Steelers Lose to Browns 24-22, Browns Clinch Playoffs
There are 2 ways to look at the outcome of game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns:
- The fact that it was the Steelers 4th loss in the past 5 games after starting the season 11-0, or:
- The AFC North Champion Steelers losing a meaningless game vs. a Browns team that knew they had to win to earn their first trip to the postseason since 2002.
No matter how you look at it, the Steelers losing this game had no effect on them as their playoff reservations have been set as the #3 seed in the AFC, while the Browns (11-5) were able to hold off a determined Steelers (12-4) team for a 24-22 victory and clinch their first playoff berth in 19 years.
“I am appreciative of the effort of our guys, but we came up short.” Said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin “As always, it is about what we do or do not do. I thought we weathered the initial storm. Last night as a group, we talked about the energy and the urgency that the Browns would bring, given their circumstance, and it was something that we had to endure. I thought the guys did a nice job of enduring that and staying in the fight.”
Playing with mostly backups, the Steelers fell behind the Browns 24-9 before backup QB Mason Rudolph led them on an impressive 4th comeback which got them within 2 and were a missed 2- point conversion away from tying this game. Filling in for starter Ben Roethlisberger, Rudolph easily had his best game as a Pro, passing for 315 yards, 2 TDs and an interception. One of his TDs went to rookie Chase Claypool who led all WRs with 101 yards and also tied Louis Lipps (1984) for first on the Steelers rookie single-season receiving TDs list. Claypool also registered his ninth receiving TD of the season, which leads all rookies this season and had 11 totals TDs this season.
“We were playing and playing to win. Pressure is ever present – you are either feeling it or applying it. Said Tomlin “It was our goal today to apply it so that was to be aggressive, particularly with the downfield throws. I thought Mason’s performance was great.”
WR JuJu Smith-Shuster caught Rudolph’s other TD and finished with 6 catches for 65 yards and WR Diontae Johnson had 96 yards on 3 receptions. K Matthew Wright (filling in for Chris Boswell) also kicked 3 FGs.
“We just did not make enough plays. We turned the ball over and then we did not get a stop after that turnover. They scored a touchdown after that turnover.” Said Tomlin “When you really look at it, that is kind of the difference in the game and that has to be. We have to take care of the ball,
and if we don’t, we have to support our offensive unit. That is probably the significance in terms of the outcome of the game. I can’t say enough about the efforts of the guys.”
The Steelers defense played without Pro Bowlers DT Cam Heyward, LB TJ Watt, also CB Joe Haden and S Terrel Edmunds, but they were still able to sack Browns QB Baker Mayfield 4 times, (one by DE Stephon Tuitt and rookie LB Alex Highsmith), but the Browns QB made no other mistakes as he led his team on 3 impressive TD-scoring drives and finished with 196 yards and a TD. Pro Bowl RB Nick Chubb ran for 108 yards and a 47-yard TD to eclipse the 1,000 rushing yard mark.
The Browns were able to capitalize big in the send half when they scored 14 points in a 3-minute span, thanks in part to a Rudolph interception. Mayfield found WR Austin Hooper for a 2-yard TD and fellow WR Jarvis Landry scored on a 3-yard run.
But the Steelers and Browns aren’t done: They will face each other in this weekend’s Wild Card Game and will play each other 3 times in a season for only the 2nd time in their rivalry. Their only playoff games were won by the Steelers: 29-9 in 1994 and a 37-34 thriller in 2002.
“I compliment the Browns on their play. They made enough plays, and we did not.” Said Tomlin We take responsibility for that. Guys had an opportunity to play in expanded roles today. We will take a look at that tape, and it will provide a lot of information, of course, as we push into the playoffs. We don’t care where the plays come from. Every man in a helmet or every man on our team is a viable component in terms of helping us win so we gained some information about some guys today to maybe help us in our planning as we push forward to next week.”
Notes: Tuitt’s sack was his 11th, a career-high. The Steelers also tied their career-high for sacks in a season with 56.
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