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Xtra Points: Want to, young guns

Posted Jan 1, 2017

A lot of players stepped up big in the Steelers 27-24 overtime win.

Want to: When you look at Darrius Heyward-Bey’s stats, you will see one reception. Won’t look like much, but that number gives zero indication of Heyward-Bey’s impact on the Steelers 27-24 overtime win over the Browns.

Heyward-Bey, who missed five games with a foot injury (Weeks 11-15), said earlier this week it was important for him to play against the Browns because he wanted to get some reps and get acclimated back to playing.

Then Heyward-Bey added: “As a team, no matter what, it’s about getting a win. That is important.”

Heyward-Bey showed how much he wanted to win with his hustle and ‘want to’ after Landry Jones threw a third quarter interception to Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Boddy-Calhoun picked it off at the Browns’ 32-yard line and headed for the end zone. It appeared Boddy-Calhoun had scored on a 68-yard return, but thanks to Heyward-Bey’s hustle, the call was overturned.

What the officials initially missed was Heyward-Bey knocked the ball free at the one-yard line, forcing a fumble, and Jones recovered in the end zone for the touchback.

The Steelers scored on the ensuing drive, and instead of being down 21-7, the game was tied at 14-14.

"I was going for the tackle," said Heyward-Bey. "But, you know, defenders don’t hold on to the ball well or that often, so when I saw the ball slip, I just kind of did a little punch at it. I understood that if they score this touchdown, they are going to go up 21-7, and we can’t have that. I looked at the pylon, did the best that I could and made a play.

"I stripped the ball and knew it was a touchback. Even Landry Jones did. He just said, 'They have to review it and we know it’s going to be our ball at the 20.'"

Oh, and about that one catch, it was simply an incredible 46-yard grab that gave the Steelers the ball at the Browns’ 11-yard line and set up a Demarcus Ayers touchdown reception.

Rallying late:
The Steelers offense struggled early, managing just 52 yards of total offense in the first half. Landry Jones had just seven completions for 62 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to DeAngelo Williams, and was sacked twice for a loss of 18 yards.

But when he was needed the most, Jones stepped up. Jones rallied the Steelers from behind, and in overtime completed six passes for 76 yards, including a game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton.

Jones finished the day completing 24 of 37 passes for 277 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception for a quarterback rating of 103.1.

“That guy works hard,” said Coach Mike Tomlin of Jones. “We respect him. For him to have an opportunity to rise up for his teammates, I am sure he is prepared for it, relished it and delivered. It’s a good thing for him and a good thing for us.”  

Young guns: With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell inactive to rest them as the Steelers’ prepare for the playoffs, it was up to some young players to step up against the Browns on offense and they did just that.

Eli Rogers finished the game with six receptions for 61 yards, Demarcus Ayers had five receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown, and Cobi Hamilton had three receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Hamilton had the catch of the day when he pulled in a 26-yard reception for a touchdown in overtime for the win.

“It feels good,” said Hamilton. “To cap the year and head into next week in the playoffs, it feels really good.”

Hamilton said the pass from Jones, which was a jump ball that let him use his athletic ability, was nothing different than what they work on in practice all week.

“It’s just focus,” said Hamilton. “We practice this every day in practice. The play was nothing special. It’s just fun to take practice to the field.

“Any time I am allowed to show my athletic ability and show I can play, it’s a plus. That play was really good to finish off the year.”