Week 12 Look Back: Browns-Steelers

Posted Nov 24, 2012

Here is a look back to the Browns-Steelers game on Nov. 25, 1973.

The most miraculous, unbelievable offensive play in Browns history?

There are plenty of candidates. After all, this is a team with eight offensive skill players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Because of that, then, it’s difficult to determine just what play would be the recipient of such a distinction.

But a play that would have to be considered was responsible for a 21-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 25, 1973 before 67,773 rain-drenched fans at Cleveland Stadium.

Rookie running back Greg Pruitt, who would go on to perform a lot of feats that wowed people -- and then some -- in his nine seasons with the Browns, had his most memorable play with the team that day, and one of the most important.

Trailing, 16-14, late in the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-nine situation from the Cleveland 40 after two runs into the middle of the line that netted a combined total of just one yard, the Browns needed to do something special if they were to win the game.

They got something that was not only special, but incredible -- spellbinding, in fact.

Quarterback Mike Phipps went back to pass and was immediately flushed out of the pocket by a fierce rush. Deftly avoiding several Steelers as he rolled right looking for a receiver, he finally spotted Pruitt standing all alone on the numbers just past midfield.

He threw a bullseye to Pruitt, who, upon catching the ball, made a jab step to his left, toward the Pittsburgh bench, then looped back toward the other side of the field to give him room and time to pick up blockers.

Along the way, Pruitt used his quick feet, moves and speed to dodge first one Steeler, then another. On and on it went with defenders grasping at nothing but air as Pruitt bobbed and weaved his way down the muddy field, looking much more like a cartoon or even a Keystone Kops episode than an NFL game.

Finally, Pruitt was dragged down from behind at the Pittsburgh 18, completing a 42-yard play that you really had to see to believe. Words do not do it justice.

Two plays later, Pruitt swept left end for the game-winning 19-yard touchdown run, and his second score of the game.

The Browns (7-3-1) climbed to within a half-game of the AFC Central-leading Steelers (8-3).

In addition, it marked the ninth straight time that the Browns had defeated the Steelers at Cleveland.

The game was tied, 7-7, after the opening quarter, the Steelers scoring first on wide receiver Ron Shanklin’s nine-yard TD pass from Joe Gilliam and then the Browns answering with Phipps’ 15-yard pass to Pruitt on a quick slant pattern.

Roy Gerela’s 24-yard second-quarter field goal helped Pittsburgh close its deficit to 14-10 at halftime.

A 14-yard Gerela field goal in the third quarter, and a 20-yarder to start the fourth quarter, put the Steelers back on top, 16-14.

That set the stage for Pruitt -- and Phipps -- to pull off their heroics.

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