By Tom Green
Some games mean just that little bit more.
And certainly, the AFC North division match-ups mean that little bit more and trust me when I say that games between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, mean even a little bit more.
Simply put, you want to beat your rivals..
For now the Cleveland Browns own the bragging rights over their heated rivals as well taking a 2-1 lead in the AFC North after defeating the Steelers 29-17 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
The Browns were led to victory by their best player: Nick Chubb, who dominated on the ground yet again, while QB Jacoby Brissett managed this game with an experienced hand. He made the throws when he needed to, gaining first downs when it mattered most and more importantly not turning the ball over.
The Steelers had the early chance to take the lead, but a 49-yard field goal attempt from Chris Boswell was blown by the strong wind and curved right and wide of the uprights. The following drive the Browns let their best offensive player do what he does best. They handed Nick Chubb the ball before eventually opening the scoring with Jacoby Brissett hitting Amari Cooper from two yards for a 0-7 lead.
The Steelers responded on the next drive and we saw potentially Mitchell Trubisky’s best pass of the season, that will only be remembered for an audacious catch. A ridiculous stretching, falling, twisting, one-handed grab by rookie second-round pick George Pickens for 36 yards.
It led to starting running-back Najee Harris punching it in through contact to tie things up on the first play of the second quarter.
The Browns responded in what was an action packed first half and went on a 12 play, 79-yard march that led to another Brissett passing touchdown. This time he found tight-end David Njoku. Cade York’s PAT attempt bounced off the upright for another missed kick. Honestly, how many kickers have missed back-to-back PAT’s in different games before?
The Steelers then hit back with a scoring drive of their own, with Trubisky showing some hustle to get in from the one-yard line for his first rushing TD of 2022. There were no PAT troubles for Chris Boswell to put the Steelers 14-13 at the break.
The Browns re-took the lead with a Cade York 34-yard field-goal, after another drive in which their running combination of Chubb and Kareem Hunt led the way.
Pittsburgh’s offensive output started to become similar to that of stale bread that had been left out overnight as the Browns pass rush got some pressure on Trubisky. The Steelers went on four consecutive scoreless drives and it was at this point that the game began to be pulled out of their reach as the Browns etched up their running game.
Another long drive led to Chubb getting a well-deserved touchdown on a one-yard dash up the inside at the goal-line.
The Steelers finally responded, courtesy of a 34-yard Boswell kick, but it was all too little, too late. They attempted an onside kick, only for George Pickens to run offside.
With time running low, Pittsburgh got the ball back with 15 seconds left on the clock and a chance for a miracle win, but no pigs were flying and no cows were jumping over the moon in Cleveland. While attempting to keep the last play alive, Najee Harris fumbled, and Denzel Ward landed on it in the endzone for a 29-17 final score.
The Browns have created a blueprint for how they will operate until a certain someone arrives for their week 12 tilt with the Houston Texans. The outline of the plan is simple, give Nick Chubb the ball and let him do the rest. The first three weeks of the season have been nothing short of outstanding for the former Georgia Bulldog. Already on 341 yards and four touchdowns, the Browns will go as he and stablemate Kareem Hunt go.
Brissett has had a better start to the season than I predicted. He is playing his heart out and didn’t make the same mistakes tonight that he made against the Jets on Sunday. The Browns take the lead in the always difficult AFC North and with it the bragging rights at least until their Week 18 rematch.
This was a tough loss for the Steelers, and they are now a couple of muffed field-goals in Week 1 away from an 0-3 start.
Here’s a Friday morning question for you. When was the last time the Steelers scored 30 or more points in a game?
It was ten games ago, on November 21 last year, in a 41-37 loss to the LA Chargers. It gets worse if you look back further, from the start of the 2020 season onwards, the Steelers have only four games in which they scored 30 points or more. That’s four in 36 games!
Too long has this team relied on its defence to win and keep them relevant come December. Minus TJ Watt, that task is going to be a lot harder this season, and not one I think their current signal caller is up to.
I simply don’t see enough in Mitch Trubisky. He was unfortunate tonight with a couple drops from his receivers. Diontae Johnson dropping an absolute dime Trubisky tossed whilst facing down Myles Garrett comes to mind. However, his unwillingness or inability to take necessary risks and push the ball down the field is failing to highlight the strongest part of Pittsburgh weapons, their young receiving core.
We saw what George Pickens can do given the chance. We have seen in the past what Chase Claypool can do with a jump ball. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Trubisky and should point more blame in the direction of the offensive play-callers or struggling O-Line. I can’t be the only person who doesn’t see much change from the Trubisky we saw at the heart of every Bears fan’s groans from 2017-2020. In my opinion, he simply hasn’t improved beyond being a serviceable back-up who can flash in small amounts.
Mike Tomlin and the Steelers seem reluctant to break out their new toy in Kenny Pickett. How much longer can they wait?