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Steelers fall to Browns, 24-22

It was the type of game during which Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs shared the quarterbacking chores in place of Ben Roethlisberger on the same series repeatedly.

When Roethlisberger, defensive end Cam Heyward, center Maurkice Pouncey and outside linebacker T.J. Watt are among those who don't even make the trip, what transpires is destined to be anything but typical.

The Browns' 24-22 victory over the Steelers on Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland fit that description.

"We came, we fought, we came up short," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "I appreciate the efforts. We just didn't make enough plays."

The Steelers took over at their 35-yard line trailing 24-16 with 3:37 left in regulation after stopping the Browns on downs. Rudolph then directed a seven-play, 65-yard drive in 2:14 that ended on a 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. But the two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game ended on an incomplete pass to wide receiver Chase Claypool.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 17 game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium

The Browns recovered the subsequent onside kick and ran out the clock.
"It came down to one play," Rudolph said. "Combination of didn't get it done as well as I thought the DB kind of slingshotted (Claypool) a little bit.

"We lost, that's all that matters. I gotta make a better throw there to send us into OT."

The Steelers concluded the regular season at 12-4.

The Browns finished at 11-5.

Both teams advanced to the NFL playoffs, the Steelers as the AFC North Division champions and the AFC's No. 3 seed. The result of the game, combined with the outcomes of the Baltimore Ravens-Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins contests, sets up a rematch between the Steelers and Browns at Heinz Field in the NFL's Wild Card Round next weekend. Date and time of the game have yet to be released. 

"We're excited to go into playoff ball," outside linebacker Alex Highsmith said. "Us fighting and clawing that game shows the resiliency of this team.

"That's what I'm excited about seeing into the playoffs."

Rudolph completed 22 of 39 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Dobbs completed four of five passes for 2 yards and also ran twice for 20 yards.

Claypool had five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

The Steelers gained 394 total net yards to the Browns' 358.

Cleveland converted 50 percent of its third downs (6-for-12) to the Steelers' 47 percent (8-for-17) and had an edge in time of possession (32:10-27:50) .

The Steelers sliced the Browns' 15-point lead to eight early in the fourth quarter. Rudolph found Claypool for a 28-yard touchdown on fourth-and-10 from the Browns' 28, a strike that concluded a 13-play, 75-yard march in 4:50. Kicker Matthew Wright's extra point made it 24-16 Cleveland with 10:07 left in the fourth.

Cleveland turned an interception into a touchdown and a 15-point lead three seconds into the final quarter.

Cornerback M.J. Stewart Jr. intercepted Rudolph on third-and-9 from the Steelers' 42 and returned the ball 30 yards to the Steelers' 20. The Browns found the end zone four plays later on wide receiver Jarvis Landry's 3-yard sweep. Kicker Cody Parkey's extra point made it 24-9 Cleveland with 14:57 left in the fourth.

The Browns increased a one-point, second-half lead to eight at 17-9 on a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield to tight end Austin Hooper and Parkey's extra point with 3:48 left in the third quarter. Mayfield scampered 28 yards to the Steelers' 16 during the eight-play, 76-yard drive in 4:41.

Wright's third field goal of the day and second from 46 yards out brought the Steelers to within 10-9 with 8:29 left in the third. 

A 42-yard connection from Rudolph to Claypool on third-and-8 from the Steelers' 22-yard line extended the possession.

The Browns opened the scoring with a six-play, 85-yard drive for a touchdown on their first possession. Running back Nick Chubb went the final 47 yards on first-and-10 from the Steelers' 47-yard line. Parkey's extra point gave Cleveland a 7-0 lead with 9:29 left in the first quarter.

Parkey upped the Cleveland lead to 10-0 with a 23-yard field goal with 9:45 left in the second quarter. The Browns had achieved a first-and-goal from the Steelers' 4 but a pair of incompletions around a 1-yard loss by Chubb kept Cleveland out of the end zone.

The Steelers' first points came on a 29-yard field goal by Wright that cut the Browns' lead to 10-3 with 4:10 remaining prior to halftime. The splash play on their 11-play, 66-yard drive in 5:35 was a 41-yard completion from Rudolph to wide receiver Diontae Johnson on third-and-11 from the Steelers' 34.

Another Wright field goal, this one from 46 yards out, drew the Steelers to within 10-6 with 1:06 remaining prior to the break. Another third-and-long conversion was critical on the eight-play, 48-yard drive in 1:18, a 26-yard completion from Rudolph to Smith-Schuster on third-and-9 from the Steelers' 42.

The Browns out-gained the Steelers in the first half, 195-183, but the Steelers converted five of 10 third downs (50 percent) and held the Brows to a 1-for-5 effort on third downs (20 percent) in the first two quarters.

Defensive end Chris Wormley's sack of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield in the second quarter extended the Steelers' NFL-record streak of recording at least one sack to 73 consecutive regular-season games. The Steelers finished the regular season with 56 sacks, which ties the team record set in 2017. Read more >>>

Outside linebacker Alex Highsmith also dropped Mayfield in the first half. The Steelers finished with four sacks but didn't register a takeaway.