After one of the most-hyped weeks in recent memory, at the end of the game, the outcome was as disappointing and bad as a Browns fan could have fathomed: a loss to fall to 1-1, your quarterback still plays pretty rough (including two turnovers for defensive touchdowns), and most importantly, you lose RB Nick Chubb to what looks like a severe knee injury. Ugh. Let’s get to the full game recap.
The game certainly couldn’t have started any worse for Cleveland. They lined up five wide, and QB Deshaun Watson threw a quick out to TE Harrison Bryant. Bryant went to stick the route, while Watson threw it to the outside, and the ball deflected off Bryant’s hands and into the arms of LB Alonzo Highsmith for a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown for an immediate 7-0 handicap.
The Browns’ offense calmly responded with a nice mix of runs by RB Nick Chubb and quick passes by Watson. Down in field goal range, a cheap holding call on RT Dawand Jones set the drive back a little, and Watson’s third down pass to WR Elijah Moore was thrown too late, allowing rookie CB Joey Porter to break it up. K Dustin Hopkins came on to hit a 43-yard field goal and make it a 7-3 game.
Return man Gunner Olszewski made a mistake on the ensuing kickoff, toe-tapping a kickoff at the sideline instead of letting it go out of bounds for a penalty. The drive started at the 9 yard line, and then on 3rd-and-3, S Grant Delpit read QB Kenny Pickett for an interception as he tried to hit a quick slant over the middle!
Unfortunately, the Browns’ offense couldn’t capitalize. They came out trying to throw, and Watson was sacked by DL Larry Ogunjobi on first down for a loss of 7 yards. The next two plays were negative and incomplete, so Hopkins came right back on for a 43-yard field goal attempt. This time, he missed, giving the ball right back to Pittsburgh at the 33 yard line with better field position.
Cleveland’s defense continued to pick things up to start the next drive, bolting in to stuff RB Najee Harris for a loss of 3 yards. Harris got the next carry and was also stuffed for no gain, setting up 3rd-and-13 — and a false start pushed it to 3rd-and-18. The defense came up with the stop to force a punt, but now the offense would be getting the ball all the way back to at the 5 yard line to begin their next drive.
Watson’s best pass of the day came on 3rd-and-4 from the 11 yard line, as he hit WR Amari Cooper up the right side for 17 yards. From there, it was the Chubb show, as he ran for gains of 20 and 9 yards to set up 2nd-and-1 from the Steelers’ 43 yard line.
RB Jerome Ford had no gain, and then on third down, Watson ran a playaction fake and tried to hit WR Elijah Moore on the left, but he couldn’t hang on. On fourth down, there was some indecisiveness and panic to end the first quarter, but Watson appeared to keep it and get the first down.
As the second quarter was starting, head coach Mike Tomlin challenged if Watson fumbled — and after review, he did, and Ogunjobi recovered. That put more time on the clock to keep it in the first quarter for 22 seconds. And the game kept getting crazier, because a pass to the flat saw CB Denzel Ward come up and drill the receiver to force a fumble. Delpit recovered, then had it knocked out, and the ball bounced around several times before finally going out of bounds.
When it was all said and done, the Browns’ offense took over at the 23 yard line. The quarter finally ended with a 3-yard run by Chubb.
Watson ripped a 12-yard pass to Cooper to open the second quarter. On 1st-and-goal from the 8 yard line, Chubb got the carry for 5 yards but remained down as the Steelers crowd gasped at what was a serious injury, although the viewers at home weren’t shown it. Chubb was carted to the locker room.
After the injury, on 2nd-and-goal from the 3, Watson bought time and eventually found Ford for a touchdown, making it a 9-7 game. On the extra point, the Steelers jumped offsides, so Cleveland decided to bring the offense back on and go for two. Ford took it in up the middle for the conversion, giving them an 11-7 lead.
The Steelers finally got a first down off of a third down breakdown by the defense, as Pickett found RB Jaylen Warren in the flat for a catch-and-run of 30 yards. The defense continued dominating despite that, so instead of trying a 58-yard field goal, Pittsburgh punted to the 9 yard line.
The Browns came out passing, and it wasn’t good. The first pass went off Bryant’s hands, but fortunately no Steelers was nearby for the pick. Watson was sacked on second down, and then on 3rd-and-long, Watson stood in the end zone for a bit before throwing an incomplete pass to the flat. The Browns punted from back deep, and Pittsburgh returned it to the Browns’ 39 yard line for by far their best starting field position of the night.
The defense held again, but K Chris Boswell did come on for a 52-yard field goal this time — and he hit it right down the middle to make it a 11-10 game with 9:11 to go in the first half.
Cleveland’s offense responded with a three-and-out. Watson nearly connected with Moore downfield for a big play, but the receiver couldn’t keep his second foot in bounds. P Corey Bojorquez got off a good punt this time of 54 yards that was fair caught back at the 18 yard line with 7:41 left in the quarter.
The defense was ready to force a three-and-out, but this time, they couldn’t stop Warren shy of a first down despite several defenders being there. It cost them dearly, because on the next play, Pickett took a shot as he delivered a ball to a wide open WR George Pickens over the middle, who took it 71 yards to the house for a touchdown. The Steelers went for the extra point, but just like earlier, now the Browns jumped into the neutral zone. Pittsburgh brought the offense on the field to go for two. The defense forced a fumble, so the try was no good, keeping it 16-11.
The Browns’ defense had yet another three-and-out after that, and on the punt, CB Mike Ford hit the punt returner after a fair catch, drawing a 15-yard penalty. The Steelers’ offense took over shy of midfield, and Pickett fired a third-down strike to WR Calvin Austin on the sideline despite tight coverage from Ward. The defense ultimately came up with a stop to force a punt, and the offense went back to work with 2:46 remaining at the 25 yard line. LT Jedrick Wills had a hold on the first play, though, making it 1st-and-20. But TE David Njoku turned a dumpoff into a 29-yard catch-and-run heading to the two-minute warning, up to the 45 yard line.
Cleveland was trying to continue driving, but Watson took another sack on third down, this time from DE T.J. Watt, to push the Browns back to a 55-yard field goal attempt. Hopkins drilled it despite the distance, cutting the Steelers’ lead to 16-14 to essentially close out the half.
The Steelers got the ball to open the second half, and Pickett nearly threw a pick to S Rodney McLeod on the first play, but he couldn’t hang onto it. Later, on 3rd-and-10, the defense didn’t bring extra rushers, and Pickett had time to survey the field and find Pickens again over the middle, this time for a 25-yard gain out to midfield. Also of note, DE Za’Darius Smith was down and not putting much weight on his leg as he limped off the field after the play. Pittsburgh got close enough for a 50-yard field goal try by Boswell, which he was good on to make it a 19-14 game.
After a 5-yard pass to Njoku, Watson handed the ball to Ford. He went to the right, but then reversed directions and ran all the way to the left, with Watson throwing a block in front. Ford was off to the races for a 69-yard run, falling just shy of the end zone after S Minkah Fitzpatrick got him from behind.
RB Pierre Strong came on and was stoned on first down, but then on 2nd-and-goal from the 1 yard line, he punched it in for a touchdown to make it a 20-19 game. The offense stayed out there to go for two, and Watson kept it for the conversion, making it a 22-19 game with 10:01 left in the third quarter.
Pickett-to-Pickens stayed hot, though, as the quarterback delivered it to his receiver again for 23 yards. Cleveland finally sacked Pickett on the next play, as DT Shelby Harris and DT Maurice Hurst got to him for a loss of 11 yards. That stalled the drive, and Pittsburgh had to punt.
The Browns’ offense was moving well to midfield on the next drive, but then it stalled when Watson took a deep shot (incomplete) to WR Marquise Goodwin in double coverage, and then on second down, had a weird-looking quarterback draw in which Watson drew a 15-yard penalty for grabbing the facemask of the defender. That killed the drive, and Cleveland had to punt.
Harris finally got going on the ground for Pittsburgh with back-to-back runs of 21 and 17 yards into Cleveland territory. The defense came up with another stop, but then on Pittsburgh’s punt, the ball rolled out of bounds at the 1 yard line. Ford got the carry for a 2-yard gain. TE Jordan Akins caught a pass in the flat for 2 more yards to end on the third quarter.
On 3rd-and-6, backed up at their own 5 yard line, Watson hit Cooper along the left sideline for 18 yards and a first down to the 23 yard line. A couple plays later, Watson hit Cooper again for 23 yards, this time over the middle to midfield. Back-to-back carries by Ford of 4 and 7 yards got into Pittsburgh territory. Another 7-yard run set up 2nd-and-3, and they kept hurrying it up with a 1-yard run. On 3rd-and-2 from the 35 yard line, Ford kept it for a first-down run — but then a flag came out, as C Ethan Pocic was flagged for the hold. That pushed it back to 3rd-and-12 at the 45 yard line. Watson was flagged for an offensive facemask penalty again on the next play, and then on 3rd-and-27, a Njoku fumbled after a dumpoff pass to him. Pittsburgh recovered at the 44 yard line.
The defense remained intense, and on third down, LB Sione Takitaki came untouched up the middle to sack Pickett and force a punt. Unfortunately, on the punt, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones couldn’t field it around the 20 yard line, and it bounced all the way back to the 6 yard line.
The Steelers’ defense read the run and stopped Ford for a loss of 3 yards to begin the drive. Watson’s second-down pass down the sideline for Cooper was incomplete, and then on 3rd-and-13, Watson found Moore along the left side for 16 yards and a first down. Two plays later, on 2nd-and-9, the Browns ran a playaction fake and Highsmith immediately beat LT Jedrick Wills around the left edge, as he knocked the ball free from Watson. Watt recovered and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a 26-22 lead with 6:58 to go in the game.
Back on offense, Ford got a first down for Cleveland, but then an incompletion, sack, and incompletion by Watson forced the team to punt. Pittsburgh took over with 4:37 remaining at the 25 yard line. After two runs, they got into a 3rd-and-long-1 situation. Pickett lined up in Shotgun and tried to keep it, but LB Anthony Walker wasn’t fooled and took him down for a loss of 2 yards. The Browns burned their second timeout, and after the punt, Cleveland’s apparent last stand would begin at the 25 yard line with 2:55 to go.
Watson began with completions of 8 yards to WR David Bell, 8 yards to Cooper, and 14 yards to Moore to get to the 50 yard line. Watson scrambled for 3 yards to set up a 2nd-and-7 from the 47 yard line at the two-minute warning. And then Watson fell flat again. Granted, the Steelers were teeing off with their pass rush too, but your top-paid quarterback couldn’t get the job done all game. The Browns are now 1-1 after a massively disappointing loss.
Up next, the Browns return home to take on the Tennessee Titans in Week 3.
- QB Deshaun Watson: 22-of-40 for 235 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 fumble. 6 rushes, 22 yards.
- RB Nick Chubb: 10 carries, 64 yards.
- RB Jerome Ford: 16 carries, 106 yards.
- WR Amari Cooper: 7 catches, 90 yards.
- S Grant Delpit: 6 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery.
- The Browns out-gained the Steelers 408 yards to 255 yards.
- The defense allowed one touchdown.