PITTSBURGH — A swing of momentum the Browns’ way in Sunday’s third quarter didn’t have the staying power Cleveland needed.
The Browns sliced into Pittsburgh’s lead in the third quarter after a wacky turn of events, but the Steelers delivered a resounding response to send Cleveland out of Heinz Field with a 33-18 loss.
The Browns, who have lost three straight, fell to 2-5-1 at the midpoint of the season. Pittsburgh maintained its AFC North lead with the win and moved to 4-2-1.
Baker Mayfield didn’t have much time to throw from start to finish, completing 22-of-36 passes for 180 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for a Browns offense that was largely silenced after its best first quarter of the season. He was sacked two times and hit numerous others.
Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shook off a slow start and paced the Steelers offense with 257 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Running back James Conner did the heavy lifting in the second half and finished with 212 yards of offense and two touchdowns.
Trailing 16-6 after a safety midway through the third quarter, Cleveland recovered the ensuing kickoff at Pittsburgh’s 24-yard line when no one for the Steelers tried to return it. The Browns gained just 1 yard of offense on the drive but found the end zone anyways thanks to a handful of Pittsburgh penalties. Antonio Callaway’s 1-yard touchdown catch drew the Browns within 4, but they never got any closer.
Conner powered Pittsburgh’s response, rushing for 60 yards on four plays, the last of which going for 12 and a touchdown. After a Browns three-and-out, Pittsburgh mounted another lengthy drive and tacked on a field goal to stretch the lead to two touchdowns. Connor’s 22-yard touchdown with 2:04 to play provided the final score in Pittsburgh’s response of 17 unanswered points.
The Cleveland Browns play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 8.
Mayfield connected with Seth DeValve on a late touchdown pass to seal the final margin.
The Browns had one of their best first quarters of the season but just a 6-0 lead to show for it.
Cleveland’s defense kept Pittsburgh from picking up a single first down while the offense drove well into Steelers territory on all three possessions, the last of which stretched into the early part of the second quarter. The Browns settled for field goal attempts on all three, and Greg Joseph made two of them.
Pittsburgh took the lead away in a hurry after Joseph’s miss. Roethlisberger’s first touchdown pass of the game, a 43-yarder to Antonio Brown, and the ensuing extra point made it 7-6 at the 11:26 mark in the second quarter. That same duo connected again at the end of the period to make it 14-6, capping a drive that consumed almost the entire second half of the second quarter.
Player of the game: Conner provided the muscle for the Steelers offense, especially in the second half. The majority of his 146 rushing yards came in the final 30 minutes.
Best from the Browns: Safety Derrick Kindred had his hands on both of the Browns’ turnovers. He nabbed his first interception of the season, a deflection caused by linebacker Christian Kirksey, in the first quarter. He stripped the ball away from Stevan Ridley in the third quarter, a fumble that was ultimately recovered by Denzel Ward.
Key moment: With seconds remaining in the first half, the Steelers converted a fourth-and-1 from the Browns’ 5-yard line. On the next play, Roethlisberger connected with Brown for a 1-yard touchdown pass to cap a 16-play, 87-yard drive and extend the Steelers’ advantage, 14-6. Browns defensive back Damarious Randall read the play, a quick screen, to perfection but just missed getting his hands on the pass.
Stat of the game: After their third possession of the game, the Browns were out-gaining the Steelers, 121-16. The Browns finished with 237 yards to Pittsburgh’s 422.
Who’s next?: The Browns return home for a back-to-back games at FirstEnergy Stadium. First up is the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs.