The Steelers ended the regular season with a 27-24 overtime win at Heinz Field against the Browns. By clinching their playoff berth last week against the Ravens, the Steelers were able to make this week’s game essentially meaningless, which let them rest some of their starters on Sunday. Below is a complete breakdown of the stats from the Steelers’ final regular season game.
All stats are official and from the NFL unless otherwise noted.
Running Game: The Steelers weren’t as dominant on the ground as they’ve been in recent weeks, but with the team resting Le’Veon Bell, and DeAngelo Williams seeing action for the first time in weeks, that was to be expected. Williams led the way for the Steelers with 67 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown. Fitzgerald Toussaint added three carries for 14 yards as well.
Williams scored on a one-yard run early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at fourteen. That was Williams’ first touchdowns since week four against Kansas City.
Passing: Landry Jones got the start in place of Ben Roethlisberger, and did a fine job of filling in for the veteran signal-caller. Jones was 24 of 37 for 277 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Jones has been the focus of debate among Steelers’ fans and, after his interception, the voices of his detractors definitely grew louder. Still, Jones deserves credit for hanging in the game and coming back to deliver a victory to the Steelers.
Jones threw three TD passes on Sunday afternoon. The first came just before halftime when Jones hit Williams who then scampered for an 11-yard score. In the fourth quarter, Jones hit Demarcus Ayers for the rookie’s first regular season touchdown that briefly gave the Steelers a 21-14 lead. Then, on the last play of the game in overtime, Jones found Cobi Hamilton in the end zone for the game-winning score.
The leading receiver for the Steelers was Eli Rogers who had six receptions for 61 yards. It should be noted that Demarcus Ayers was targeted 12 times, twice as much as the next most targeted, but only caught five balls for 44 yards. In total, eight different Steelers caught a pass on Sunday.
Defense: If fans are looking for an area to be upset with on the team for this week, it’s the defense. While the offense was resting some of its bigger stars, the starting defense was more or less intact on the field Sunday, and they struggled to close out a very bad Browns team. Robert Griffin III threw for 232 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But that was nothing compared to what the Browns were able to do on the ground. The Browns racked up 231 rushing yards as a team, led by Isaiah Crowell’s 152 yards.
The Browns scored three touchdowns on Sunday. The first was a 12-yard pass to tight end Seth DeValve in the first quarter. In the second quarter Gary Barnridge caught a four-yard touchdown pass to give the Browns a 14-point lead. Finally, late in the fourth quarter George Atkinson III ran for a five-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21 apiece.
The Steelers defense had four sacks, seven quarterback hits, one interception, three forced fumbles, and five passes defended (Ryan Shazier, Artie Burns, William Gay, Ross Cockrell, and Jarvis Jones). The Steelers leading tackler was Sean Davis with nine combined tackles.
Efficiency: The Steelers were 3/14 on third down while the Browns were 8/15. The Steelers were 2/2 on fourth down conversions, while the Browns didn’t have any fourth down attempts. The Steelers averaged 4.5 yards per play compared to 5.7 yards per play for the Browns.
The Red Zone: The Browns were 3/6 in the red zone. The Steelers were 3/3.
Turnovers: The Steelers had four takeaways Sunday afternoon, and one giveaway.
Ryan Shazier earned the Steelers first takeaway when he stepped in front of a Robert Griffin pass intended for the end zone in the second quarter. The Steelers weren’t able to directly put points on the board because of this interception, but on the Browns’ next drive, Griffin fumbled and Sean Davis was able to secure the ball for Pittsburgh. The Steelers were then able to punch the ball into the end zone when Jones found Williams just before halftime.
The Steelers next takeaway came on a strange play that immediately followed a giveaway of their own. In the third quarter Browns’ cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun intercepted a Jones pass and returned the ball 67 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, upon replay, it was revealed that Steelers’ receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey had forced Calhoun to fumble at the 1-yard line and Landry Jones recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback. The Steelers were lucky that Bey’s heads-up play came at such a clutch moment.
As if the second Steelers’ second takeaway wasn’t exciting enough, the Steeler’s last takeaway may have saved the win. After a 43-yard completion gave the Browns first and goal from the five with one minute left in a tie game, Jarvis Jones forced a fumble on Crowell that Mike Mitchell was able to recover. Soon after, the Steelers were able to run out the clock and head to overtime.
Penalties: The Browns were penalized five times for 37 yards, while the Steelers were penalized nine times for 43 yards. While nine penalties are a lot, it’s encouraging that, despite being penalized almost twice as much as the Browns, they only gave up six more yards.
Under Pressure: The Steelers were able to get to Griffin nine times for hits and four times for sacks. Sean Davis, Daniel McCullers, Jarvis Jones, and Bud Dupree each had one sack. Ricardo Matthews and Lawrence Timmons each recorded a quarterback hit of their own.
The Browns were also able to sack Landry Jones, with Christian Kirksey, Demario Davis, Ed Reynolds, and Carl Nassib all earning one sack. In addition to those four, Jamie Meder and Emmanuel Ogbah each earned a quarterback hit as well.
Kicking: Chris Boswell hit all three extra points he attempted in what ended up being a boring day for the Steelers’ kicker. Jordan Berry handled the bulk of the kicking duties, as he punted eight times for 368 yards for an average of 46 yards. Hopefully Berry won’t be needed as often going forward in the postseason.
The Steelers deserve credit for hanging around to win the game on Sunday, but they didn’t make it easy. It’s certainly understandable for players to lack motivation and to take it easy to avoid injury in a meaningless game but, nevertheless, the defense has to worry the coaching staff. Surrendering 200 yards rushing and not being able to get off the field on third down is not something that bodes well for a team about to enter the playoffs. The Steelers will need to tighten things up by time the Dolphins come to town on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps the return of the starters and meaningful football will be enough to galvanize the Steelers to their eighth-straight win next week.