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Week 1 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Cleveland Browns 21


What you need to know

Pittsburgh Steelers

If the Steelers didnít have enough to deal with in this game being undermanned, they were also battling the elements. With the rain pouring down, the Pittsburgh Steelers experience six turnovers (three interceptions and three fumbles) and Myles Garrett constantly in the backfield meeting Ben Roethlisberger. Going into the fourth quarter the Steelers were up by 14 points and had shifted to a conservative and predictable run heavy offense. The predictability allowed the Browns to keep the Steelers in third and long situations and force two late game backbreaking turnovers to force overtime. The elements showed up one more time in overtime preventing the Steelers to regain their offensive footing.

Cleveland Browns

It was a rainy, wet day in Cleveland, which affected both offenses to varying degrees. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor struggled badly with his accuracy in the game, missing receivers throughout the afternoon. He did take a big hit from T.J. Watt on the second drive of the game and came up holding his arm awkwardly. After the hit it seemed as though his accuracy dipped. Jarvis Landry was the same target magnet he was with the Dolphins, seeing a team-leading 15 targets. Despite playing way more than pregame reports indicated, Josh Gordon was an afterthought, earning just three targets even though he had no problems getting open in one-on-one coverage. Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward made an impressive debut, intercepting Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice in the contest. Both teams traded missed field goals toward the end of overtime, resulting in a tie.

Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Ben Roethlisberger, 84 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 41 - 335 - 1 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 3 - 16 - 0
The new look slimmer Ben Roethlisberger struggled early. His first interception was thrown into heavy coverage, interception two came on a miss-fire to Antonio Brown, and his third came when the Steelers were driving on the Browns. Unfortunately, this was only in the first half. In the second half things didnít get better. Roethlisberger added a fumble in the fourth-quarter and another interception that looked like an interception during overtime. Roethlisberger displayed his signature escapability on a 15-yard run and his uncanny ability to find Antonio Brown for a touchdown, even in double coverage. The elements were largely to blame for such a bad start to Benís season.

RB James Conner, 77 offensive snaps, Rush: 31 - 135 - 2, Rec: 5 - 57 - 0 (6 targets)
Conner drew the first start of his career and did not disappoint. To start the game Conner was used just like LeíVeon Bell would be. Conner was physical between the tackles and was consistently breaking off long gains. Connerís receiving ability was the most impressive, and improved, part of Connerís game. His versatility allowed the Steelers to move him around the formation from running back to split out wide receiver. Having the ability to stay versatile early allowed the Steelers to show different looks in the first half. The biggest blemish on Connerís resume from Week 1 was his fourth-quarter fumble allowing the Browns to get back in the game. With 36 total touches (31 carries and 5 receptions on 6 targets) in one game, the Steelers clearly trust James Conner to be their workhorse while Bell is out.

WR Antonio Brown, 83 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 93 - 1 (16 targets)
Brown was clutch and his connection with Ben Roethlisberger bailed out the Steelers when they needed it most. Even with double coverage, Brown caught a 22-yard touchdown after two consecutive scores were called back due to penalty. It isnít like Brownís stats were bad, youíd just like to see more from him when he is targets 16 times.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 119 - 0 (8 targets)
Playing second fiddle to Antonio Brown still provides plenty of opportunities when you have the trust of Ben Roethlisberger. After the Browns tied the game 7-7, the momentum had shifted to the Browns. Enter JuJu Smith-Schuster answering almost immediately with a long gain to silence the Browns crowd with a 67-yard reception. Even though Smith-Schuster didnít record a catch in overtime, it was still a productive showing for the second-year wide receiver.

WR Ryan Switzer, 7 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)
Switzer will not show up much in the stat sheet, but he may have been the most impactful player for the Steelers on Sunday. Switzer relieved Antonio Brown of his punt return duties and took five kicks back for an average of 11.2 yards. Switzer consistently put the Steelers in good field position and could provide a boost to the team if he can play as a WR3.


Cleveland Browns

QB Tyrod Taylor, 89 offensive snaps, Pass: 15 - 40 - 197 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 8 - 77 - 1
Taylor was uncharacteristically inaccurate in this game, missing receivers high, low, and to the side repeatedly on makeable throws. He took a big hit, which resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty, at the end of the second drive of the game. He came up holding his arm awkwardly, which may have contributed to his struggles. The rainy weather didn't help either as Taylor doesn't have a big arm. He threw several passes that floated and others that were too short, causing receivers to adjust their routes to make the reception. At one point in the second half, Taylor threw nine-straight incompletions. Taylor made up for his passing struggles by dominating on the ground. He wound up as the Browns' leading rusher in the game and his 20-yard touchdown run got his team on the board for their first score. Taylor ran over a defender who tried to tackle him low at the goal line to power his way into the end zone. Taylor had one interception in the second quarter nullified by a defensive holding penalty. His interception that stood was a back-breaker as he tried to throw a jump ball to Josh Gordon from Pittsburgh's 43-yard line toward the end of the fourth quarter. The ball was badly underthrown and resulted in an easy interception for the defense. Earlier in the quarter, Taylor did find Josh Gordon for a touchdown in the game, putting the ball just high enough to be out of the defender's reach right at the goal line. Outside of those two plays, Taylor mostly ignored Gordon in the game.

RB Carlos Hyde, 47 offensive snaps, Rush: 22 - 62 - 1, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (2 targets)
For the most part, Hyde struggled to get much going on the ground. He spent much of the afternoon getting tackled at or near the line of scrimmage. His best series came when the Browns went extremely run-heavy in the first drive of the third quarter. Hyde ripped off runs of nine, 12, and six yards to power his team down into the red zone. In all, the Browns ran on nine straight plays on that series. Hyde later scored a one-yard touchdown after a Cleveland interception put him in excellent scoring position. Hyde continues to operate as the team's clear lead back on early downs. He lost just three carries to rookie Nick Chubb in the game. Hyde was only targeted twice in the passing game and doesn't appear to be a big part of the team's plans in that phase of the game.

RB Duke Johnson, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 17 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (6 targets)
Johnson finished third on the team in targets, with six, but was only able to turn one of those looks into a reception. He was one of the biggest casualties of Tyrod Taylor's inaccuracy with the football. He had one target thrown too far outside to his right and another later which short-hopped him. Johnson remains entrenched as the team's passing-down back and should bounce back if more accurate throws start coming his way.

WR Jarvis Landry, 81 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 106 - 0 (15 targets)
Landry led the team with 15 targets on a rainy day in Cleveland. The veteran receiver wasn't especially efficient with the looks, catching just seven, although many of the incompletions were uncatchable passes. The Browns targeted Landry all over the field, allowing him to pick up some large chunk plays. He caught a deep 33-yard pass down the left sideline in the second quarter where he was wide open. He actually had to come back a bit on the pass, which was underthrown. In the third quarter the Browns took another deep shot to him but the pass was overthrown. He bounced back on the next possession with a 39-yard reception. Landry had a shot at a touchdown in the fourth quarter as he was open in the end zone, but the pass was overthrown.

WR Josh Gordon, 69 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 17 - 1 (3 targets)
Gordon was rumored to be in on roughly only 20 snaps in Week 1, but he wound up playing on 78% of the offensive snaps (69-of-89). That being said, he was not used extensively, seeing just three targets. Gordon was able to get open frequently against one-on-one coverage but quarterback Tyrod Taylor preferred the short and intermediate passes to Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, and Duke Johnson. Gordon did manage to make his presence felt, turning his only catch into a 17-yard touchdown. Taylor threw the ball to the outside and Gordon went up over the defender to secure the catch right at the goal line. He had another deep end zone target in the fourth quarter but he was well-covered by cornerback Joe Haden. Gordon was the intended target on Taylor's fourth quarter interception but the pass was underthrown. The two didn't get much time to work together in the preseason with Gordon away from the team. Hopefully Gordon and Taylor develop more chemistry as the season goes on.

TE David Njoku, 78 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 13 - 0 (7 targets)
Njoku had a rough afternoon. The second-year tight end struggled with drops, committing two in a row during a third quarter series. He also injured his ankle following a catch in the third and stayed down on the field for a short while. He was able to return on the following possession so there shouldn't be much concern here. He did injure an ankle during the preseason, as well, although it is unclear whether it was the same leg on Sunday. Njoku came close to converting a big play on the first drive as Tyrod Taylor targeted him down the seam on a deep pass. The ball was thrown high and Njoku got his hands on it, but two defenders converged to assure he wasn't able to secure the catch. Better days will be ahead for the athletic tight end.