STEELERS 27, BROWNS 24, OT
Steelers' record: 11-5
One year ago: 10-6
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 72-58
The victory over the Browns was the Steelers' seventh straight, which is their longest regular season winning streak since they won 14 in a row in 2004 on the way to finishing 15-1.
On Tuesday, this is what Coach Mike Tomlin said about the approach to this game: "There are several guys that I will look hard at preserving and protecting as we get into the playoff round with the understanding that we are the three seed. Guys like Ben Roethlisberger will get that consideration. Le'Veon Bell will get that consideration. It would be nice to take Le'Veon into a playoff stadium. That is something we haven't been able to do in the last two years. Antonio Brown, it would be nice to take him into a playoff stadium. We went to Denver last year without him. That's not quite as fun as doing it with him. Maurkice Pouncey is another guy. I have been in playoff stadiums without him. I have been in a Super Bowl without him. It is more fun to do it with him. So, those are some of the guys that I will give consideration to. If I get the opportunity to deem those guys inactive, then I will.
"In general, our approach is going to be, if you are dressed, it is business as usual."
Game action from Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns.
On Friday, Tomlin said this about his plan: "Landry Jones gets the start (at quarterback). It's an awesome opportunity for him … It's a tremendous opportunity for a lot of people in a lot of different ways. We just talked about Landry Jones, but also a guy like Le'Veon Bell, who had surgery some time ago and had to recover from that and really hadn't played a lot. He's watched Le'Veon Bell a lot in recent weeks, so it's an opportunity for him to knock some rust off and be a featured ballcarrier and do some things for us. It's also an opportunity for young guys like Demarcus Ayers and Johnny Maxey, who got their first NFL action a week ago, to build upon that positive experience. And just continue to grow as players and ready themselves for those moments."
HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT
The Steelers inactive list for the game included the guys Tomlin had said he wanted to rest – Roethlisberger, Bell, Brown, and Pouncey – and William Gay also sat out the afternoon's festivities. But with those exceptions, and a few walking wounded – Sammie Coates, Anthony Chickillo, Xavier Grimble – the Steelers played their best players. It was business as usual for the starting offensive line, minus Pouncey, for inside linebackers Ryan Shazier and Ryan Shazier, for defensive backs Artie Burns, Will Gay, Stephon Tuitt, Sean Davis, and Mike Mitchell, and a bunch of others as well.
And Landry Jones took advantage of the opportunity. Over the course of the game, his play improved, and his final statistics read: 24-of-37 (64.9 percent) for 277 yards, with three touchdowns, one interception, and a rating of 103.1. And in the fourth quarter he directed touchdown drives of 80 and 61 yards, and then the game-winning drive in overtime covered 75 yards.
FIRST HALF STATS THAT STAND OUT
The Browns were dominant statistically but led by just 14-7 at halftime. Some examples: the Browns had more first downs, 14-5; better third-down conversion percentage, 71-0; more total net yards, 202-52; and more rushing yards, 86-8.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
The Browns were 3-for-6 in the red zone, and just 1-for-2 in goal-to-go situations. And those numbers don't include the scenario described below.
Hustle by Darrius Heyward-Bey saved the Steelers a touchdown late in the third quarter. Landry Jones' pass was intercepted at the Cleveland 32-yard line by Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and his return of that interception seemingly was going to end with a Browns touchdown. But Heyward-Bey never gave up on the play, and he knocked the ball out of Boddy-Calhoun's hands at the 1-yard line. When it was recovered by Jones in the end zone, it was a touchback and the Steelers took over at their 20-yard line. Instead of the Browns building their lead to 21-7 late in the third quarter, the Steelers took the ball and drove 80 yards in 10 plays to tie the game, 14-14, with 13:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"It was hard the way that we won," said Landry Jones. "But in the end, for a quarterback to do it in overtime, to do it on the last drive and to throw a pass like that — those are the things you dream about. I think for me that was just a big deal in my career, and I am just super thankful to get out there and play again."