Steelers Postgame Commentary: Week 17 vs Browns
By COMON Network Team
Final Score – Cleveland Browns (11-5) 24 def. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) 22
The Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Cleveland sans Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward, TJ Watt, Chris Boswell, Terrell Edmunds and Maurkice Pouncey, and also were without the services of Joe Haden due to a COVID situation that came about Saturday. At the end, a failed two-point conversion was the difference, as the Cleveland Browns held on 24-22 to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since the 2002-03 season. They’ll head to Pittsburgh next week after wins by Buffalo and Baltimore in the same window of action.
The Browns started the scoring, and, in fact, put the first 10 points of the game up. Nick Chubb’s 47-yard run with 9:29 to go in the first 15 minutes opened the scoring before Cody Parkey hit from 23 with 9:45 left in the second stanza. Matthew Wright hit from 29, 46 and 46 yards for the next three scores, making it 10-9 with 8:29 to go in the third quarter. Austin Hooper’s two-yard touchdown grab from Baker Mayfield pushed the Browns lead to 17-9 before an interception by Mason Rudolph led to a Jarvis Landry three-yard touchdown run that made it 24-9 after the PAT.
The Steelers fought back, as Rudolph connected with Chase Claypool on a 4th-down, 28-yard touchdown strike that made it 24-16. With 1:23 left, Rudolph found JuJu Smith-Schuster for a score, but Rudolph’s pass towards Claypool was high on the conversion attempt, allowing the Browns to win with a kick recovery and first down, which they did.
The Browns and Steelers will meet in the wild card round next weekend to kick off the 2020 NFL postseason. The date and time is not yet determined.
COMON Network Team Commentary
- Rudolph looked better than OK. I didn’t see a complete meltdown coming, nor did I see a show-stopping performance. In fact, he probably exceeded my expectations. A handful of very nice throws, including a touchdown to Chase Claypool to keep them in the game. He had an ugly pick on a bad decision under pressure, but I think we all saw at least one of those today. The last time he played in this stadium he threw four. With the exception of the interception, Rudolph looked poised and prepared. He took some shots and some of them connected. Before today I still felt like Mason Rudolph deserved another chance to be the future Steelers QB. He reassured that today.
- Valiant effort. The Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger (future Hall of Famer), TJ Watt (2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year), Cam Heyward (3X Pro Bowler) and Maurkice Pouncey (9X Pro Bowler), along with Joe Haden and Eric Ebron due to COVID. They lost by two. I know — that doesn’t always mean much, but the effort from a Mason Rudolph-led squad was a good sign. These guys played to win and were a two-point conversion away from a tie and possible overtime. Not to mention the 24-9 deficit the team faced in the final quarter.
- Let’s do it again. With wins from Baltimore, Buffalo and Cleveland, the Browns will play the Steelers again the wild card round. Based on what I saw today, I like the matchup. Getting the rested players back will favor the Steelers. Both teams could face absences due to COVID, including Joe Haden for Pittsburgh. Should be a fun one at Heinz Field next weekend.
Player of the Game: Alex Highsmith (PIT)
- Mason Rudolph looked… good? I’ve never questioned the deep ball ability for the former Ok State Cowboy. I think we knew his pocket presence and sense to get rid of the football and not force things needed to be better, and that reared its head, but all in all I thought Rudolph played well. He finished 22-of-39 for 315, two scores and the really, really bad pick. He’s gotta either take the sack and protect the ball there or harmlessly throw it away. He tried to force it. He led two fourth-quarter TD drives though, and he was good on those drives, including pushing the ball downfield several times and hitting on deep balls all game long. He’s not flashy, and he doesn’t move really well, but there are good things with Rudolph. I guess we’ll see if the Steelers agree moving forward.
- The Steelers defensive line was a shell of the normal line today. I haven’t seen snaps yet, but it didn’t appear as if we saw too too much of Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt. It seemed we got a healthy dose of Henry Mondeaux, Isaiah Buggs, Chris Wormley and Carlos Davis. We saw a lot of Ola Adeniyi on the edge. Lots of Jayrone Elliot at LB and Marcus Allen. This defensive unit got to Baker and dropped him four times. Imagine what the Steelers may be able to do with Heyward, Watt and a full dose of Tuitt, Alualu and yes, maybe even Robert Spillane at linebacker. And, for the record, Alex Highsmith was excellent today. A team-leading nine tackles, six of which were solo, a sack, a TFL and a QBH.
- I really liked the small dose of Josh Dobbs too. I’d rather see some of that stuff on short-yardage situations than lining up and throwing a back-shoulder fade to Anthony McFarland, but whatever.
- I’m not going into next week overconfident. This Browns team is legit and no matter how unbearable most of the fans in Cleveland are, you’ve gotta feel at least somewhat good for them getting to watch their team in the playoffs. I’m just afraid it isn’t going to last very long this year. If the Browns play like that next week at Heinz Field, they’re in for a long day, I think. The problem is we can say the same about the Steelers and how they’ve played at full go outside of about 10 minutes against the Colts over the last month. Should be a good one next week.
Player of the Game: Alex Highsmith (PIT)
- They tried very hard to blow it, but not hard enough. Congrats to the Brownies for making it.
- Mason Rudolph was solid today, but oddly enough, I am more convinced than ever that this organization doesn’t want him to be in its future plans. How many quarterbacks are taken out for a play immediately after completing a 41 yard pass? This happened to Rudolph today, and happened on multiple other occasions, as Randy Fichtner wanted to use Josh Dobbs as much as possible. Rudolph fought hard, but if he’s going to be a starter in the NFL down the road, it probably won’t be here.
- This game didn’t matter to Pittsburgh. On to the playoffs.
Player of the Game: Nick Chubb (CLE)