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Week 17 Game Recap: Cleveland Browns 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 28


What you need to know

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns became just the second NFL team in history to go 0-16, following the 2008 Detroit Lions in infamy. Cleveland lost to mostly backups as the Pittsburgh Steelers opted to rest several of their starters ahead of the playoffs. The Browns had chances to win as they were driving down the field down four points with just under two minutes left in the game. DeShone Kizer threw a perfect pass to Corey Coleman on fourth down, but Coleman dropped the ball around the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. On the bright side, Kizer posted his first career 300-yard passing game, Josh Gordon posted his first 100-yard receiving game since the 2014 season, and Duke Johnson had another excellent all-around outing.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers finished the regular season with a record of 13-3 after besting the Browns by a score of 28-24. With Ben Roethlisberger and Leveon Bell resting, Landry Jones and Stevan Ridley filled in admirably. JuJu Smith-Schuster was the star of the game finishing with nine receptions for 143 yards and one touchdown. Smith-Schuster also scored a touchdown on a 96-yard kickoff return.

Cleveland Browns

QB DeShone Kizer, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 30 - 314 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 6 - 61 - 0
Kizer played the best he has all season, reaching 300 passing yards for the first time in his career. He did take several sacks, a few of which were his fault for holding the ball too long, but he remained mostly calm in the pocket and did keep the Pittsburgh defense on their heels with his rushing ability. Kizer, despite the 300-yard milestone, did make his share of mistakes in the contest. He again struggled with his accuracy, this time missing at least three receivers short and low. In the second quarter, Kizer did make a fantastic pass to Josh Gordon for a 56-yard pickup. The play was originally ruled a touchdown before replay review showed that Gordon's foot touched out of bounds before he crossed the goal line. On the ensuing play from the Pittsburgh two-yard line, Kizer could have had another touchdown pass but he threw too low for an open Marquez Williams at the goal line. Williams was unable to handle the poorly-thrown ball. Kizer bounced back on the next possession, hitting Rashard Higgins with a well-placed pass on a slant. Higgins didn't have to break stride and was able to race up the middle of the field for a 56-yard touchdown. At the beginning of the third quarter, Kizer found Higgins again for a score, this time a five-yard touchdown on a short slant route. Kizer started using his legs more in the third quarter as he picked up large chunks of yardage on several scrambles. He should have had an interception toward the end of the third quarter but the defender had the ball jarred loose on a heads-up play by the Cleveland receiver. In the fourth quarter, Kizer came close to throwing an interception yet again, this time putting a ball in the defender's hands, only to have the Pittsburgh cornerback drop the interception. He finally did throw an interception on the second possession of the fourth quarter. He was hit as he was throwing, causing the pass to David Njoku to go short. On his team's final possession, Kizer made an excellent play on 4th-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 27-yard line. He somehow escaped what looked like a sure sack and fired a perfect pass to Corey Coleman for what should have been a first down, but the wide-open Coleman dropped the ball. In all, the good outweighed the bad for Kizer in this contest but the end results were still the same.

RB Isaiah Crowell, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 21 - 0
Crowell had a dismal day running the ball. He was often met at or behind the line of scrimmage by a Pittsburgh run defense that was ready for him whenever he got the ball. It didn't help that almost all of his carries went up the middle, which didn't leave much guesswork for the defense. His best series came in the third quarter where he ripped off two seven-yard runs in the same drive. He also saw two red zone carries at the end of that drive, although he was unable to get into the end zone on either one. In the fourth quarter, Crowell was routinely dropped for losses and was visibly unhappy about something (possibly a missed block) after a three-yard loss on his team's second possession in the quarter. He was not targeted at all in the passing game. Crowell is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and may have played his final game with the team.

RB Duke Johnson, 30 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 20 - 1, Rec: 6 - 75 - 0 (6 targets)
Johnson was electric with the ball, as usual, and was the team's best offensive player against the Steelers. He routinely broke tackles and gained extra yards after the catch. Johnson picked up a two-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. He was barely touched on an easy burst into the end zone. Johnson did most of his damage in the passing game, turning several short screens and dump offs into big gains. His biggest gain was a 30-yard reception, although he lost a fumble at the end of that play. Give credit to Pittsburgh defender William Gay who punched the ball out of Johnson's grasp on the play for the takeaway. It was Johnson's second lost fumble in the past three games, although the Browns continued calling his number after the giveaway.

WR Josh Gordon, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 115 - 0 (7 targets)
Gordon and quarterback DeShone Kizer were finally able to connect on a few splash plays after coming close over their four previous games. Gordon wound up with his first 100-yard receiving game since the 2014 season. His biggest gain came on a 56-yard over-the-shoulder catch in the second quarter. Gordon blew by Joe Haden in coverage, forcing safety Mike Mitchell to pick him up, but it was too late. Gordon initially appeared to score a touchdown on the play but the officials reviewed it and it was found that his foot touched out of bounds at the Pittsburgh two-yard line. After picking up two catches for a combined 28 yards in the third quarter, Gordon ripped off another large gain in the fourth. He caught a short pass on a crossing route and turned upfield for a 33-yard gain. It was a great bounceback after a disappointing Week 16 game for Gordon.

WR Rashard Higgins, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 68 - 2 (4 targets)
Higgins came into the game having never scored an NFL touchdown in just under two full seasons. He made up for that by scoring twice against the Steelers. His first touchdown came on a slant route. DeShone Kizer hit him in stride on a perfect pass. Higgins did the rest, catching the ball at the Pittsburgh 47-yard line and taking it all the way for the 56-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Higgins caught his second touchdown, a five-yard reception, on a short slant at the goal line. He appeared to be open for most of the play as he made his way across the goal line but it took Kizer a while to find him.

WR Corey Coleman, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 18 - 0 (6 targets)
It was another forgettable day for Coleman, who finished with just one catch. His lone grab was a great one as he dove for the ball to pick up 18 yards on a 3rd-and-17 play in the third quarter. A few of Coleman's missed targets can be blamed on DeShone Kizer's inaccuracy as Kizer missed him short and low at least twice. Unfortunately for Coleman, he committed a brutal drop at the end of the game on 4th-and-2. Kizer appeared to be sacked but he somehow managed to escape. Coleman had run a wheel route out of the backfield and was all by himself around the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. Kizer threw him a perfect pass that would have gone for a first down, but Coleman let the ball go through his hands. He appeared to turn his head to look upfield before securing the catch.

TE David Njoku, 24 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 38 - 0 (3 targets)
Njoku's first catch of the game was a short, four-yard reception in the second quarter. In the third quarter he made a great play for a big, 34-yard gain. He leapt to catch a short four-yard pass and made the first tackler miss before racing up the middle of the field for the big gain. Outside of that play, he was mostly quiet. Njoku was the target on DeShone Kizer's fourth quarter interception. Kizer was hit as he threw the ball, causing the throw to be short.


Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Landry Jones, 59 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 27 - 239 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - -6 - 0
Landry Jones was efficient filling in for Ben Roethlisberger. Jones finished with 23 completions on 27 pass attempts for 239 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Mid first quarter, Jones tried to force a pass over the middle to JuJu Smith-Schuster and was intercepted. Early second quarter on a third and two, Jones found a wide-open Smith-Schuster for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Jones quickly recognized that the Browns left Smith-Schuster uncovered and delivered the pass. Late second quarter, Jones fumbled when he was hit from behind by a Browns defender.

RB Stevan Ridley, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 80 - 1
With Leveon Bell inactive, Stevan Ridley was the focal point of the rushing attack finishing with 17 carries for 80 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Ridley was recently added to the roster after James Conner suffered a season-ending injury. Ridley ran strong often hitting the hole with a burst. Mid second quarter, Ridley ran up the middle for a five-yard touchdown run. On the play, Ridley squeezed through a small hole and muscled his way into the end zone.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 143 - 1 (10 targets)
With Antonio Brown inactive, JuJu Smith-Schuster was the go-to receiver with a team leading nine receptions for 143 yards and one touchdown. Smith-Schuster ran crisp routes and did a good job securing nine of ten targets. Early second quarter, Smith-Schuster was left uncovered as he quickly got behind the Browns defense for a 20-yard touchdown reception. Late second quarter, Smith-Schuster ran a deep-route and showed great concentration coming down with a 46-yard reception. Early third quarter, Smith-Schuster added a 96-yard kickoff return touchdown. On the play, Smith-Schuster weaved through Browns defenders before delivering a wicked stiff arm to break free from the pack.

WR Martavis Bryant, 33 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 65 - 0 (7 targets)
Martavis Bryant finished with a season-best six receptions for 65 yards. Bryant performed well in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Bryant was targeted on a deep route on the first play of the game but was unable to secure the reception.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, 3 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 29 - 1
Early first quarter, Darrius Heyward-Bey took a reverse around the right side for a 29-yard touchdown run. On the play, Heyward-Bey hit the corner with speed as he dashed through three Browns defenders for the score.

TE Jesse James, 37 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (2 targets)
Jesse James had a quiet afternoon with two receptions for nine yards.