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Browns vs. Steelers Final Score: We did it! Cleveland advances to postseason with 24-22 win

It’s the Browns’ first trip to the postseason since the 2002 season.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

We did it!

For the first time since the 2002 season, the Cleveland Browns are playoff-bound, and set for a re-match next week against a much different Pittsburgh Steelers team than the one they faced this week. This game was full of tension as the Browns tried getting into the postseason, but they ended up getting it done with a big ending to the third quarter. But dammit, Pittsburgh made it way too freaking close. Let’s get to the recap of the game.


1st Quarter

Pittsburgh received the opening kickoff, and while QB Mason Rudolph was able to move the chains with one third down pass conversion, his next third-down attempt from midfield was incomplete. The Steelers punted to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, who fair caught the ball at the 14 yard line.

On the first play of the Browns’ first offensive drive, RB Nick Chubb bursted for 11 yards. QB Baker Mayfield then completed a first-down pass to WR Jarvis Landry, thrilled to have his receivers back this week. Two plays later, Chubb broke free for a 47-yard touchdown run, with key blocks from TE Austin Hooper, RT Jack Conklin, and RG Wyatt Teller, to give the Browns a 7-0 lead.

Pittsburgh went three-and-out on their second series, thanks to S Karl Joseph sticking TE Vance McDonald as he tried reaching for a first down on a 9-yard completion on 3rd-and-10. P Jordan Berry boomed another great punt all the way to the 10 yard line, though — a net of 56 yards, to not make things easy for Cleveland’s offense.

Cleveland’s next drive started pretty well, but then Teller had a false start on a second down play, and on 2nd-and-11, Mayfield’s pass to Peoples-Jones was ruled incomplete after replay review determined he was out of bounds. On 3rd-and-11, Mayfield dumped the ball to Hunt shy of the marker, leading to a punt, which Gillan did a great job on to pin Pittsburgh back to the 10 yard line.


2nd Quarter

Pittsburgh again drove to near midfield leading into the second quarter, but on third down, Rudolph tried to scramble and then slid for a short gain as Browns defenders swarmed him. This time, Cleveland started with better field position at the 25 yard line. Cleveland started the next drive hot with a 13-yard run by Chubb, followed by a 42-yard strike to WR Rashard Higgins up the right sideline.

Cleveland eventually had a 1st-and-goal situation from the 4 yard line, but on first down, S Minkah Fitzpatrick broke up a pass intended for TE David Njoku. Two plays later, Mayfield’s pass to Njoku was out of bounds, forcing Cleveland to settle for a 23-yard field goal from K Cody Parkey to extend the lead to 10-0.

With Pittsburgh’s offense looking dead, on 3rd-and-11 and with pressure in his face, Rudolph dropped a perfect pass to WR Diontae Johnson for 42 yards. On the next play, QB Josh Dobbs came in and ran for 13 yards and another first down. Pressure from DE Adrian Clayborn forced Rudolph’s third down pass to fall incomplete, leading to K Matthew Wright coming on to kick a 29-yard field goal. That made it a 10-3 game with 4:10 remaining in the second quarter.

On second down of the next drive, Mayfield was sacked for a loss of 9 yards, setting up a 3rd-and-16 situation. Cleveland ran a draw play to Hunt for 12 yards and punted it away, hoping the defense could give them the ball back. On a 3rd-and-9 play, Rudolph again converted a pass in tight coverage, finding WR JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 26-yard gain. DE Olivier Vernon forced a big sack on Rudolph to set up a 3rd-and-13 situation from the 35 yard line, and Dobbs came in and ran it for 7 yards. That set Pittsburgh up to try a 46-yard field goal, which Wright connected on to make it a 10-6 game with 1:07 to go in the half.

With only one timeout to work with, Cleveland still wanted to try moving the ball. They got some help by RB D’Ernest Johnson returning the kickoff out to the 35 yard line. On first down, Mayfield’s pass to Peoples-Jones was high, and he got drilled in the back and couldn’t hang on, leaving with an injury too. Mayfield was sacked on second down, forcing Cleveland to go into the half with the score still at 10-6.


3rd Quarter

The Browns received the ball to begin the third quarter. For the third straight drive, Mayfield took a sack, leading to a 2nd-and-17 situation. Mayfield did complete a 14-yard strike to Landry, setting up a 3rd-and-3 situation. Mayfield scrambled, and was marked short by the officials for a 4th-and-inches. At their own 44 yard line, Cleveland lined up to go for it, but LG Joel Bitonio committed a false start, which then sent the punt unit in.

On 3rd-and-8 to start Pittsburgh’s next drive, Rudolph again completed a deep ball, hitting WR Chase Claypool after he beat CB Terrence Mitchell for a 41-yard gain. A few plays later, on 3rd-and-10, the dumpoff to RB James Conner gained 8 yards. Facing a 4th-and-2, Pittsburgh sent Wright out for another 46-yard field goal, which he again drilled to make it a 10-9 game with 8:29 remaining in the third quarter.

The Browns finally found some traction on their next drive after some gritty short runs by Chubb, and then TE David Njoku catching a pass for 14 yards amidst traffic. Off of a playaction pass, Mayfield found tons of running room for 28 yards up the left sideline to get Cleveland into the red zone.

They got closer on a 10-yard strike from Mayfield to WR KhaDarel Hodge to the 2 yard line. On 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line, Mayfield again ran the playfake, looked left, and then found TE Austin Hooper open for the touchdown to his left to give the Browns a 17-9 lead with 3:48 to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers faced another 3rd-and-8 situation shy of midfield, an area they’ve succeeded all day. This time, the Browns brought the house on a blitz, and Rudolph threw the ball right to CB M.J. Stewart! Stewart returned the interception 30 yards all the way to the 20 yard line. It was the first turnover forced by the Browns’ defense since Week 13.

Facing a 3rd-and-7 on the final play of the third quarter, Mayfield found a diving Hodge for 15 yards and a first down to the 3 yard line.


4th Quarter

On 1st-and-goal from the 3 yard line, Mayfield handed the ball off to Landry on the end around, who plunged in for the touchdown to give the Browns a 24-9 lead with 14:57 to go in the game.

On Pittsburgh’s next drive, after advancing to the edge of field goal range, Pittsburgh faced a 4th-and-6 and went for it. Rudolph converted with an 8-yard pass to Johnson. A few plays later, Vernon suffered some type of leg injury and exited to the sidelines as Pittsburgh faced a 3rd-and-10 situation. Rudolph’s pass to Claypool was out of bounds, putting the Steelers in 4th-and-10 and going for it again.

Cleveland brought pressure on fourth down, and Rudolph chucked it up to the end zone. Despite the tight coverage from Mitchell, Claypool battled for it and came down with a fantastic catch for the 28-yard touchdown, keeping the Steelers’ hopes alive with a 24-16 score with 10:07 remaining.

Cleveland converted a big third down on their next drive with another scramble from Mayfield. A couple of plays later, he did it again with his legs, picking up a first down with an 8-yard scramble. A few more plays later, on 3rd-and-3 with 4:30 to play, Mayfield was sacked for a loss of 4 yards trying to pass it. They went for it on 4th-and-7 from the 35 yard line, and Mayfield’s pass to Higgins was incomplete for a turnover on downs.

With 3:37 left to go, it was up to the defense to stop Rudolph one more time. He delivered a bomb for 47 yards to Johnson, down to the 10 yard line. On 1st-and-goal from the 10 yard line, Pittsburgh ran it for 6 yards, setting up 2nd-and-goal from the 4 yard line with at the two-minute warning.

Dobbs came in for a tight end flip that gained two yards, setting up 3rd-and-goal from the 2 yard line. Rudolph fired a strike to Smith-Schuster over the middle for the touchdown, making it a 24-22 game with 1:23 to go.

The Steelers then had to go for the all-important two point conversion, and Rudolph’s pass was too high on the slant for Claypool.

Pittsburgh then went for the onside kick, all-the-more nervous because a Pittsburgh recovery would mean a field goal wins it for them. TE Stephen Carlson was the man under pressure, and he nearly booted it, but he held on amidst the scrum.

The Steelers still had all three timeouts, so the game wasn’t over. Chubb started it off well with an 8-yard run on first down, forcing the Steelers to call their first timeout. Chubb was stopped for no gain on second down, and Pittsburgh took their second timeout. On 3rd-and-2, Mayfield ran the quarterback keeper on the rollout to the right, getting the first down to seal the win after a kneeldown! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!


Up Next

The Browns will play the Steelers again, at Pittsburgh, in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.


Quick Hitter Stats

  • QB Baker Mayfield: 17-of-27 for 196 yards, 1 TD. 5 rushes, 45 yards.
  • RB Nick Chubb: 14 carries, 108 yards, 1 TD.
  • TE Austin Hooper: 4 catches, 37 yards, 1 TD.

Quick Hitter Notes

  • YES! YES! YES!
  • I wish it wouldn’t have been this close, but we grinded it out. How reminiscent was the clincher defensively? Even though we gave up the touchdown, the defense came up with a stop on the two-point conversion, much like they got against the Atlanta Falcons back in 2002 to advance to the postseason.
  • It was a little questionable how little Chubb was used today, especially in the second half. Was Stefanski playing with fire a bit by trying to make sure he is fresh for next week’s re-match? Was he hedging his bet a bit?
  • I know fans may say, “How the [bleep] does Cleveland stand a chance next week if we barely beat the backups this week?” Personally, I feel like there is a lot more pressure and anxiety of getting there. Once you actually make it, you’re part of the playoff club. It’s a whole new season, everyone is 0-0. I expect the Browns to come out sharper on offense next week, but they also know Pittsburgh’s key defensive players will be back. Kevin Stefanski has to be better with his playcalling and not call long-developing pass plays against that defense. Mayfield also won’t be able to scramble next week like he did today.

Poll

How would you grade the Browns’ Week 17 offense?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    A
    (48 votes)
  • 43%
    B
    (352 votes)
  • 43%
    C
    (349 votes)
  • 4%
    D
    (36 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (21 votes)
806 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How would you grade the Browns’ Week 17 defense?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    A
    (37 votes)
  • 21%
    B
    (165 votes)
  • 43%
    C
    (330 votes)
  • 23%
    D
    (182 votes)
  • 6%
    F
    (51 votes)
765 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How would you grade the Browns’ Week 17 special teams?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    A
    (128 votes)
  • 54%
    B
    (400 votes)
  • 21%
    C
    (156 votes)
  • 3%
    D
    (23 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (21 votes)
728 votes total Vote Now