PITTSBURGH -- The Browns built a double-digit lead but watched it turn into a double-digit deficit just as quickly Sunday at Heinz Field.
Against a Pittsburgh defense that thrives in that position, it was ultimately too much to overcome in a pivotal showdown between the AFC North rivals.
The Browns scored 10 points to take an early advantage but a Pittsburgh response of 20 unanswered points was ultimately the difference. The 20-13 loss ended Cleveland’s three-game winning streak and put the team’s postseason hopes in some serious peril.
The Browns fell to 5-7 with the loss while Pittsburgh moved to 7-5 with a win that split the series between the teams for the 2019 season.
Baker Mayfield suffered an injury to his throwing hand late in the second quarter that sent him to the locker room early to end the first half. He returned for the second half with a glove on the hand and finished 18-of-32 for 196 yards, a touchdown and an interception on Cleveland’s last-gasp drive at the end of the game.
Pittsburgh’s rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, in the second start of his career, threw his best passes deep down the field and on a fourth quarter drive that took precious time off the clock as Cleveland tried to mount a late comeback. He finished 14-of-21 for 212 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His favorite target was James Washington, who had four catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
The Steelers dominated the third quarter the way Cleveland controlled the first to complete its stretch of 20 unanswered points. Benny Snell’s 1-yard touchdown run capped the Steelers opening drive of the second half, and Chris Boswell’s short field goal early in the fourth quarter turned a Mayfield fumble into three more points.
Check out photos of the Browns in action against the Steelers
Cleveland’s offense came alive midway through the fourth quarter but hit a wall in the red zone before settling for a short field goal to draw within seven. The Browns got the ball back right away with a gift of an interception by Hodges but couldn’t capitalize on the prime field position. Instead of a 56-yard field goal, Cleveland opted for a pooch punt that pinned the Steelers on their own 1-yard line with 5:35 to play.
The Browns didn’t get the ball back until 1:45 remained and were without any timeouts on their final shot at tying the game. Mayfield was intercepted by former Browns cornerback Joe Haden a few plays later to seal the game.
The Browns dominated the game’s first 20 minutes, but the Steelers came right back with a quick 10 points to tie it up at the half.
At one point, Cleveland held a 13-minute advantage in time of possession, as the Browns bled the clock on two long scoring drives. The Browns’ opening drive burned off nearly half of the first quarter but ended with just a 31-yard Austin Seibert field goal.
Cleveland took a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter after another lengthy drive that featured six straight runs and was capped by a 15-yard Mayfield touchdown pass to Hunt.
The Steelers opened up their offense on the ensuing drive and found a spark with the deep ball. Washington was the frequent target, hauling in a 31-yarder on a drive that ended with a field goal and a 30-yarder for the game-tying score with 1 minute to play in the first half.
The Browns are back home and back in the AFC North next Sunday when they take on the Bengals.