PITTSBURGH (AP/WJW) — Not yet Cleveland. At least, not in Pittsburgh.
James Conner ran for 101 yards and a touchdown and the Steelers battered the Browns in a 38-7 blowout victory on Sunday to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1978. Ben Roethlisberger added 162 yards passing and a score.
Pittsburgh emphatically ended Cleveland’s four-game winning streak and extended the Browns’ skid at Heinz Field to 17 and counting.
“Bottom line got beat. Credit to them. We did not do anything right, obviously,” said Head Coach Kevin Stefanski following the game. “Offensively, could not sustain drives and could not get a first down on third or fourth down, but again, credit to them. Guys fought. Then we have to learn from this and move on because you have another one next week, a division opponent on the road.”
The Browns (4-2) were unable to get anything going against a defense that sacked aching Baker Mayfield four times, picked him off twice and chased him late in the third quarter with the game out of reach. The NFL’s top rushing offense managed 75 yards on the ground — 113 below its season average — as the Steelers dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage in easily their best performance in 2020.
Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick stepped in front of a Mayfield pass and raced 33 yards to the end zone fors an early 10-0 lead. The Browns, off to the franchise’s best start since 1994, never really recovered in a stadium where they haven’t won since Mayfield was in elementary school.
Mayfield spent a portion of the week nursing a rib injury but said he was going to be good to go because “mama didn’t raise no wuss.” Maybe, but Mayfield stood little chance against Pittsburgh’s relentless pressure. His second interception set up Roethlisberger’s ridiculously easy 28-yard touchdown throw to James Washington late in the second quarter. That gave the Steelers a 24-0 advantage they never flirted with giving away.
Mayfield finished 10 of 18 for 119 yards and a touchdown to go with the two interceptions. First-year Cleveland coach Stefanski pulled Mayfield late in the third quarter after a 3-yard touchdown run by Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool put the Steelers up 31-7.
“Yes, [we made the change because of the injury]. I do not know if it contributed early. I know this, I did not do a good enough job allowing him to be put in those positions,” Stefanski said of Mayfield. “It is something that I have to do way better. I can’t let him get hit like that.”
Mayfield said that the injury did not affect his performance in today’s game.
“I think I have to do a better job of getting the ball out and protecting those guys,” Mayfield said during a press conference. “When you play a team like that, we knew that their strength was in their pass rush. We knew that. It was very apparent in watching the film. I have to do a better job of getting the ball out quicker, and we just have to execute better.”
Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett predicted a “clean” game in his first action against the Steelers since his ugly fight with quarterback Mason Rudolph last November, a game that ended with Garrett receiving an indefinite suspension after ripping off Rudolph’s helmet and then swinging it at him.
Garrett did get his AFC-leading seventh sack with a takedown of Roethlisberger late in the second quarter and play on both sides was decidedly tame. While Rudolph did replace Roethlisberger midway through the fourth quarter, by then Garrett was on the sideline. The two did not appear to interact during the postgame handshake.
The Steelers received a potentially massive blow to their defense when second-year inside linebacker Devin Bush left in the second quarter with a left knee injury. Bush, who had not missed a defensive snap all season, appeared to take an awkward step while attempting to break up a pass.
Browns: will attempt to sweep the season series from in-state rival Cincinnati when they visit the Bengals next Sunday. Cleveland captured the first meeting 35-30 at home on Sept. 17.
“Baker will start as long as he is healthy, and I think he will be,” Stefanski confirmed.
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