Watt, Harris Lead Steelers past Browns 26-14
PITTSBURGH, PA-In what was likely QB Ben Roethlisberger’s final game at Heinz Field, the Pittsburgh Steelers made sure he would go out on top with a stellar performance that even the 70’s teams would approve: A dirty blood and guts 26-14 victory over the AFC North Rival Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football.
“Just so appreciative of No. 7, appreciate everyone’s efforts” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “It was a total team effort. We did what we needed to in all three phases, so we’re appreciative.”
The 2004 Draft pick and 18-year veteran QB announced that this is likely it several days ago and along with tributes from former teammates, non-teammates and correspondents from NFL Network and ESPN and the 63,624 in attendance who gave him a huge standing ovation at the beginning of the game, as well as yelling chants of ‘Thank You Ben!’ Fellow team Captains DT Cam Heyward and FB Derek Watt also allowed Big Ben to walk alone to the center of the field for the coin-toss.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has now clinched his 15th straight season without a losing record.
That’s the most consecutive seasons to begin a career by any head coach in NFL history.
In a league of parity and constant coaching turnover, Tomlin’s consistency is incredible. pic.twitter.com/qDazhhJoM8
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 4, 2022
“I was just appreciating the last 15 years with him. Man, we been through a lot. We seen a lot. It’s been a heck of a ride.” Said Tomlin. “Been one that’s been an honor to be a part of and enjoy, but that’s just largely what I was thinking at that moment.”
But it was the running game and the defense that gave the future Hall-of Famer the biggest tribute with their best performance of the season. Rookie RB Najee Harris rushed for 188 yards on 28 carries and his 37-yard run late in the fourth quarter sealed the victory. Harris has now rushed over 1,000 yards in his first season (1,172) breaking Hall of Fame RB Franco Harris’ 1972 rookie record of 1,055 yards.
K Chris Boswell was just as valuable as he added four field goals for the Steelers.
The Steelers defense was stellar, not only giving up just 14 points (one TD late in the 4th quarter), but also sacking Browns QB Baker Mayfield 9 times. Four of those sacks came from LB TJ Watt, who is now 1 sack away from tying Hall of Fame DE Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5, which he set in 2002. He is not only the first Steeler to ever get 20 sacks in a season, be he is also the 12th player in NFL history to reach that mark and the third fastest to 70 career sacks in NFL history.
In addition to Watt, second year LB Alex Highsmith got two sacks, DT Cam Heyward, DE, Henry Mondeaux and LB Derrek Tuszka each had one apiece. CBs Ahkello Witherspoon and Tre Norwood each had interceptions.
But the spotlight was on Big Ben, who finished his final regular-season game at Heinz Field passing for 123 yards (23/46) with a TD (a 5-yarder to WR Diontae Johnson) and an interception. Once the game was over, the fans gave him another ovation as he took victory laps around the field greeting the fans before greeting his family and heading to the locker room to meet with his team and speaking to reporters.
I love you Ben. Thank you pic.twitter.com/M2iIK2f4TU
— SteelerNation (@SteeIerNation) January 4, 2022
When asked if he describe what the fans mean to him, Big Ben replied “I don’t know that I can. It’s just this is home. I was born in Ohio, but I live here, and I’ll always be here. These fans and this place means so much to me and my family and always will. I’ve always said they’re the best fans in all of sports, and I’ll stick by that to the day I die. To see all the signs and jerseys and towels, and to hear them cheer for me coming out of the tunnel, all that stuff, I don’t know that I’ll ever put it into words. I wish I could bottle it and have it forever. But I will in here and in my mind.”
Big Ben takes a final lap around Heinz Field.
What a moment for Pittsburgh. pic.twitter.com/AzU1AtwkFI
— NFL (@NFL) January 4, 2022
Browns QB Baker Mayfield finished with 185 passing yards (16/38) with 2 TDs and two interceptions. The Steelers were able to neutralize Browns star RB Nick Chubb to 58 yards on 12 carries.
With the win, the Steelers are now 8-7-1, assuring themselves of another non-losing season for the 18th consecutive year. The Steelers also keep their playoff hopes alive as well and will now need to beat the Baltimore Ravens next week at M &T Bank Stadium and would need Indianapolis, Las Vegas and/or the Las Angeles Chargers to lose to get that final AFC Wild Card Playoff Spot.
It comes down to one game for the Steelers and they are ready to see what the end’s going to be.
“We got a short week this year. We got to go to Baltimore. More AFC North football, and you guys know how we feel about that.” Said Tomlin “We’re excited about that opportunity. We’ll get singularly focused and go put forth our best effort. Tonight, we just pause and we’re appreciative of 7 and his body of work and had the awesome opportunity to kind of share in this moment with him.”
Notes: The Steelers had a moment of silence for Hall of Fame coach and former broadcaster John Madden who passed away December 26th at the age of 85.
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