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Browns-Steelers Final Score: Cleveland’s rally falls short, lose opener 21-18

Another home opener results in a loss for the Browns.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns lost their home opener to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a final score of 21-18. They begin the season 0-1, and are 1-18 in openers since 1999.

Cleveland got off to a disastrous start. After beginning the game with a three-and-out, P Britton Colquitt lined up to punt near his own end zone. RB Matthew Dayes did an awful job as the punt protector, allowing a free rush by ILB Tyler Matakevich, who blocked it. The punt rolled to the end zone, where OLB Anthony Chickillo fell on top of it for the touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead.

Cleveland’s defense held strong for the majority of the first half. On Cleveland’s third offensive drive, still in the first quarter, QB DeShone Kizer finally found his groove. A 12-play drive was capped off with a quarterback sneak by Kizer, tying the game at 7-7.

In the second quarter, both teams traded possessions in a defensive battle that Cleveland seemed to be winning when you looked at field position and time of possession. But then, with under four minutes to go in the half and backed up in their own territory, Pittsburgh caught some good fortune when QB Ben Roethlisberger’s pass for WR Antonio Brown was tipped by MLB Joe Schobert, but the deflection actually went into Browns’ hands while in stride for a 50-yard catch-and-run.

Brown caught a couple more passes as he gained momentum, and then with under a minute to go, Roethlisberger finished the drive with this third down bullet to TE Jesse James, giving his team a 14-7 lead heading to the half.

A sack by DE Carl Nassib sparked the defense to a three-and-out to begin the third quarter. On Cleveland’s first offensive drive of the half, a nice pass to WR Corey Coleman on CB Joe Haden got the Browns into scoring range. Another completion to TE Seth DeValve got them near a goal-to-go situation, but then a sack forced them to settle for a 24-yard field goal by K Zane Gonzalez to make it a 14-10 game.

On their next possession, Pittsburgh was somewhat gifted another play to Brown — this time, a 41-yard pass interference penalty. There was a slight tug of the arm by CB Jamar Taylor at the last second, it didn’t appear to deter the outcome of the play — but it’s understandable why the official reached for the flag. On 3rd-and-goal from the 2 yard line, Pittsburgh got another touchdown with a tight end screen pass to James, giving them a 21-10 lead past the half-way point of the third quarter.

Cleveland responded with a drive of their own, sparked by a personal foul hit to the head by CB William Gay on WR Ricardo Louis. Facing a key fourth down near midfield, they decided to go for it and converted with a completion to TE Seth DeValve. In scoring range, Kizer was picked off by OLB T.J. Watt, who was dropping deep into coverage.

In field goal range on third down, Roethlisberger threw it deep to the goal line...but the pass was tipped by CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun and then intercepted by S Derrick Kindred! Kindred’s return only came out to the their own 31 yard line, but the play kept it an 11-point game.

The Browns’ next drive got off to a poor start, though. First, center J.C. Tretter was bull-rushed into Kizer for a big sack. Then, on second down, WR Kenny Britt dropped a wide open pass that would’ve gone for a first down and then some. A three-and-out followed with under 11 minutes to go.

The defense was able to get the ball back for Cleveland, but time was working against them, now with under seven minutes to go and needing two scores. They took three minutes, but got a couple of big plays down the field. Then, on 4th-and-goal from the 3, Hue Jackson made a tough call to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal. It paid off, though, as Kizer drilled WR Corey Coleman for a quick slant touchdown to make it a 21-16 game.

They went for two, and the give to RB Isaiah Crowell up the middle was good to make it a 21-18 game with 3:40 to go and two timeouts remaining.

On Pittsburgh’s next drive, Roethlisberger completed an incredible 38-yard jump ball to Brown amidst traffic.

Although there was a slight bobble afterward, he had already maintained possession and lost it as he was getting up. That left Cleveland without any timeouts and 2:28 to go -- because Cleveland called a regular timeout initially, and then challenged, meaning they burned two timeouts in one felt swoop.

RB Le’Veon Bell then had his best run of the game, sealing it as Pittsburgh was able to take three kneeldowns after the two-minute mark. That damn special teams touchdown at the beginning of the game proved costly.

Quick Hitters - Browns

  • QB DeShone Kizer: 20-of-30 for 222 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 5 rushes, 17 yards, 1 TD.
  • RB Isaiah Crowell: 17 rushes, 33 yards.
  • WR Corey Coleman: 5 catches, 53 yards, 1 TD.
  • The Steelers were credited with 7 sacks on the day.
  • Cleveland only allowed 35 total rushing yards.
  • Roethlisberger was not flagged for this ankle lock on DE Emmanuel Ogbah after the Kindred interception:

Quick Hitters - Steelers

  • QB Ben Roethlisberger: 24-of-36 for 263 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.
  • RB Le’Veon Bell: 10 carries, 32 yards. 3 catches, 15 yards.
  • WR Antonio Brown: 11 catches, 182 yards.
  • TE Jesse James: 6 catches, 41 yards, 2 TD.
  • Rookie OLB T.J. Watt had 6 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 INT.