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Week 11 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 7, Cleveland Browns 21


What you need to know

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers were in for one of it’s toughest challenges over recent weeks. The Steelers most recently played against the Rams, who were traveling east, Colts, who were missing Jacoby Brissett for a majority of the game, and the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers last challenge was back in Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers were finally going to get a real test of their opportunistic secondary.

The Steelers offense sputtered throughout the game. Starting with a missed field goal on their second possession and then turning the ball over on downs on their fifth possession of the first half of the game. The Steelers were not only seeing routine pass rush from the opposition, they were also dealing with injuries to James Conner, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson. Through the first half of the game the Steelers offense was barely over 100 total yards. The first score of the game for the Steelers first came in the third quarter after the Browns committed four penalties and marched the Steelers down the field. The final penalty of this drive was a defensive pass interference call in the end zone when the Browns defender did not turn around for the ball and went chest to chest with Johnny Holton. The best plays for the Steelers all night had been defensive penalties. In the fourth quarter, down seven points, the Steelers go for it on fourth down. Mason Rudolph almost throws an interception and the ball is turned over on downs.

Finally, in the closing final seconds, there was a brawl between the Steelers and the Browns after Myles Garrett tried sacking Mason Rudolph. Long story short, this fight between the two teams ended with multiple ejections and heavy suspensions and fines being issued. These two teams will square off again in two weeks.

Cleveland Browns

he Browns beat the Steelers for the first time since October 2014. Unfortunately, the win was marred by an ugly brawl at the end of the game that resulted in Myles Garrett getting suspended indefinitely, prompting many to question whether the current coaching staff has installed any sort of discipline within the team. The Browns were up 14-0 at halftime and played extremely conservatively in the second half, running frequently to milk the clock. Pittsburgh lost both James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the game and their offense struggled mightily to move the ball while the Cleveland defense notched four interceptions and four sacks.

Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Mason Rudolph, 74 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 44 - 221 - 1 TD / 4 INT, Rush: 2 - 15 - 0
Week 11 for Mason Rudolph was the convergence of bad decision making and little offensive line protection. Rudolph was routinely taking either pressure or being hit when he was trying to deliver the football. On a third down and short Rudolph made an inaccurate pass to Juju Smith-Schuster which would have continued a drive when the Browns were only up by seven points. Late in the second half, Rudolph started turning the football over. Rudolph’s first interception of the night came on a deep pass off of a flea flicker. Denzel Ward turns and tips the ball in the air and Morgan Burnett makes the interception. On the following drive, Rudolph fumbled the ball in the last two minutes of the first half. Sheldon Richardson had the opportunity to scoop the ball up but was too focused on what to do after the recovery. This is Rudolph’s fourth fumble not lost. After not turning the ball over, Rudolph took another sack on the Steelers’ last play of their last possession of the first half. Rudolph’s second interception was on an inaccurate pass behind the receiver over the middle of the field. Rudolph’s fourth interception came when he was throwing a six route and he didn’t see the defender underneath the route. Luckily, Rudolph caught up to the Browns defender and was able to stop the defender from scoring. The final interception of Rudolph’s day came in the fourth quarter. Rudolph overthrew Vance McDonald and there was good deep coverage on the day. Even Rudolph’s lone touchdown pass on the game saw plenty of pressure. While dropping back to pass, the Browns pass rush almost reached Rudolph for another sack. Rudolph saw Jaylen Samuels open in the flat just in time.

RB Jaylen Samuels, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 26 - 0, Rec: 5 - 19 - 1 (6 targets)
Similar to the passing protection on the night, there wasn’t much room for the rushing attack either. Samuels’ best run of the night was up the middle. Samuels showed good explosion as he was picking his way through the center of the defense. Samuels did flash as a dual threat when he scored his touchdown on a route out of the backfield. When it looked like Mason Rudolph was about to take another sack, Rudolph spotted Samuels wide open.

RB James Conner, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 10 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (2 targets)
In Week 11, James Conner returned from a shoulder injury he suffered two weeks prior. It was believed Conner was held out of Week 10’s matchup to save himself for this game. Conner’s night started off almost breaking a long run to the outside when he was taken down by a shoestring tackle. Conner even fell down on a route out of the backfield. He eventually got up and flashed as a checkdown for Mason Rudolph for a short gain. Unfortunately, similar to previous weeks, Conner’s night was cut very short. He exited the game with an aggravation of his shoulder injury from two weeks prior.

WR James Washington, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 49 - 0 (5 targets)
With so many key skill position players out after the first half of the game it is quizzical how Washington ended the evening with only five targets. Early on, Washington drew a defensive pass interference which led to a 33-yard gain and a first down. Throughout the evening Washington and Rudolph and Washington displayed good chemistry. Rudolph was able to hit Washington on a curl route. The ball was delivered perfectly as Washington was coming out of his break and back towards the ball. Washington’s blemish on the evening was a reception breakup. Washington was running a shallow crossing route from left to right and the pass was perfectly on target. The defender simply put his hands between Washington and the ball.

WR Diontae Johnson, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (4 targets)
In the first quarter Johnson was h in stride for a short reception. Johnson was able to break the first tackle, but couldn’t make the second defender miss to gain a first down. On a helmet to helmet hit on a defenseless receiver, Johnson drew a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down. Johnson was out for the remainder of the game and the defender who hit Johnson was ejected from the game.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 22 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (4 targets)
Similar to the rest of the Steelers offensive skill position players, Smith-Schuster has a relatively short a unproductive evening. Early on, the Cleveland Browns were playing off coverage against Smith-Schuster and not allowing him to beat them deep. He was hit over the middle of the field on a short crossing route. Smith-Schuster was able to convert the Steelers first down of the game. On a key third down and short play, in the first quarter, Smith-Schuster was open for a first down to keep a drive alive. Mason Rudolph threw the ball too far in front of Smith-Schuster and failed to convert the third down. Smith-Schuster’s night was cut short at the beginning of the second quarter after taking a helmet to helmet hit after making a catch. Smith-Schuster would not return to the game with a concussion.

TE Vance McDonald, 71 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 33 - 0 (7 targets)
The target volume is high, but the quality of the targets was low. Every target McDonald had to work for and when he was targeted it was in traffic with Cleveland Browns defenders draped on him or the target was in traffic with no room to work. McDonald was not given the opportunity to maximize his targets in deeper parts of the field.


Cleveland Browns

QB Baker Mayfield, 70 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 32 - 193 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 1 - 1
Mayfield had a solid day throwing the football and his three scores where the most he has had all season. That being said, his chemistry with Odell Beckham Jr. remains a work in progress. It looked like the two had a 43-yard touchdown at the end of the first drive but official review determined that Beckham’s knee hit down inside the one-yard line before the ball crossed the goal line. Mayfield followed that play with a one-yard quarterback sneak for the rushing touchdown. In the second quarter, Mayfield showed some of his elusiveness in the pocket. He had a pass rusher bearing down on him; pump faked the pass and got the defender to jump in the air. Then Mayfield stepped over and completed a deep 41-yard completion to KhaDarel Hodge. He targeted Hodge in the end zone on that same drive, with Hodge drawing a defensive pass interference flag. Mayfield took his only sack in the third quarter when he held onto the ball too long. He then had Jarvis Landry wide open and overthrew him on what could have gone for a big gain. On the ensuing drive, Mayfield made a nice pass deep down the seam to Demetrius Harris. Harris had a chance at the catch but offsetting pass interference penalties were called against both him and his defender. Mayfield then took a deep end-zone shot to Beckham but there was a miscommunication between the two. Mayfield threw toward the sideline while Beckham had turned toward the middle of the field. In the fourth quarter, he and Beckham showed nice timing on an 11-yard completion. Mayfield struggled with his accuracy again after that as Beckham got wide open and Mayfield threw way too high for the receiver to even make an attempt. He tried Beckham in the end zone again on the sixth drive of the second half, throwing an end zone fade from the Pittsburgh four-yard line. Beckham caught it but was unable to get both feet down inbounds on the play. Mayfield’s final touchdown came on a risky pass to rookie tight end Stephen Carlson. Mayfield ripped an eight-yard strike to Carlson in the back of the end zone. Carlson leapt and reached over the defender’s helmet to make the catch. The pass could have been an interception had the defender been facing the play but he had his back to Mayfield while in coverage.

RB Nick Chubb, 51 offensive snaps, Rush: 27 - 92 - 0 (1 targets)
Chubb saw a season-high 27 carries in the victory, including nine in the third quarter where Cleveland played extremely conservatively. His first carry went for a 10-yard gain but he then lost a yard on the ensuing carry. In the second quarter, Chubb saw two red zone carries. He lost a yard on a carry from the Pittsburgh nine-yard line and then gained three yards down to the Pittsburgh seven. In Chubb’s busy third quarter, he ripped off another 10-yard gain and later broke a tackle to pick up another eight yards. In the fourth quarter Chubb was mostly quiet, although he did see another red zone carry from the Pittsburgh four-yard line. He lost four yards on the play. He took three carries on the final drive to kill the clock. It appeared he may have tweaked something on his final carry of the game. He came off the field holding the inner area of his upper leg and was spotted on the sideline stretching out his groin. The team has yet to update Chubb’s status. The presence of Kareem Hunt has cut into Chubb’s role in the passing game. He is still seeing a high volume of carries but has become a more touchdown-dependent option.

RB Kareem Hunt, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 12 - 0, Rec: 6 - 46 - 0 (8 targets)
Hunt’s first touch was an impressive leaping reception where he jumped up and reached over a defender for a 20-yard catch. He followed that with another impressive reception on third-and-11. He caught a short pass, broke a tackle, and dragged a defender for a first down. The Browns then lined him up as a wide receiver and he caught a three-yard pass. He was quiet in the second quarter. In the third, however, Hunt was busy. He saw a carry, which went for a two-yard gain. He and Nick Chubb then were both lined up in the backfield and Hunt had a five-yard carry from that formation. He followed that with an excellent route out of the backfield, catching an 11-yard pass in the process on a third-and-five. He converted another first down on second-and-four with a five-yard run. In the fourth quarter, Hunt lost two yards on his first carry as he was met in the backfield. He then caught his final pass, which went for a loss of one. He saw two final rushes on the team’s final offensive possession as they attempted to kill the clock.

WR Jarvis Landry, 65 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 43 - 1 (7 targets)
Landry had another solid game, finding the end zone for the third-straight contest. His first target didn’t come until the fourth drive of the game. He got wide open and hauled in a 25-yard reception. He capped off that drive with a one-yard touchdown. Landry ran from right to left along the goal line on the route. The defense lost track of him along the way and he was all by himself for the one-yard score on the left side of the end zone. On the following drive he picked up a six-yard catch on third-and-10. On the sixth drive, he made a diving attempt but couldn’t haul in the target. He was targeted again on that drive but the defense broke up the pass. It looked like contact was made before the ball got there but there was no flag on the play. In the third quarter, Landry got wide open again down the left sideline but Mayfield overthrew him. That play could have gone for a big gain had they connected.

WR Odell Beckham, 65 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 60 - 0 (10 targets)
Beckham came extremely close to posting a big game but again a bit of bad luck along with shaky chemistry between him and Baker Mayfield held him back. His first catch was a seven-yard gain on a short slant. On the same drive, it appeared he and Mayfield connected for a 43-yard touchdown. The officials reviewed the scoring play and determined that Beckham’s knee touched down inside the one-yard line before the ball crossed the goal line. Beckham had to settle for a 42-yard reception as Mayfield punched in the one-yard score. On the second drive he caught a short pass which went for no gain. On the following drive he saw another target but the pass was too high for him to catch. In the second quarter, he saw a target near the left sideline. It was a catchable ball but Beckham dropped it. In the third quarter, Beckham saw a deep end zone shot. Unfortunately, there appeared to be a miscommunication between him and Mayfield as the ball was placed near the sideline while Beckham had turned toward the middle of the field. Beckham saw several targets in the fourth quarter. He and Mayfield showed nice timing on an 11-yard reception near the right sideline. Mayfield went back to Beckham twice more on that drive but they couldn’t connect, with one target too far out of bounds and the other thrown way too high for a wide-open Beckham. He came close to scoring yet again on his final target of the game. Beckham caught a four-yard end zone fade but was unable to get both feet down inbounds.