The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns met at Heinz Field in Week 17 to not just kickoff 2017, but also to say goodbye to the 2016 regular season. The Steelers had already clinched the AFC North title, and the No. 3 seed in the AFC Playoffs, making this game completely meaningless.
With the Steelers not able to lose, or gain, anything from the game, the players certainly came out looking as if the game meant nothing to them. Despite having won the previous 6 games, Pittsburgh didn’t look very interested in the outcome of the game.
Pittsburgh’s offense was certainly short-handed, with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey and Ladarius Green all inactive for the game. However, on defense the team rested James Harrison, but the rest of the defense, all starters, allowed Robert Griffin III to move the ball at will to the tune of a 14-0 lead. Griffin hit tight ends Seth Devalve and Gary Barnidge to put the Browns on top.
However, the Steelers defense woke up in the second quarter after Ryan Shazier intercepted Griffin in the red-zone, and on the next Cleveland possession a misplayed snap led to a Sean Davis recovery. The Steelers, led by Landry Jones, turned the second turnover into their first, and only, touchdown of the first half when he hit DeAngelo Williams on a check down pass and was able to power his way into the endzone to make the score 14-7 at halftime.
Despite the Steelers receiving the first possession of the second half, the entire quarter was more sloppy play on both sides of the football. However, in the fourth quarter Pittsburgh was able to tie the game up, in a rather unorthodox fashion. After a Landry Jones interception, the Cleveland defensive back was carrying the ball into the endzone before Darrius Heyward-Bey dislodged the ball, causing him to fumble it into the endzone for a touchback.
Jones then orchestrated an 80-yard touchdown drive which ended in a DeAngelo Williams touchdown, his second of the game but first rushing, to tie the game 14-14.
On the next drive, Cleveland drove the ball into field goal territory, but after Daniel McCullers’ sack of Griffin, the Browns missed the field goal, giving the Steelers a chance to take the lead for the first time, and Jones delivered in a big way. After a huge completion to Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jones hit rookie Demarcus Ayers for his first touchdown in a black and gold uniform to give the Steelers a 21-14 lead with 5:14 left in the game.
Cleveland’s next drive was capped by an Isaiah Crowell 60-yard run which set up a George Atkinson III rushing touchdown to tie the game 21-21 with 3:28 left in the game.
Late in the fourth, with a chance to put the game away, Griffin hit Terrelle Pryor with a big completion down the sideline, but on the next play Isaiah Crowell fumbled the football inside the Steelers’ 5-yard line, giving Pittsburgh the ball back with just under a minute left in the regulation, and the game wouldn’t be resolved in 4 quarters of play.
The Browns got the ball to start overtime, and converted several third downs as they moved the ball easily into Pittsburgh territory, and despite several penalties in Cleveland’s favor, the Browns had to attempt a field goal on the opening drive. Cody Parkey’s 34-yard field goal was good, meaning Pittsburgh gets one possession.
Landry Jones was able to move the football down the field, and eventually hit Cobi Hamilton for the game-winning touchdown. The 27-24 win was the first win for Jones as a starter, the Steelers’ 7th in a row and marks their 11th win of the regular season.
The Steelers will now host the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game next week. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on the upcoming AFC Playoffs.