The first half was solid for Cleveland, and the second half was rather ugly offensively. But when it mattered at the end, rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson led a game-winning field goal drive, as K Dustin Hopkins put it through the uprights for the 13-10 win. Let’s get to the full game recap.
The Browns received the opening kickoff. Two runs by RB Jerome Ford set up a 3rd-and-3, and QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson used his legs on a designed run to get to the outside for a first down. A few pass completions by DTR got the ball into Pittsburgh territory, but facing a fourth down just past midfield, P Corey Bojorquez came on to punt and pinned the Steelers back at the 9 yard line.
On first down, DE Myles Garrett came in fast and bulldozed QB Kenny Pickett right at the goal line. It looked like it could have been a safety, but the officials spotted the ball at the half yard line.
A run play on second down had the same circumstance, but the officials also spotted it for no gain. On third down, a quick out route gave Pittsburgh some breathing room on the punt, which was fair caught by WR James Proche at the 50 yard line. An 18-yard flip to TE David Njoku off of playaction moved the ball down to the 31 yard line.
Ford followed that up with an 13-yard run, and then a facemask penalty made it half the distance to the goal. On 1st-and-goal from the 6 yard line, Ford picked up 2 yards to the 4 yard line. On second down, Ford took the direct snap and made his way to the 1 yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1, Ford was brought down inside the 1 yard line. Head coach Kevin Stefanski challenged the ruling that he was short, and the ruling was reversed for a touchdown to give the Browns a 7-0 lead.
Pittsburgh moved the ball a little bit on their second drive, but the Browns’ defense then had back-to-back swarming plays on an end around and a pass to the flat. With the Steelers unable to convert on third down, they punted down to the 10 yard line. Cleveland went three-and-out after DTR’s third down completion to Njoku came up just short.
Despite being at the 19 yard line, Bojorquez got off a booming 65-yard punt that bounced out of bounds, helping reverse field position. Once again, Pittsburgh picked up a few first downs — including a completion to Pickens and a good hard run by RB Jaylen Warren — but the defense forced a punt near midfield as DT Shelby Harris had two pass breakups on the drive.
This time, Cleveland began their drive at the 11 yard line following the punt. They went three-and-out for the second drive in a row, as DL Cam Heyward made a big tackle on a second down screen pass to RB Pierre Strong to prevent a big play. After Cleveland’s punt, Pittsburgh took over at the 33 yard line for their best starting field position of the day.
The Steelers drove just past midfield with some runs, but on 3rd-and-2, the defense swarmed Pickett on his dropback and he was sacked by DE Ogbo Okoronkwo for a 11-yard loss. Cleveland’s field position got marginally better on this punt, as Proche fair caught it at the 17 yard line with 5:29 remaining in the half.
WR Elijah Moore dropped a pass on first down to start the next drive. On second down, Moore made up for it by snagging the quick slant and breaking a tackle for a first down. Cleveland then started chipping away at the defense via the running game, setting up a 3rd-and-4 at midfield at the two-minute warning.
Out of the warning, another keeper was called with DTR, and this time he went to the left side to convert it. That was followed by a 7-run by Ford, and then back-to-back completions to WR Amari Cooper to get the ball down to the 24 yard line with 0:44 remaining. A screen pass on the next play was sniffed out by the defense, setting up 3rd-and-3 at the 25 yard line and now just one timeout.
The quick out to Njoku picked up 9 yards, with 0:32 left, no timeouts, and the ball at the 16 yard line. A quick hitter to Moore got them to the 6 yard line, and DTR clocked it with 0:16 left. On 2nd-and-goal from the 6 yard line, Njoku couldn’t haul in the soft back shoulder pass. On 3rd-and-goal, the fade to Cooper was contested and incomplete. K Dustin Hopkins came on to hit a 25-yard field goal, giving the Browns a 10-0 lead at the half.
After having 64 yards total in the first half, on 2nd-and-9, Warren took the pitch from Pickett and made CB Greg Newsome miss a tackle before going 74 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Pittsburgh’s quick strike to begin the second half made it a 10-7 game, silencing the crowd for the first time of the afternoon.
Cleveland looked like they were about to go three-and-out on their first drive, but on 3rd-and-10, DTR used his legs to pick up 9 yards. Despite being backed up in their own territory, they went for it on 4th-and-1. TE Harrison Bryant took the snap under center and pitched it to RB Kareem Hunt, who got 3 yards and the first down. Cleveland was able to get to midfield, but then on 3rd-and-8, DTR was fortunate that his lofting pass to Cooper along the left side wasn’t intercepted. The Browns punted down to the 13 yard line, with the defense needing to regroup.
The defense did regroup. After a pickup of six yards on first down, the defense stuffed the run on second down, and then CB Denzel Ward made the open field tackle on Harris in the flat to force a punt. Proche had his first attempt at a punt return of the day, getting the ball to the 36 yard line.
The offense went three-and-out, as CB Patrick Peterson knocked away the third down pass to Cooper on the left side. Bojorquez’ punt sailed to the end zone for a touchback. Cleveland’s defense got into a 3rd-and-12 right off the bat, but Pickett zipped a completion to WR Allen Robinson over the middle for an 11-yard completion, just shy of a first down. Pittsburgh, backed up at their own 29 yard line, took a timeout to think about whether to go for it or not. Mike Tomlin went for the gamble, and Pickett went for the sneak. It looked like he was going to be stopped, but he got a lunge in as he was going down for the first down.
Before the snap could get off, Cleveland challenged the ruling on the field. However, the play stood as called — a Pittsburgh first down. DE Za’Darius Smith stuffed Harris on the next play for a loss of 3 yards, setting up 2nd-and-13. An incompletion on second down off of pressure set up third down. This time, the defense came up with the stop, as a free rusher came in and forced Pickett to throw the ball in the turf. Proche had a burst on the punt return, returning it 22 yards into Pittsburgh territory at the 47 yard line.
DTR faced pressure on first down and threw the ball away, and Hunt was stopped for no gain on second down. On 3rd-and-10, DTR only got a short completion off — however, roughing the passer was called on LB Alex Highsmith, giving the Browns a big fresh set of downs. The next carry to Hunt went for a loss of 2 yards, as Pittsburgh’s defense was really keying in on runs and short passes. On 2nd-and-12, DTR’s pass to Hunt in the flat was stuffed for a loss of 3 yards, making it 3rd-and-15. On third down, DTR’s quick slant to Cooper was behind him and popped in the air for an interception to the 23 yard line.
The defense got Pittsburgh into a 3rd-and-8 situation. Pickett went fast to the line, but was not on the same page as his receiver, leading to another punt. The Steelers punter shanked it, as the punt only went 20 yards to get to the Pittsburgh 45 yard line.
Cleveland’s run play began with a loss of 4 yards, as the negative plays continued. The second down pass was an incompletion to the flat, setting up 3rd-and-13. The third quarter ended with Njoku dropping a low and short pass that would’ve been short of the line to gain anyway.
Punting from midfield, Bojorquez’ punt was returned to the 28 yard line, as a gunner ran beyond the return man thinking the ball would go further. The defense stuffed Warren to begin the drive, with LB Sione Takitaki getting the first hit on the 3 yard loss. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-13, the defense played back and the Steelers caught them with a screen pass to Warren for a first down. A few plays later, on 3rd-and-4, Pickett just got the pass off for a first down before he took a lick from Garrett.
Warren continued being the heart of the Steelers’ offense, breaking tackles for a 21-yard gain and getting Pittsburgh into field goal range. Warren continued his hot streak, rushing for 12 yards on the next play. S Grant Delpit knifed in on Warren’s next run to force a 2-yard loss, setting up 2nd-and-12. Pickett took the snap from Shotgun and was sacked by Garrett for a loss of 10 yards.
On 3rd-and-22, Harris got a 17-yard run on the draw to give K Chris Boswell an easy 28-yard field goal attempt, which he hit to tie the game at 10-10 with 7:40 left in the game.
Cleveland’s next drive started rough, as RT James Hudson was flagged 10 yards for illegal hands to the face, making it 1st-and-20. DE T.J. Watt sacked DTR on the next play, as Watt beat Hudson to make it 2nd-and-22. The second down pass was short and incomplete, as the defense continued to jump passes. On 3rd-and-22, DTR got the pass to Moore to at least get some yardage, but the punt team came on. Now it was Bojorquez’ turn for a bad punt, which traveled 25 yards to the Pittsburgh 48 yard line and 5:47 remaining.
Pickett got a 12-yard completion on first down to Pickens, putting the ball at the 40-yard line and on the border of field goal range. On 2nd-and-10, though, Okoronkwo stuffed Harris for a loss of 5 yards. On a pivotal 3rd-and-15, the defense came up with the stop. Pittsburgh had to punt, which was fair caught by Proche at the 14 yard line with 3:29 to go.
The Browns started with another negative play, as the late flat pass to Hunt was hit for a loss of a yard. On 2nd-and-11, Hunt got the draw and hurdled over a defender for a big 16-yard run to move the chains.
On the next play, Njoku dropped another short pass, making it 2nd-and-10. Njoku caught the next pass, but only for 3 yards, setting up 3rd-and-7 heading to the two-minute warning. The pass was a tad high and hot to Njoku on the slant, but the ball was catchable and he couldn’t haul it in. The Browns punted, with Pittsburgh returning it to the 30 yard line with 1:42 remaining.
Pickett misfired on three straight pass attempts, so Pittsburgh quickly had to punt back to the Browns. Proche got a solid return out to the Browns’ 34 yard line with 1:18 to go and 2 timeouts. Moore caught a 15-yard pass to start the drive, as the offense went hurry-up. That was followed by a 5-yard catch by Hunt, to the Steelers’ 45 yard line. On 2nd-and-5, the quick slant to Cooper picked up 8 yards for a first down to the 37 yard line. With 0:48 and 1 timeout, Njoku caught the quick slant for 11 yards and now in field goal range. Hunt got the next handoff, and Cleveland oddly burned their final timeout with 0:20 left. A 5-yard penalty by Pittsburgh moved the ball up 5 yards. They ran the ball with Hunt, and still had time to spike the ball with 0:05 left. Hopkins came on for the 34-yard field goal, and he drilled it! That put the Browns up 13-10 with 0:02 remaining. Pittsburgh’s attempt on the final offensive play was futile.
Up next, the Browns travel to Denver to take on the Broncos.
- QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: 24-of-43 for 164 yards, 1 INT. 3 rushes, 20 yards.
- RB Jerome Ford: 12 carries, 31 yards. 2 catches, 8 yards.
- RB Kareem Hunt: 12 carries, 36 yards (3.0 YPC). 3 catches, 1 yard.
- WR Amari Cooper: 4 catches, 34 yards.
- WR Elijah Moore: 6 catches, 60 yards.
- TE David Njoku: 7 catches, 56 yards.
- DE Myles Garrett: 2 sacks