There were enough Steelers fans in the stands to prompt the Browns to treat it like an away game and wear their white jerseys.
Cleveland wins the toss, takes the ball, and promptly goes 3-and-out.
Mendenhall carries us down the field to the fringe of field goal range. Tomlin elects to go for it on 4th and 3 rather than try a 49-yarder with the wind at our back. Ben can't hit Redman and it's a turnover on downs.
Troy does his "dive through the line" play and pulls Wallace down before he can hand the ball off.
What a player.
3-and-out again for Cleveland.
Even with the wind at our back, the passing game can't get on track. The running game carries us to midfield but Ben gets sacked and that's that.
Another 3-and-out from the Browns.
Mendenhall bounces one outside and tries to make a cut but his knee gives out and he crumples to the ground.
Might be a torn ACL.
Second QuarterWith Mendenhall out and the wind in our face, it's the Isaac Redman show. A holding penalty knocks us back but Ben zings one to Manny Sanders to get us down to the 22. Faced with a 4th and 1, Tomlin elects to go with Redman rather than try a 40-yard field goal. Redman spins off two tacklers and picks it up. Whew. After the moment of relief, Ben gets sacked on 3rd down, leaving us with a 45-yard field goal that the wind blows left.
With the wind at their back, the Browns start to move the ball and catch a spark when Wallace scrambles for 30 yards on 3rd and 2. The Steelers lock it down at the goal line and force a field goal.
The offense sputters going into the wind and punt it back to the Browns with 3 minutes left in the half.
Wallace comes out with the wind at his back and hits two big passes to Josh Cribbs to get the Browns into long field goal range. Dawson hits a 45-yarder.
All Antonio Brown does is make big plays.
The Steelers get the ball out of the half, and Isaac Redman just takes over. He carries us out to midfield where Ben hits Heath to convert a 3rd down. The drive keeps rolling when AB reels one in to move the sticks again. Wallace takes a WR screen down to the 10, but the Steelers can't get any closer and settle for tying the game.
The Browns get into 3rd and short but pressure on Wallace forces him to roll out and Troy jumps a route on the sideline for a big turnover in Browns territory.
The offense takes over, getting Hines a catch then pounding Redman into field goal range. AB gets us closer and Redman hits a hole and slices in from 7 yards out.
There were two things the Steelers struggled to defend in this game. Josh Cribbs and Seneca Wallace scrambling. Cribbs reels in a few more and Wallace reels off another big gain on the ground to get the Browns into field goal range. Ryan Clark gets a rare blitz opportunity and makes the most of it, bringing down Wallace. Tomlin declines a holding penalty on 3rd down that wouldn't knocked the Browns out of field goal range and elects to let Dawson try a 49-yarder.
It's right down the middle.
I honestly don't mind that call. Why give the Browns another snap? If they pick up any more than 10, it's a closer field goal. I'll take my chances with a 49-yarder any day.
Hines picks up catch #999 but Redman gets stopped for the first time all year on 3rd and 1. I think that was a bad omen of what was to come for him in the 4th.
Kapinos flips the field and the Browns go 3-and-out.
Early in his career, Hines used to run the behind-the-line drag shovel-pass all the time. Now, it was only fitting that would be the play he would make his 1000th catch. The only problem was no one remembered to block the inside linebacker and Hines loses 3 yards. Oh well, 1000 is still an incredible record.
AB makes up for the loss by making a diving catch against his hip. Cleveland challenges the play but AB had it al the way.
What a grab.
There were 2 things Isaac Redman hadn't done all year. One was get stopped on a 3rd and 1. The other was fumble. In two carries (one at the end of the 3rd, and his first of the 4th) he did both. Ugh.
The Browns convert a 3rd and long with a sideline out, but that was the only throw Wallace could make into the wind. The Browns elect to punt rather than try a 50 yarder.
John Clay comes in to spell Redman and isn't as effective. We get a first down via penalty and Cotch converts another one to get us out to the 40. Redman comes back in and takes off over the right side and rumbles down into Browns territory, carrying half their defense on his back as he fights for extra yards. He gets spun around and somehow the ball comes out. That's shockingly rare. But it's Browns ball.
The Browns can't do anything with it and punt back to the Steelers with 5 minutes left.
The Steelers go into "wind the clock" mode and grind out a first down with Clay and a pass to Heath. The Browns use their last timeout and the Steelers find themselves in the age-old situation. 2 minutes to go, 3rd down, the other team out of timeouts. Run the ball and wind another 40 seconds off the clock or go for the win and throw, hoping you pick it up so that the game ends. The danger of throwing, as we saw against Baltimore, is that if it's incomplete you leave the other team with a full 2 minutes to try to score.
Tomlin has always thrown in these situations, but with 3rd and 2 I thought the run might be worth it. But they opt for a throw and it's incomplete, leaving the Browns with a full 2 minutes to drive down the field.
Wallace starts picking his way down the field, moving the Browns across midfield as the clock ticks under a minute. Ryan Clark makes a big tackle to keep a guy in bounds inside the 40 as the clock goes under 30 seconds. Timmons makes another big-time tackle near the sidelines to keep Moore in bounds at the 25. Wallace spikes the ball with 5 seconds left, leaving one last shot for the end zone. Troy gets a hand on the jump ball and knocks it away, ending the threat as time expires.
Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Antonio Brown
Defensive Game Ball: Troy Polamalu
Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Not only did we lose Mendenhall with a torn ACL, but we also lost Cortez Allen (shoulder), Keenan Lewis (hamstring), and David Johnson (elbow, I think). Hopefully at least a few of these guys can get healthy for the playoffs.
- It wasn't pretty, but 12-4 is 12-4 and that's hard to argue with.
- What an accomplishment for Hines Ward to have 1,000 career catches. We've been blessed to watch him for the last 14 years.
- All Antonio Brown does is make big plays. Period.
- Ryan Clark has been a big force in our run defense this year. Going to be tough in Denver without him.
- This might have been the best game Troy played all year. He was a force all over the field and came up with a big interception.
- Looked like Ben came up gimpy after scrambling out of the pocket late in the game.
- Despite the two fumbles, I'm not worried about Isaac Redman. He put up almost 100 yards and had the most carries he had all season.
- For everyone who is going to say "The Steelers almost lost to Blaine Gabbert, Tyler Palko, Curtis Painter, Andy Dalton, and Seneca Wallace" just remember that the Ravens actually did lose to Blaine Gabbert, Tavaris Jackson, and Matt Hasselbeck. Almost only counts in horseshoes.
- Thankful to be back in the playoffs. Never take that for granted. The Bills haven't been to the playoffs since 1999.
- This season has been a fun ride. Not the best season for our hearts and stomachs, but it's never easy with the Steelers. Now it's playoff time. Get ready.