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Steelers top Browns, 28-14

The Steelers went into Sunday's regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns needing a win and a little help to extend their season into the playoffs.

Needing the Patriots and Dolphins to not win their games against the Bills and Jets, respectively, the Steelers also had to take care of business on their own against Cleveland.

Najee Harris took that on his shoulders, rushing for 83 yards on 23 carries, while the Steelers also sacked Cleveland quarterback DeShaun Watson seven times and intercepted him twice to beat the Browns, 28-14, Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

It was all for naught, however, as the Dolphins edged the Jets, 11-6, in Miami moments before the Steelers' game ended, getting a 50-yard field goal from placekicker Jason Sanders with 18 seconds remaining.

"All we could focus on was winning this game," said Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward. "Obviously, we needed help, and you never want to give another team control of your destiny."

The Steelers finish their season at 9-8, going 7-2 after a 2-6 start. They tied the Patriots for the second-longest streak in NFL history with 19 consecutive non-losing seasons.

"I'm appreciative of the efforts today. I'm appreciative of the efforts all year," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "We're an evolving group, and that evolution continued today.

"Hopefully, we learn something. Hopefully, we taught others something in the midst of our journey."

The lesson was that you never give up on a season, even when things don't necessarily go your way early.

One of those games that didn't go Pittsburgh's way came early in the season against Cleveland. And the Steelers enacted a bit of revenge for that 29-17 loss and greeted Watson, who had been suspended for the first meeting, to the Steelers-Browns rivalry.

The Steelers outrushed the Browns, 148-134, and harassed Watson throughout the game, as Alex Highsmith had 2.5 sacks and Cam Heyward had 2.0 to put him over 10 for the season.

"I think that's a tough defense," Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said of the Steelers. "At their place, as we know, it's very difficult."

Things actually could have been worse for the Browns, who finish 7-10.

The Steelers drove to the Cleveland 1 on their opening possession, but Kenny Pickett was stopped on a sneak on second down and Harris tried to leap over the top of the line on third down, only to lose the ball on a hit from linebacker Deion Jones.

The Browns recovered at their own 6 to keep the game scoreless.

The Steelers again threatened to score later in the second quarter, as Pickett tossed a screen pass to Harris on first-and-10 from their own 20. Harris caught the screen with center Mason Cole in front of him and scooted down the sideline to the Cleveland 35. But guard Kevin Dotson was ruled to be downfield early on the play, negating the 45-yard gain and the Steelers wound up punting back to the Browns.

Cleveland then got on the board as Watson twice escaped pressure during a 71-yard drive – including making rookie linebacker Mark Robinson miss on a blitz up the middle – to keep the possession moving. He finished things off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Njoku for a 7-0 lead.

Pickett, who was just 2 for 7 for 35 yards to that point, heated up on the Steelers' next possession and tied the game at 7-7 when he connected with fellow rookie George Pickens for a 31-yard touchdown pass on third-and-15 with 1:47 remaining in the first half.

The Browns had just one timeout remaining, but attempted to score before the half ran out. That wound up being a bad decision, as Watson was intercepted by Levi Wallace at the Pittsburgh 41.

The Steelers worked their way into field goal range and Chris Boswell connected from 49 yards to give Pittsburgh a 10-7 lead at that half.

The Steelers drove to the Cleveland 10 on the opening possession of the second half, but settled for a 34-yard field goal and a 13-7 lead.

Damontae Kazee then jumped a Watson pass intended for rookie wide receiver David Bell on the next Cleveland possession, returning it 12 yards to the Cleveland 25.

And Harris, who went over 1,000 yards for the season by gaining 11 yards on first down, slammed into the end zone from 4 yards out to give the Steelers a 20-7 lead with 3:12 remaining in the third quarter.

The Browns forced a three-and-out early in the fourth quarter and closed the gap to 20-14 on a Watson 2-yard touchdown pass to Chubb that came two plays after Cam Heyward was penalized for roughing the passer on what should have been the Steelers' fifth sack of the game.

But the Steelers put things away with a 75-yard touchdown drive that included two big third-down conversions by rookie tight end Connor Heyward and one by Pickens.

Derek Watt scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge, and Pickett threw a two-point conversion pass to Diontae Johnson to give the Steelers a 28-14 lead with 4:37 remaining in the game.

It was a good way to finish the season, but not exactly what the Steelers wanted.

"A little bit of both. (We) got the win, but obviously not the result we wanted," said Pickett, who completed 13 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. "At the end of the day here, we wanted a shot at the playoffs but didn't work out that way. So a little bit of mixed feelings."