- John Elway, 1983-98 51,475
- Warren Moon, 1984-2000 49,325
- Eli Manning, 2004-current 48,214 (Plays on Sunday Night Football)
- Ben Roethlisberger, 2004-current 47,077
- Fran Tarkenton, 1961-78 47,003
WR Antonio Brown
- Extended his consecutive regular-season games started streak to 52 – the third-longest active consecutive games started streak among NFL wide receivers.
- Made his 75th career start in NFL regular-season games and set a Steelers Kickoff Weekend game records for receptions (11). His 182 receiving yards are the second-most receiving yards by a Steeler in a Week One game.
- Recorded his 30th career 100-yard receiving game – breaking a tie with Hines Ward for the most such games in Steelers history:
Rk. STEELER, YEARS 100+ YARD GAMES
- Antonio Brown, 2010-current 30
- Hines Ward, 1998-2011 29
- John Stallworth, 1974-87 25
- Since entering the NFL in 2010, is one of four active players with at least 30 100-yard receiving games.
- Has registered at least one reception in 109 consecutive games in which he has played, including the postseason – dating back to October 3, 2010.
- Has registered at least one reception in 100 consecutive regular-season games – dating back to October 3, 2010.
- Increased his Steelers record to 14 games with 10 or more catches:
MOST DOUBLE-DIGIT RECEPTION
Rk. STEELER, YEARS GAMES IN STEELERS HISTORY
- Antonio Brown, 2010-current 14
- Hines Ward, 1998-2011 7
T3. Heath Miller, 2005-2015 3
Yancey Thigpen, 1992-97 3
- Ended the first half with six catches for 102 yards to mark the seventh time in his NFL career eclipsing 100 receiving yards in the opening half of a game.
- Caught a 50-yard reception from QB Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter – the 12th reception of 50 yards or more in his NFL career – and first since Oct. 23, 2016 vs. New England.
RB Le’Veon Bell
- Rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries and had three catches for 15 yards.
- Surpassed Willie Parker (6,075) for the eighth most scrimmage yards in Steelers history:
Rk. STEELER, YEARS SCRIMMAGE YARDS
- Heath Miller, 2005-15 6,577
- Louis Lipps, 1984-91 6,406
- Le’Veon Bell, 2013-current 6,097
- Willie Parker, 2004-09 6,075
- Lynn Swann, 1974-82 5,534
- Increased his career scrimmage yards total to 6,097 – the second-most by a Steeler in their first five years with the team:
ENTERING THE GAME
Rk. STEELER, YEARS SCRIMMAGE YARDS
- Jerome Bettis, 1996-2000 7,242
- Le’Veon Bell, 2013-current 6,097
- Franco Harris, 1972-76 5,947
- Willie Parker, 2004-08 5,622
- Antonio Brown, 2010-14 5,341
TE Jesse James
- Caught six passes for 41 yards with two touchdown catches.
- Posted the first career multi-touchdown game of his NFL career – catching a four-yard scoring pass from QB Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter to give the Steelers a 14-7 lead and a two-yard strike from Roethlisberger in the third quarter.
- His multi-touchdown game marked the 10th such game by a Steelers tight end since 1960 and the first since 2012 (Heath Miller, Sept. 23, 2012 at Oakland).
G David DeCastro
- Extended his consecutive regular-season games started streak to 57 – the fourth-longest active consecutive games started streak among NFL guards.
CB William Gay
- Extended his consecutive regular season games played streak to 161 – the longest active consecutive games played streak among NFL defensive players.
S Mike Mitchell
- Extended his consecutive regular season games started streak to 63 – the third-longest active consecutive games started streak among NFL safeties.
- Appeared in the 125th regular-season game of his NFL career.
CB Joe Haden
- Made his Steelers debut, appearing in the 91st game of his NFL regular-season career and posted six tackles and 1.0 sack.
- Brought down Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer for a sack of three yards to end the first half – his first sack with the Steelers – third of his NFL career – and first since Sept. 11, 2011 (with Cleveland).
LB Anthony Chickillo
- Recovered a punt blocked by Tyler Matakevich in the end zone for the team’s first touchdown of 2017 and to mark the Steelers first blocked punt for a touchdown since 1998 (Lance Brown block/Fred McAfee recovery, at Kansas City, Oct. 26).
- Sacked Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer in the first quarter for a loss of seven yards, increasing his career total to 3.5.
LB Tyler Matakevich
- Blocked a punt that was recovered by Anthony Chickillo in the end zone for a touchdown in the opening quarter.
LB Ryan Shazier
- Led the defense with seven tackles (four solo) and added a quarterback hit.
LB T.J. Watt
- Recorded six tackles (five solo), 2.0 sacks (11 yards), two quarterback hits and an interception in his NFL debut.
- Became the third player in NFL history to record 2.0 sacks and an interception in an NFL debut, joining Charles Glaze (Oct. 4, 1987) and Tommy Haynes (Oct. 4, 1987).
- Is the first Steeler with at least 2.0 sacks in their NFL debut since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 (previous mark, 1.5, Kenny Davidson, Sept. 9, 1990 at Cleveland).
- Is the first Steeler with at least 2.0 sacks and an interception in the same game since 2010 (LaMarr Woodley, Dec. 12 vs. Cincinnati).
- Brought down Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer for losses of eight and three yards in the third quarter.
- Picked off Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer in the third quarter and returned the ball 17 yards.
DE Cameron Heyward
- Sacked Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer for a loss of four yards, increasing his career sack total to 26.0 – the 14th-most by a Steeler since the stat became official in 1982. www.pittsburghsteelers.com