Bob Labriola with his thoughts on "what went right, wrong" at Cleveland.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Game action as the Steelers traveled to FirstEnergy Stadium to take on the Browns in Week 17.
- Call it just a bit of delayed gratification. On Cleveland's opening series – on the third play that was a third-and-5 after the recovery of Antonio Brown's fumble – an Austin Davis pass his Mike Mitchell in the chest, but he dropped the ball. The Browns elected to go for it on fourth down, and Gary Barnidge was tackled short of the line to gain after catching a short pass.
- It didn't take long for Ben Roethlisberger to go back to Antonio Brown, and it didn't take Brown long to deliver after losing a fumble on the Steelers' opening possession. It was an eight-play, 70-yard drive, and Brown caught three passes for 59 of those yards, with Ben Roethlisberger catching the 2-yard pass for the touchdown that gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead with 7:06 remaining in the first quarter.
- The Browns have a 46-yard kickoff return nullified by an illegal block penalty called on Barkevious Mingo. Cleveland ended up starting their offensive series at its own 21-yard line.
- It was a nice three-play series by the defense. Ryan Shazier and Ryan Shazier shared a sack; Arthur Moats dropped Duke Johnson for no gain; and then Robert Golden sacked Austin Davis to set up a fourth-and-26, which led to an Andy Lee punt with 3:28 left in the first quarter.
- Some nice red zone defense following the interception by Ben Roethlisberger. Starting at the 24-yard line, the Browns got a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line after a 15-yard run by Isaiah Crowell. Then Crowell was dumped for a 2-yard loss; Robert Golden broke up a pass for Travis Benjamin; and a blitzing Will Allen pressured Austin Davis into throwing the ball away on third down. Travis Coons' 2-yard field goal cut the Steelers' lead to 7-3 with 1:11 left in the first quarter.
- Call it redemption. It was a third-and-8 from the Steelers 20-yard line. Austin Davis' sideline pass was almost intercepted by Antwon Blake only to be caught by Darius Jennings, who then was able to gain the yardage necessary for the first down at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. After two incomplete passes, the Browns faced a third-and-10 only to have Davis sacked by Blake for a 10-yard loss back to the 20-yard line.
- Great throw by Roethlisberger on the touchdown via a 17-yard pass to Antonio Brown. And to set it up, he hooked up on a 40-yard completion to Markus Wheaton to get the Steelers into Cleveland territory. Steelers lead, 14-6 with 58 seconds left in the first half.
- A red zone takeaway bailed the Steelers out after Roethlisberger's second interception of the day, and his sixth over the past three weeks. Trying to get the ball to Gary Barnidge, Austin Davis' pass was intercepted by William Gay 1 yard deep in the end zone to preserve Pittsburgh's 14-6 lead.
- With Martavis Bryant apparently benched for drops and generally not producing, Darrius Heyward-Bey was seeing more playing time as a receiver. It was his 66-yard reception to the Cleveland 21-yard line to convert a third-and-2 that set up the 39-yard field goal by Chris Boswell that upped the Steelers' lead to 17-6.
- It was a 49-yard punt by Jordan Berry, but it became a big play when Ross Ventrone, added to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Friday, made a play on the ball before it bounced into the end zone. The Steelers then downed the ball at the Cleveland 1-yard line, with a 17-12 lead and 11:47 remaining in the game.
- A sack and a forced fumble by Lawrence Timmons that recovered by Arthur Moats was the Steelers' second takeaway of the game and gave the Steelers the ball at the 8-yard line. On the next play, Ben Roethlisberger to Markus Wheaton upped the Pittsburgh lead to what became 25-12 after a two-point conversion pass to Fitzgerald Toussaint.
- On the kickoff following the touchdown pass to Wheaton, Anthony Chickillo forced a fumble by Raheem Mostert that Anthony Chickillo recovered at the Browns 28-yard line with around 10 minutes remaining in the game.
- The Steelers settled for a 21-yard field goal by Chris Boswell and a 28-12 lead with 7:40 remaining when Ben Roethlisberger faked a handoff to Will Johnson – who appeared to have a clear path into the end zone – and threw the ball behind Antonio Brown in the end zone.
- Back-to-back big plays by the defense put the Steelers in great shape with 4:27 remaining and a 28-12 lead. On the first of those Stephon Tuitt sacked Austin Davis on third down, and then William Gay intercepted a pass for Travis Benjamin on fourth down to give the Steelers the ball at their own 44-yard line.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* A turnover on the first series of the game was not the way for the Steelers to get off to a quick start. The Steelers took the opening kickoff after the Browns won the coin toss and deferred. After converting one third down with a pass to Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger went back to him on a second-and-9 from the Pittsburgh 34-yard line. The pass gained 13 yards, but Karlos Dansby forced a fumble that Craig Robertson recovered for Cleveland.
- A bad interception. Trying to get the ball to Martavis Bryant on a first-and-10, Ben Roethlisberger's pass was intercepted by Jordan Poyer, who would have returned it for a touchdown if he didn't trip over his own feet. As it was, the Browns started the possession on the Steelers 24-yard line late in the first quarter.
- With 13:37 remaining in the second quarter on what turned out to be a 6-yard gain, Le'Veon Bell sustained what appeared to be an ankle injury. He was replaced by Fitzgerald Toussaint. Williams was taken into the locker room for evaluation immediately.
- Two plays after Williams was injured, Chris Boswell missed a 48-yard field goal, and the Browns took over at their own 38-yard line.
- Some poor tackling and a "combat catch" by converted quarterback Terrelle Pryor helped the Browns to a third first half field goal that narrowed their deficit to 14-9 at halftime. On first-and-10 from the Cleveland 32-yard line, Austin Davis dumped the ball to Duke Johnson, who escaped a couple of Steelers defenders to gain 20 yards. Then on a third-and-19 from the Cleveland 43-yard line, Davis' pass down the left sideline was high-pointed nicely by Pryor over Antwon Blake for a 42-yard gain to the Steelers 15-yard line.
- A second interception and a third turnover on the first offensive possession of the second half. Reading Ben Roethlisberger's eyes while in zone coverage, linebacker Craig Robertson intercepted a pass for Antonio Brown, and he returned it 38 yards to the Pittsburgh 9-yard line.