Browns’ Loss Vaults Steelers to Playoffs

The final game was like a summary of the season. The Browns missed opportunities and  failed to score a touchdown to lose for the 18th time in the last 21 games. Trailing by five in the fourth quarter, Austin Davis fumbled, giving the Steelers a first and goal- which Pittsburgh quickly turned into a touchdown to put the game out of reach to finish off a 28-12 win over the Browns.

Cleveland finishes the season with its worst record since 2000 (3-13) and in position for the #2 overall draft pick in the draft this spring. The Steelers advance to the playoffs as the #6 seed thanks to the Bills beating the Jets 22-17.

And with reports that owner Jimmy Haslam will fire coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, the Browns have an off-season of many questions ahead once again.

“We fought our tails off,” said Pettine. “For the men in that room, they deserve better.”

The first question was not about the game, but about Pettine’s future.

“It’s a pass/fail league, ” the coach said. “Nobody wants to hear it takes time. Nobody wants to hear it’s a process. But that’s the situation that we’re in. I feel that there’s a good, young nucleus here.”

“If it does go the wrong way for me, that’s my biggest regret is not being able to deliver for these fans that have suffered for a long time.”

Pettine also denied the report from Friday that he asked Jimmy Haslam about his future with the team.

Give the Browns some credit. The Steelers needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Playing with third string QB Austin Davis and down two starting defensive backs, they kept the game within one score into the fourth quarter. Davis finished 24-46 with 240 yards, two interceptions and a fumble.

The Browns intercepted Roethlisberger twice and forced a fumble, but also turned the ball over four times. In addition to the turnovers by Davis, Raheem Mostert fumbled a kick return.

The Steelers held the lead from start to finish. After fumbling on their opening possession, the Steelers took over on downs and marched 8 plays and 70 yards, capping it off with a Ben Roethlisberger (24-36, 349 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) pass from two yards to Heath Miller for a 7-0 lead.

The Browns got an interception from Jordan Poyer  to set up their first score: a Travis Coons 29 yard field goal to make it cut it to 7-3.

Coons added another field goal from 39 yards to make it 7-6 with just under 2:00 left in the half.

The Steelers ran the two-minute drill and cashed in with a 17-yard strike to Antonio Brown to take a 14-6 lead with :58 left. Antonio Brown had big catches on the drive and finished with 13 for 187 yards and the one TD.

The Browns came close to finding pay dirt before the break after Terrelle Pryor made his first catch of the season for 42 yards. But after three incomplete passes, Coons’ 33-yard field goal made it 14-9 at the break.

The teams traded field goals in the third quarter. The Browns mounted a 17-play drive and controlled the ball for 11:32 in the quarter, but still had only three points to show for it.

The Browns fell apart in the fourth. Taking over at the one yard line, Davis completed a pass to Gary Barnidge out to the 20. But Davis fumbled, giving the Steelers prime field position. Roethlisberger hit Markus Wheaton with an 8 yard pass, and with the two point conversion to Fitzgerald Toussaint, it was a 25-12 Steelers lead.

Raheem Mostert fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which turned into a 39-yard Boswell field goal to make it 28-12.  Davis was intercepted by William Gay on the next possession and by then the game was out of reach.

Pittsburgh advances to the playoffs.  The Browns advance to another offseason of speculation.

 

Notes

WR Terrelle Pryor made his first catch as a Brown- a 42 yard grab that set up a field goal before halftime.

WR Taylor Gabriel left the game in the first quarter after leaving with a fractured orbital socket and could require surgery.

Steelers RB Deangelo Williams left the game with a leg injury in the first half  and did not return.

Travis Coons became the first Browns player with 100 points in a season since Phil Dawson in 2012.

Gary Barnidge went over 1000 yards on the season. He becomes the third TE in team history to reach the milestone joining Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow II.

 

Browns Inactives

Dwayne Bowe WR
Armonty Bryant OLB
Charles Gaines CB (girlfriend went into labor)
Johnny Manziel QB (concussion)
Marlon Moore WR (concussion)
Tramon Williams CB (concussion)
Glenn Winston RB (concussion)

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Scott Wludyga

Scott Wludyga

Scott Wludyga has covered the Browns since 1999. Covered Browns, Bills & Steelers from 1999-2006. Award-winning coverage of Super Bowl XL. I was on the field for "Bottle gate" and when Phil Dawson kicked the game-winner at Three Rivers in 1999.