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The best outcome of Week 17 for the Steelers wasn’t the win, but no major injuries

The best thing to come out of the Steelers 28-24 victory over the Browns at Heinz Field on Sunday, was they came out of the regular season-finale with no serious injuries.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones might disagree with the title of this article, considering the loss of B.J. Finney, who left the first half of Sunday's regular season-finale against the Browns at Heinz Field with a thigh injury, led to utility lineman Chris Hubbard being thrust into duty at center.

This proved to be problematic, since Finney is the actual backup center (Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey was already deactivated for the game), while Hubbard is more of the "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass" kind of center.

Anyway, despite having an all-around good day that included 23 completions in 27 attempts for 239 yards, one touchdown and one interception, I'll bet Jones would have liked to have played the entire game knowing his shotgun snaps would be fairly on-target. Instead, they were anything but, as Hubbard rolled at least a few back to Jones and also shot one past him that he had to go chase down.

Hubbard's ineptitude with his snaps led to a rather pedestrian second half for the offense, as it totaled just 51 yards over the final two periods.

Perhaps you're not worried about Hubbard's ineptitude—can't really blame the guy, and while he might not be the greatest at snapping footballs, he sure seems to have made himself into one heck of a right tackle—and are more concerned with the ineptitude of a secondary which yielded two huge passing plays in the first half that led to Cleveland's first two touchdowns.

The first pass play was a 54-yard strike from DeShone Kizer to Josh Gordon in the second quarter down to the two that set-up a two-yard touchdown by running Duke Johnson Jr.

Right before the pass to Gordon, conerback Joe Haden and safety Mike Mitchell appeared to have communication problems.

The second huge pass came moments later, when Kizer hit receiver Rashard Higgins on a slant pass, and Higgens split both Sean Davis and Mitchell down the middle on the way to a 56-yard touchdown.


For the day, Kizer passed for 314 yards and picked up another 61 with his feet. Cleveland converted on seven of 15 third downs—including several of the third and long variety—and may have actually won the game, if Corey Coleman had been able to hold onto a fourth down pass from Kizer that would have set the Browns up inside the Pittsburgh 10-yard line with less than two minutes to play.

Instead, Coleman bungled a chance for his team's first victory of the season, as the Browns somehow managed to "best" their 1-15 mark from a year a go, by completing 2017 winless.

So what sense do you make of the Steelers 28-24 victory over Cleveland to close out the regular season?

I don't know, what sense did you make of Pittsburgh's 27-24 overtime victory over the Browns in the regular season-finale at Heinz Field last year?

Just like Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and a few other key offensive cogs sat out last year's finale.

Just like Sunday, the entire starting defense, save for Cameron Heyward, who was injured and not just resting, played the whole way in last year's finale.

Just like Sunday, Cleveland's offense gashed the Steelers starting defense on several occasions, and totaled 437 yards on the day.

Just like Sunday, people were concerned about this last year, as Pittsburgh closed the book on the regular season and began preparations for the postseason.

I don't know how things will turn out this time around, but the Browns exploiting the Steelers defense in the regular season-finale a year ago didn't really continue on into the playoffs, as Pittsburgh limited its first two opponents to a combined 28 points.

Let's be honest, with the Patriots playing a going nowhere Jets team at the exact same time, how emotionally into things were the Steelers players on Sunday, knowing the number one seed was almost impossible to obtain?

And knowing the likelihood of a New England victory, how willing were the Steelers coaches to open up their playbooks entirely?

As the title of this article plainly states: the best thing to come out of Sunday's game was that there were no major injuries.

You might think all of the vital parts were on the sidelines in street clothes, but what about Stephon Tuitt? He played the whole game. How would you feel about the playoffs right now, had Tuitt suffered a troubling injury against the Browns?

For that matter, what if T.J. Watt or JuJu Smith-Schuster had gotten injured?

On a day when everyone was going nuts over James Harrison netting two sacks at the end of the Jets game, Watt recorded eight tackles (including two for losses), a sack, a pass defensed and two quarterback hits.

In other words, Watt was doing what he did all year, which was why Harrison found himself in New England in the first place.

And what about JuJu?

Smith-Schuster has gone from a cute story, to a vital cog in the Steelers machine, as evidenced by his nine receptions for 143 yards and a score, along with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown early in a second half that included no other scoring by the home team.

The Steelers are going to need both Watt and Smith-Schuster to come through in the postseason, just like they're going to need Roethlisberger and Bell to come through.

B.J. Finney, aside, statistics, aside, Corey Coleman's ineptitude, aside, the secondary's ineptitude, aside, the Steelers came through unscathed in their regular season-win over the Browns.

And that's because they came through healthy.