The Cleveland Browns vented 18-years of pent-up playoff misery as they clinched their first postseason victory since 1994 with a stunning 48-37 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to set up a Divisional Round matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
A staggering opening saw Karl Joseph recover a botched snap in the end zone on the first play of the game as the Browns coasted to a 28-0 lead before entering the interval up 35-10 after three first-half interceptions from Ben Roethlisberger.
Momentum appeared to swing in the second half when Roethlisberger threatened to mount a comeback with back-to-back touchdown passes to Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster, until Nick Chubb’s 40-yard touchdown run settled any lingering nerves.
The Steelers refused to lie down and were back in the end zone through rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool, but eventually saw their chances of an unlikely turnaround fade late in the fourth quarter when Sione Takitaki came up with Roethlisberger’s fourth interception on the day.
It marked the Browns’ first win in Pittsburgh since 2003, coming in the absence of head coach Kevin Stefanski after he and a number of other coaches were required to self-isolate at home due to positive COVID tests.
- Browns passing: Baker Mayfield, 21/34, 263 yards, 3 TDs
- Rushing leader: Nick Chubb, 18 carries, 76 yards
- Receiving leader: Jarvis Landry, five catches, 92 yards, 1 TD
The night started disastrously for the Steelers when Maurkice Pouncey’s snap cleared Roethlisberger before being pounced on by Joseph in the end zone for the touchdown on the opening play.
Roethlisberger was intercepted by MJ Stewart on the next drive as the Browns cashed in through a 40-yard catch-and-run to the house from Jarvis Landry, before Kareem Hunt rewarded a defensive stop by bullying his way to an 11-yard touchdown run after Rashard Higgins’ 12-yard setup catch.
Hunt scurried in for an eight-yard score to punish another Roethlisberger interception moments later, this time courtesy of Sheldrick Redwine on a pass that had flown through the hands of Diontae Johnson.
The @Browns are on a roll. @Kareemhunt7 caps off a six-play 65-yard drive. #WeWantMore
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- Steelers passing: Ben Roethlisberger, 47/68, 501 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs
- Rushing leader: James Conner, 11 carries, 37 yards, 1 TD
- Receiving leader: JuJu Smith-Schuster, 13 catches, 157 yards, 1 TD
Roethlisberger was intercepted for a third time in the half when Porter Gustin collected Vincent Taylor’s bat down, the Steelers defense, however, producing the stop in response.
A glimmer of hope for Pittsburgh arrived when James Conner iced a 13-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run with two minutes to go, only for Mayfield to float a seven-yard strike to Austin Hooper after converting a crucial third down with a brave run earlier in the series. There was still time in the half for another Steelers attempt, ending in a 49-yard field goal from Chris Boswell.
Big Ben to Eric Ebron for 6️⃣. #HereWeGo
?: #CLEvsPIT on NBC
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Cleveland’s nerves were tested further early in the third quarter when Roethlisberger linked up with Ebron for a 17-yard touchdown, on which they failed with the two-point conversion attempt, followed by a five-yard strike to Smith-Schuster to make it 35-23 at the end of a 12-play drive.
Mike Tomlin was then made to regret not going for it on fourth-and-one as Chubb burst through for a 40-yard touchdown run to strengthen the Browns’ grip on the game early in the fourth.
NICK CHUBB TO THE HOUSE ? @NickChubb21 #WeWantMore #SuperWildCard
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Claypool delivered an immediate response by reeling in a 29-yard touchdown reception, but the Steelers were again unsuccessful with the two-point conversion attempt.
Takitaki’s interception with just over three minutes to play all-but sealed the game in Cleveland’s favour, although Pittsburgh struck again through a seven-yard catch from Claypool followed by a successful two-point attempt.
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