The Pittsburgh Steelers and the new-look Cleveland Browns went head-to-head to kick off the 2018 regular season, and while the Steelers have owned the Browns since they re-entered the league, this Hue Jackson-led group was destined to write a new chapter in the rivalry’s history.
With the weather less-than-ideal for both teams, the Browns were given the choice to take the opening kickoff, or defer to the second half, and they chose to take the first possession of the 3rd quarter rather than start the game on offense.
After an opening drive three-and-out for Ben Roethlisberger and company, Tyrod Taylor was able to convert two third downs, one on 3rd-and-13, but the drive ended in a Britton Colquitt punt.
With both team exchanging punts on their second possessions, the Steelers were finally able to put together a drive and move into Cleveland territory for the first time of the game; however, after a big completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster to put the Steelers in the red-zone, Roethlisberger was intercepted by Denzel Ward for the first turnover of the game.
After the Pittsburgh defense forced a punt, the Pittsburgh offense put together their best drive of the day, ignited by this nifty run by Roethlisberger.
Watch the run.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 9, 2018
Stay for the Big Ben stiff-arm. pic.twitter.com/HT9bQjUyi3
When in the red zone, it looked as if the Browns had stopped the Steelers and forced a field goal, but a late hit by Myles Garrett on Roethlisberger gave the drive new life. On the next play James Conner went untouched into the endzone for his first NFL touchdown, and the first score of the game. Chris Boswell tacked on the extra point to give Pittsburgh the 7-0 lead.
The Pittsburgh defense continued to stand tall when it mattered most, and they gave the Steelers’ offense the ball with 2:30 left in the game in an attempt to put points on the board before halftime. As a pass intended for Jesse James sailed through his hands, it ended up in the lap of Denzel Ward for his second interception of the game, and Roethlisberger’s third interception on the day.
To start the second half, the Browns looked as though they were going to be pinned deep back into their own end, but on what was originally thought to be a third down stop, Javon Hargrave was called for defensive holding to give Cleveland a new set of downs. The next series had Artie Burns get flagged for not one, but two, personal foul penalties and before you knew it the Browns had marched down the field, all on the ground, and Tyrod Taylor was diving into the endzone to tie the game 7-7.
Looking for an answer to the deflating drive, Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster on a quick slant which turned into a 67-yard catch-and-run setting the Steelers offense well into the red zone. It looked like Conner had his second touchdown of the day, but a holding on Maurkice Pouncey called the play back. On the next play Roethlisberger hit Justin Hunter for a touchdown, but an illegal hands-to-the-face call on Maurkice Pouncey called that play back as well. On 2nd-and-goal from outside the red zone, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown with the back shoulder throw for the touchdown, and gave Pittsburgh a 14-7 lead.
When the Steelers defense needed a stop, T.J. Watt stood tall with his third sack of Taylor, forcing another Browns punt.
With good field position, James Conner took over and after consecutive runs scampered into the endzone for his second touchdown of the game.
After the Chris Boswell point-after, the Steelers’ extended their lead 21-7 with 5:23 left in the third quarter.
The Browns’ offense failed to match points with Pittsburgh, and although the Steelers’ next possession looked promising, it resulted in another Jordan Berry punt. With Mike Tomlin putting the game in his defense’s hands, his starting unit forced a turnover on downs with just 7:44 remaining in the final frame. However, on the next play, James Conner fumbled the football and Jabril Peppers recovered and returned it to the Pittsburgh 1-yard line before Ben Roethlisberger forced him out of bounds. Carlos Hyde plunged into the endzone on the next play to make the score 21-14 with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter.
After a first down on the first play of the ensuing series, Ben Roethlisberger was stripped while being sacked by Myles Garrett and Cleveland recovered giving them a chance to tie the game well inside Pittsburgh territory. Thankfully, the Steelers’ defense forced a three-and-out, and preserved a one score lead with just over 5-minutes remaining in the quarter.
Cleveland forced a punt, and it took the Browns just two plays to tie the game with Taylor hitting Josh Gordon overtop of Cameron Sutton to make the score 21-21 with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter.
Both teams failed to convert on their final possessions, and the game headed to overtime with the score tied 21-21.
Cleveland won the toss and elected to start with the football, but neither teams were able to do anything with their first drives of overtime. On Cleveland’s second possession, which resulted in a three-and-out, Colquitt’s kick was nearly blocked and gave Pittsburgh their best field position of the overtime period. After two first downs, Pittsburgh set up Boswell with a 42-yard field goal, but he yanked it left giving the Browns new life.
However, another Cleveland three-and-out gave the ball back to Pittsburgh with 1:17 left in the game, and one timeout remaining. Roethlisberger was hit while throwing, the sixth turnover of the day, and it was intercepted by Cleveland in prime real estate for a game-winning field goal. As one would expect, the kick was blocked and the game ended in a 21-21 tie.
The Steelers record now moved to 0-0-1, and they now prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field in Week 2.