They say that a tie is like kissing your sister. Well thanks to Mother Nature, long time AFC North rivals, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, lip-locked following a hard-fought, penalty-filled 21-21 deadlock.
With All-Pro RB Le’Veon Bell back in Pittsburgh and three first-half interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger, both teams racked up a combined 23 penalties for 203 yards in penalties in what was a very physical, old-school white-knuckle type of game reminiscent of years past.
In his first NFL start, Connor, once diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma before being cleared in 2016, the former 2016 All-ACC running back our of Pitt carried the ball for 135 total yards and two touchdowns. If the Bell contract holdout drama proved to be a distraction, Pittsburgh showed no signs of it bothering them.
Roethlisberger, 22-2 in his Canton-bound career vs. Cleveland, started off slow before finishing 23-of-41 for 335 yards passing, one touchdown. Big Ben would also be sacked four times by Cleveland’s aggressive and relentless pass-rushing defense.
Longtime Browns nemesis, WR Antonio Brown was held relatively in check in catching nine passes for 93 yards and one touchdown. Second-year WR Juju Smith-Schuster caught five passes for 119 yards on eight targets.
It what was a case of, the more staying the same, the more they change, the Browns proverbially shot themselves in the football in a calamity of mental errors that resulted in sloppy play, mental errors that led to multiple penalties in regulation.
Down 21-7 in the fourth quarter, many Browns fans were already heading for the exit.
Big mistake, as Cleveland would rally back in front of their fans.
Thanks to two turnovers including a Connor fumble at 7:44 that would be recovered by SS Jabrill Peppers and a Roethlisberger fumble after getting strip-sacked by DE Myles Garrett with 6:46 remaining, Cleveland would capitalize on a Josh Gordon touchdown pass and Carlos Hyde TD run.
In first start as Browns QB, Tyrod Taylor went 15-40 for 197 yards with a rushing score and a TD pass. Taylor would also throw an ill-advised interception that could have helped the Browns win in regulation. Fourth overall pick, DB Denzel Ward out of Ohio State picked of Roethlisberger twice in his debut. Free safety Danarious Randall would also intercept Roethlisberger.
In overtime both teams would have an opportunity to win, but Steelers kicker Chris Boswell would miss a 42-yarder with 1:42 left on OT and Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez would have his 43-yard attempt blocked with 13 seconds remaining.