PITTSBURGH, Pa. — The Browns headed into Pittsburgh on Sunday hoping to spoil the Steelers’ playoff chances, like they did last week to the Commanders.
At the very least, they hoped to sweep the Steelers and finish at 8-9, the same as last season.
Instead, they lost 28-14 to lift the Steelers to 9-8, and drop to 7-10 themselves — last place in the AFC North. The Steelers, who finished third in the division, were knocked out of playoff contention when the Dolphins beat the Jets on Sunday afternoon.
So at least there was that.
Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, 3-3 in his six starts, threw two interceptions to set up 10 of the Steelers’ points, and the Browns managed only one takeaway themselves on a forced fumble.
Watson, sacked seven times and under siege the entire game, went 19-of-29 for 230 yards with two TDs and two INTs with an 84.0 passer rating.
Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, in his first start against the Browns, went 13-of-29 for 195 yards with 1 TD for a 79.0.
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To make matters worse for the Browns, starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. limped off the field with 45 seconds left with what looked like a serious knee injury.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin earned his 16th straight winning season despite starting 2-6 and filling Ben Roethlisberger’s enormous shoes with a rookie QB.
The Browns will clear out their lockers on Monday morning and close the books on this controversial and disappointing season.
The Browns, who led 7-0 in the first, pulled to 20-14 on a 2-yard TD catch by Nick Chubb. But the Steelers settled the issue on a 1-yard TD run by Derek Watt and a two-point conversion to make it 28-14 with 4:37 left in the game.
The Browns headed into the game without Jadeveon Clowney, who was benched after venting to cleveland.com on Thursday about the way he was used this season.
The Browns certainly could’ve used him, especially considering they lost both Denzel Ward and Reggie Ragland to shoulder injuries during the game.
Ward, who entered the game questionable with his shoulder injury, aggravated it at the end of the first quarter when he broke up a pass to receiver Deontae Johnson. It was first ruled a fumble, but later overturned. Ragland also left late in the first half, which didn’t help the Browns’ beleaguered run defense.
The Browns lost the game, but reached some milestones as consolation prizes.
Nick Chubb eclipsed 1,500 yards for the first time in his career, joining Jim Brown as the only other back in Browns’ history to notch 1,500.
Myles Garrett also had one sack to tie his career-high with 16.0.
The Steelers scored 20 straight points to bust open a 20-7 lead with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
Chris Boswell kicked a 34-yard field goal to make it 13-7 on their opening drive of the second half after Garrett sacked Pickett on third down. The 16th sack tied his club record, set last year.
Watson threw his second interception of the game with 5:42 left in the third on a pass intended for rookie receiver David Bell, the one for Bell that was swiped. Damontae Kazoo jumped the deep route and picked off the pass.
The Steelers converted it into a four-year TD run by Najee Harris for a 20-7 command.
The Steelers took a 10-7 lead with 38 seconds left in the half on a 49-yard field goal by Chris Boswell. The kick cashed in Levi Wallace’s interception of Watson on a deep pass intended for David Bell with 1:11 left in the half.
But the pass was so ill-advised, it could’ve been intended for Donovan Peoples-Jones, and it sailed over his head.
Pickett responded with a 24-yard strike to George Pickens that led to the three-pointer.
The Browns led 7-0 with 6:27 left in the half on a 10-yard TD pass from Watson to tight end David Njoku, his fourth of the season to tie his career-high. The score capped a 10-play, 71-yard march on which Watson pulled off several Houdini acts, including slipping out of two sack attempts to hit Kareem Hunt with a 14-yard pass over the middle.
Njoku executed his trademark Chief Slam after the TD.
But the Steelers tied it 7-7 on a 31-yard TD pass from Pickett to a wide open Pickens with 1:47 left in the half, on a completely blown coverage by the Browns. With Ward sidelined for much of the first half with his sore shoulder, the Browns were challenged in the back end.
After the TD, the safeties looked at Greg Newsome II, seemingly questioning where he was on the play. Newsome was also flagged 11 yards for pass interference on the drive.
Watson’s pick and the go-ahead field goal came next to make the Browns’ excellent goal-line stand and forced fumble in the first quarter a distant memory.
The Steelers drove to the Browns 2, but the defense stopped Harris after a 1-yard gain on first down, stopped Pickett for no gain on second down and on third down, Garrett grabbed Harris’ legs as he tried to vault the pile, and Deion Jones hit him high to force a fumble. Alex Wright recovered to start the Browns at their 5.
Unfortunately for them, the offense was unable to cash in, and punted from their 25.
The Browns thought they had forced another fumble on the first play of the next drive after a 6-yard catch by Diontae Johnson, but it was overturned.
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