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Steelers defeat Browns, sweep the North

Posted Dec 31, 2017

Landry Jones led the offense, while the defense set a new sack record in the 28-24 win.

The Steelers closed out the regular season the same way they started it, with a win over the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers defeated the Browns, 28-24, running the table in the AFC North with a perfect 6-0 record.

“It was great to go undefeated in the North,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “It was significant for us. We realize if we want to do some of the things we want to do, it starts with AFC North football.”

Tomlin chose to sit some of his starters, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro, and defensive end Cameron Heyward.

Those who were out there, though, played with a desire to finish the season out on a winning note, finishing with a 13-3 regular season record.

Landry Jones got the start for the Steelers and completed 23 of 27 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

“I can’t say enough about Landry,” said Tomlin. “We have a lot of confidence in him. He did the job.”

The defense sacked DeShone Kizer six times, and in doing so set a Steelers franchise record with 56 sacks on the season.

“Every chance we got we were blitzing and we got the job done today,” said Sean Davis, who had one of the sacks.

The offense came out on fire at the start of the game, despite the bone-chilling temperatures. Landry Jones hit Roosevelt Nix for five yards, and Fitzgerald Toussaint for seven yards. Stevan Ridley, starting for Le’Veon Bell who was a healthy scratch to rest him for the postseason, rattled off carries of 12 and 16 yards, keeping the chains moving. Darrius Heyward-Bey kicked it into overdrive when he took the handoff on the reverse, going 29-yards for a touchdown, giving the Steelers an early 7-0 lead.

DeShone Kizer didn’t stand a chance on the Browns opening drive as the defense was swarming. Tyson Alualu knocked him for an eight-yard loss on a sack, and then Sean Davis sacked him for a 12-yard loss back to the four-yard line, forcing a three-and-out.

Jabrill Peppers picked off Jones on the Steelers ensuing drive, giving the Browns the ball at their own 37-yard line. The defense held, though, forcing another three-and-out and keeping the Browns from taking advantage of the turnover.

The offense got clicking again on the next drive, with JuJu Smith-Schuster pulling in a 34-yard catch and run. Ridley rattled off a 21-yard run, and Smith-Schuster pulled in an 11-yard catch, but was shy of the first down. The Steelers lined up for a field goal, but a neutral zone infraction by the Browns gave them new life at the four-yard line. Fitzgerald Toussaint took if for three yards, but on two tries from the one-yard line they were stopped for no gain. On fourth down Nix got hit for a loss of a yard, turning the ball over on downs.

Once again, though, the defense didn’t allow the Browns to go anywhere, forcing yet another three-and-out.

Tyler Matakevich tipped Britton Colquitt’s punt, which only went 27 yards to the 28-yard line. Jones was sacked by Peppers for a loss of six yards, but quickly rebounded. Jones hit Martavis Bryant for a 14-yard gain to the 20-yard line. Jones then found Smith-Schuster open in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 14-0.

The Browns came to life on offense on their next drive when Kizer hit Josh Gordon on the sideline for a 54-yard gain to the two-yard line. Duke Johnson Jr. took it in from the two-yard line, cutting the Steelers lead to 14-7.

It didn’t take long for the Steelers to get the score back. Jones hit Bryant for 15 yards, and Jesse James for seven yards. Toussaint added a five-yard run, and Smith-Schuster pulled in a 10-yard reception. The Browns were hit with a facemask call after Toussaint took it for seven yards, and a roughing the passer call gave the Steelers another first down. Ridley took it in from the four-yard line, for his first touchdown in a Steelers uniform, and a 21-7 lead.  

As fast as the Steelers came back, the Browns came firing back even faster. Aided by a kickoff out of bounds that gave them the ball at the 40-yard line to start the drive, Kizer hit Rashard Higgins for a 56-yard touchdown pass, putting them right back within a score, 21-14.

The Steelers missed out on another opportunity to score in the first half when Jones was sacked, forcing a fumble that the Browns recovered, sending them into the half up 21-14.

The Browns tied the game, 21-21, on their first possession of the second half when Kizer connected again with Higgins, this time for a five-yard scoring strike. 

That tie was short-lived. Smith-Schuster took the ensuing kickoff and lit it up with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, putting the Steelers back on top, 28-21.

The Browns pulled closer on their next drive, when Zane Gonzalez hit a 51-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 28-24.

The defense stepped up big again. Alualu got his second sack of the game, which is the one that broke the team record for most sacks in a season with 56, and then William Gay forced a fumble, which Mike Mitchell recovered. On the Browns next series, Davis picked off Kizer, but the offense wasn't able to capitalize.

The defense stayed strong, holding the Browns on their final drive, and then the offense was able to run out the clock for the win.

A detailed look at today's scoring:

First Quarter: Steelers 7, Browns 0
Scoring Play: Darrius Heyward-Bey 29-yard touchdown run on the reverse.
Scoring Summary: 8-72-4:17

Second Quarter: Steelers 14, Browns 0
Scoring Play: Landry Jones 20-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Scoring Summary: 3-28-1:21

Second Quarter: Steelers 14, Browns 7
Scoring Play: Duke Johnson Jr. two-yard run.
Scoring Summary: 5-74-1:40

Second Quarter: Steelers 21, Browns 7
Scoring Play: Stevan Ridley four-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 8-75-3:47

Second Quarter: Steelers 21, Browns 14
Scoring Play: DeShone Kizer 56-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins.
Scoring Summary: 2-6-0:46

Third Quarter: Steelers 21, Browns 21
Scoring Play: DeShone Kizer five-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins.
Scoring Summary: 7-68-4:05

Third Quarter: Steelers 28, Browns 21
Scoring Play: JuJu Smith-Schuster 96-yard kickoff return.

Third Quarter: Steelers 28, Browns 24
Scoring Play: Zane Gonzalez 51-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 16-55-8:38