Coming into week 17 the Steelers decided to rest some of their key players such as Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Maurkice Pouncey. Despite this, they fought hard against the playoff striving Cleveland Browns falling 24-22.
Early in the game the Steelers looked like a team that did not want to be playing. A short drive on offense led to Cleveland getting some momentum early on. The Browns first drive was capped off by a 47 yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb, where Steelers defenders could not get off their blocks leading to an easy touchdown for the superstar.
A few drives later, Baker Mayfield led the Browns to field goal position and Cody Parker added three to the Browns lead to push it to 10.
Pittsburgh did not roll over though, before halftime Mason Rudolph led the Steelers down into Cleveland territory twice which resulted in two field goals from Matthew Wright.
In the third quarter, Pittsburgh came out strong again. After forcing a punt, Rudolph once again led the Steelers offense down the field which resulted in another field goal to cut the lead to one at 10-9.
However, Mayfield marched right down the field on the Steelers depleted defense and extended the Browns lead 17-9 after he found Austin Hooper from two yards out.
The Browns defense then made the play of the game as they got pressure on Rudolph forcing him to throw an interception deep in Steelers territory. Cleveland started their drive on the Pittsburgh 20 and promptly scored another touchdown as Jarvis Landry took a jet sweep in for a score to extend their lead to 24-9.
Rudolph and the Steelers showed resolve as they started their comeback attempt quickly as on the next drive, Rudoph found rookie Chase Claypool in the endzone to cut the Browns lead to 24-16.
The depleted Steelers defense had one stop left in them as they forced a turnover on downs to give Rudolph and company one last chance to tie it.
The Steelers almost did it, as Rudolph led the Steelers down the field and found Juju Smith-Schuster for six 1:23 left in the game. However, Pittsburgh’s two-point conversion failed sealing the win and a playoff spot for the Browns.
This is the Browns first time in the playoffs since the 2002 season.
Pittsburgh returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
The Browns and Steelers will face off next week in the Wild Card round on a day and time yet to be announced.