Game Reports

Steelers Win Season Opener 21-18 Over the Browns

September 10, 2017
6 minutes read
Steelers Win Season Opener 21-18 Over the Browns

All three phases contributed as the Steelers defeated the Cleveland Browns, 21-18

The Steelers opened the regular season with a 21-18 win over the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium, their 43rd opening day win, which ranks first all-time in the AFC.

“A great win for us, an AFC North road game in week one versus a worthy and hostile opponent,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “We’re excited about getting the job done. We’ve got some work to do. It’s great to do that work with a win in your back pocket.

“We were highly penalized today. That was the story of the game in terms of execution. I thought our offensive drives got stopped because of penalties. I thought our defensive drives got extended because of penalties. When you are doing that you are going to keep people in the game.”

The Steelers were penalized 13 times for 144 yards, but overcame those penalties thanks to all three phases contributing.

Antonio Brown didn’t have to cross the goal line to have the biggest impact of the day on offense. Brown had 11 receptions for 182 yards, while the offense had 290 total yards. His biggest reception of the day came on second-and-12 with 2:47 to play when he pulled in a 38-yard grab, holding on to the ball, and having the catch upheld after the Browns challenged.

The defense got to rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, sacking him seven times, including two each by T.J. Watt, who added an interception, and Anthony Chickillo, who started for the injured Bud Dupree. Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave and Joe Haden added one each.

If you had to guess who would score the first touchdown of the 2017 season for the Steelers, chances are good that names like Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell or Martavis Bryant would come to mind.

You would have been dead wrong.

The 2017 season opened with special teams proving the first punch, when Chickillo recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown. Tyler Matakevich came up the middle to block Britton Colquitt’s punt, and Chickillo grabbed it in the end zone for the early 7-0 lead. It was the first time the Steelers blocked a punt for a touchdown since 1998 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

And it was the only scoring from the Steelers in the first quarter.

The offense struggled on their first drive, marred by penalties, opening the door for the Browns to get right back in the game.

Kizer, who struggled moving the offense on the opening drive, got the Browns going, converting on three third downs. Penalties once again haunted the Steelers when Sean Davis was called for pass interference, giving the Browns the ball at the three-yard line. Cleveland tied the game when Kizer capped the drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak to tie it, 7-7.

It wasn’t until the Steelers final drive of the first half that the offense came to life. Antonio Brown, who had been relatively quiet leading up to that point, had three huge receptions for a total of 80 yards, including a 50-yard catch and run. Ben Roethlisberger connected with Jesse James for a four-yard touchdown, capping the 91-yard drive, which would send the Steelers into the locker room at halftime up, 14-7. Brown also finished the half with 102 receiving yards, his 30th 100-yard receiving game, the most in Steelers history.

The second half opened with the Steelers going three-and-out on offense, punting for the fifth time in their first six possessions. The Browns took advantage and closed the gap to 14-10, courtesy of a 24-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez.

While penalties worked against the Steelers plenty throughout the afternoon, one worked in their favor on the ensuing drive. Jamar Taylor was hit with a pass interference call, costing the Browns 41 yards. With the ball at the 18-yard line, Roethlisberger hit Le’Veon Bell for a 10-yard gain, and then Bell got it to the two-yard line on back-to-back carries. Roethlisberger connected with James for his second touchdown of the game, a two-yard reception to give the Steelers a 21-10 lead.

Penalties haunted the Steelers defense on the next drive. Three penalties for 35 yards gave the Browns the ball, and momentum, at the 29-yard line. That’s when Watt came up with a huge play, intercepting Kizer and returning it 17 yards.

The Browns wouldn’t go away, though. Kizer led the Browns on an eight-play, 73-yard drive that culminated in the first touchdown pass of his career, a three-yarder to Corey Coleman. After the two-point conversion, the Browns pulled within three, 21-18, but that would be the final score.

* Stephon Tuitt left the game with a biceps injury. Will be re-evaluated and more information on Tuesday.

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