STEELERS 30, BROWNS 9**
Steelers' record: 6-4
One year ago: 6-4
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 69-58
It's been a pretty rare occurrence for the Browns to make consecutive visits to Pittsburgh with the same coaching staff in tact, and usually the change has involved the head coach. Mike Pettine survived his rookie season with the Browns, even though the team ended the season with five straight losses to finish 7-9, but his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach did not.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown made the highlight reel with a quick catch on a crossing route for a 56-yard touchdown with a little twist at the end...
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains were fired after 2014, and the Steelers could end up benefitting from the move. That's because under Shanahan, the Browns employed an outside-zone running scheme that gashed the Steelers for 191 and 158 yards last year in the annual home-and-home series, and Coach Mike Tomlin predicted his team's defense against the run was going to be a critical element in the 2015 version of the matchup at Heinz Field.
"It's going to be about the run game on both sides. It really is," said Tomlin. "Our ability to run the ball, our ability to stop the run. We weren't able to stop the run against them a year ago. You can say they're not effectively running the ball this year largely, but they didn't effectively run the ball largely last year. But they ran the ball effectively against us. We have to stop the run. We have to have balance on offense, and balance is being on schedule. DeAngelo Williams has to do the job for us, and we have to open run lanes for him."
The Browns ended 2014 ranked No. 17 in the NFL in rushing with an average of 108 yards per game. They arrived in Pittsburgh averaging 82.3 per game, which placed them No. 31 in the NFL in rushing, and their 3.5 yards per carry average placed them No. 31 in that category as well. But the Browns had abandoned the outside-zone scheme in favor of a more power running attack.
The Steelers' rushing attack came into the game ranked fifth in the NFL with an average of 133.4 yards per game, and their per-carry average of 5.1 was No. 1, even though they have played three full games and three-quarters of a fourth without Le'Veon Bell.
HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT**
So much for pregame analysis. The Steelers finished with 60 rushing yards on 21 attempts for a 2.9 average with a long gain of 12, and the Browns fared even worse with 15 yards on 14 attempts for a 1.1 average with the long gain of 11 yards turned in by Johnny Manziel on a scramble.
For a large part of the game, it didn't even appear as though the Steelers had any intention of attempting to run the football. In the first quarter, they attempted four runs and 11 passes; by the end of the first half it was seven running plays and 28 passing plays. According to the final statistics, the Steelers attempted 21 rushing plays – including two kneeldowns by Ben Roethlisberger to close out the game – to go along with 38 pass plays. For the Browns, it was 11 runs and 54 pass plays.
FIRST HALF STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Martavis Bryant finished the first half with four catches for 145 yards and a 32-yard touchdown. He also drew a 35-yard pass interference penalty on Charles Gaines.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
According to television reports after the game, Ben Roethlisberger's 379 yards passing was a record for a quarterback who entered the game as the backup. As Landry Jones said after the game, "(He is) maybe the most expensive backup in the NFL."
During the final seven minutes of the second quarter, the Steelers turned a 6-3 game into one where they held a 21-3 lead, and the Browns contributed to their own demise. The Steelers had a first-and-10 from their own 8-yard line following a Cleveland punt, and thanks to a 35-yard pass interference penalty the Steelers would advance to a first-and-10 at the Browns 14-yard line with 4:57 remaining.
With 3:36 left, the Steelers were lining up to settle for a 26-yard field goal, but even though Chris Boswell made the kick, Cleveland's Armonty Bryant was penalized 5 yards for a leverage foul, in which he was judged to have used a teammate to help him elevate to try to block the kick, which he didn't. On the next play, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown and followed that up with a two-point conversion pass to Brown for a 14-3 Steelers lead with 3:27 remaining.
On the Browns' first offensive snap after the kickoff, Andrew Hawkins caught a short pass but fumbled, and Jarvis Jones recovered for the Steelers at the Cleveland 36-yard line. As the Steelers moved into position to score more points, Browns Coach Mike Pettine started using timeouts in order to preserve some time for his offense.
But after the Steelers failed on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to turn the ball over on downs to Cleveland with 1:35 left in the half, Pittsburgh started to use its timeouts with the Browns offense backed up close to its own goal line. Cleveland went three-and-out, and the Steelers got the ball back following a 46-yard punt with 1:05 left at their own 47-yard line.
Two plays later, the ball was in the end zone again – after a false start penalty, a 20-yard completion to Antonio Brown, and then a 32-yard pass to Martavis Bryant for the touchdown that gave the Steelers a 21-3 halftime lead.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
The Steelers ran out the final 5:42 of the fourth quarter, while holding a 30-9 lead. Roethlisberger completed a 28-yard pass to Martavis Bryant to convert a second-and-13, and then on a third-and-2 from the Cleveland 30-yard line Roethlisberger went deep to Antonio Brown only to have Tramon Williams flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Two kneeldowns later, the game was over.
The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field in Week 10.