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Steelers win AFC North battle with Browns, 38-7

The Browns came to Heinz Field determined to challenge for first place in the AFC North Division but the Steelers had all the answers on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

The defense sacked quarterback Baker Mayfield and took the ball away.

The offense ran the ball and sprinkled in big plays.

It all added up to a 38-7 Steelers' victory.

"That was varsity ball today," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced. "They stepped up and stepped up big and met a challenge."

Mayfield, battling a rib injury at the outset he had officially been listed as "questionable/chest" watched the fourth quarter from the bench as the Steelers improved to 5-0 for the second time in franchise history and for the first time since 1978.

The Browns saw their four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 4-2.

Cleveland has lost 17 consecutive games at Heinz Field and is 1-19 all-time at the facility.

"It was a good win, but I'm going to leave it at that," Steelers defensive tackle and defensive captain Cam Heyward said.

A sequence late in the third quarter told the story as well as any.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 6 game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field

Down 24-7, the Browns went for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Cleveland 29-yard line and 5:59 left in the third. Running back Kareem Hunt was engulfed for a 1-yard loss and the Steelers took over at the Browns' 28.

From there the Steelers ran the ball eight consecutive times on the way to re-establishing a 24-point lead at 31-7. The march included a 2-yard sneak by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on fourth-and-1 from the Browns' 5 and a 3-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Chase Claypool on a sweep.

The Steelers dominated the first half while building a 24-7 lead.

The first big play was an interception and 33-yard return for a touchdown by free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on third-and-3 from the Cleveland 28 with 9:05 left in the first quarter. Kicker Chris Boswell's extra point gave the Steelers a 10-0 advantage.

"We needed to set the tone on defense," Fitzpatrick said. "A pick-six on the first (defensive) drive of the game is definitely a way to do it."

Added Tomlin: "I think it sent a message to them, third down wasn't going to be easy sledding today."

The Eagles had converted 10 of 14 third-down attempts in the Steelers' 38-29 victory over Philadelphia on Oct. 11.

Cleveland went 1-for-12 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down.

Mayfield was sacked four times and intercepted twice.

And the Browns' No. 1 rushing offense was held to 75 yards on 22 carries, less than half of the 188.4 yards per game on the ground Cleveland had been amassing on average.

The Steelers rushed for 129 yards, including 101 on 20 carries by running back James Conner, and scored three touchdowns on the ground.

"At the end of the day it comes down to respect," Conner said. "We just want our respect."

Roethlisberger directed a five-play, 88-yard drive in 3:37 that was finished off on a 3-yard burst for a touchdown by Conner one snap after Roethlisberger found Claypool for 36 yards to the Cleveland 3. Boswell's PAT upped the Steelers' lead to 17-0 with 10:28 remaining prior to halftime.

Another turnover, this one an interception by defensive back Cam Sutton, set up the Steelers' third touchdown and fourth score. After taking possession at midfield, the Steelers moved 50 yards in five plays in 1:58, the final 28 yards coming on a Roethlisberger touchdown pass to wide receiver James Washington. Boswell's extra point made it 24-0 Steelers with 5:43 left in the second.

The Steelers had opened the scoring on a 35-yard field goal by Boswell that capped their 11-play, 58-yard drive in 4:25 on the game's opening possession.

The Steelers lost inside linebacker Devin Bush (knee) with 2:28 left in the second quarter.

Tomlin said Bush "appears to have a significant injury.

"We'll put together a formula that will allow us to function in the interim, believe it," Tomlin added.

Bush was replaced by second-year pro Robert Spillane, who played his first defensive snaps since appearing on eight in the regular-season opener at the New York Football Giants.

Those had been the first defensive snaps of Spillane's career after breaking into the NFL as an undrafted rookie from Western Michigan with Tennessee in 2018.

Nickel cornerback Mike Hilton (shoulder) and center Maurkice Pouncey (foot) were also injured.

The Browns got on the scoreboard on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who was uncovered in the end zone. Cody Parkey's extra point drew Cleveland to within 24-7 with 1:01 left in the first half.

A 1-yard touchdown run by running back Benny Snell and Boswell's extra point closed the scoring with 8:08 left in regulation.