Last year, Ben Roethlisberger’s season ended with him alone on the visiting bench at FirstEnergy Stadium. For the duration of Roethlisberger’s career, he’d owned the Cleveland Browns, and, for the seemingly the first time, the Browns dismantled him.
Three-hundred-and-fifty-eight days later, Roethlisberger got his final revenge against the franchise he’s ruled over, as the 39-year-old quarterback led his Pittsburgh Steelers to a 26-14 win over the Browns in both team’s penultimate game. Before the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals roll into town, here are our takeaways from the loss.
The Browns got boat raced.
Monday night’s loss was a reminder of the Browns’ losses of yesteryear. From the opening whistle, the Browns struggled to compete against the Steelers in every phase of the game. In total, the Browns were out-gained 299 yards to 232 yards and only managed two scoring drives. Dustin Colquitt punted the ball eight times and hurt himself on one of them. The Steelers ended up with 9 sacks. In a season that has featured some tough losses, this one takes the cake.
James Hudson had a night to forget.
Four of the Steelers’ nine sacks came from edge rusher TJ Watt, who spent most of the night turning right tackle James Hudson into a turnstile. Hudson’s tough night was emblematic of the unit’s struggles, as the usually steady line was turned into mincemeat by Pittsburgh’s front seven.
What happened to Nick Chubb?
One of the more puzzling aspects of the loss was the first half absence of running back Nick Chubb. Despite breaking a game-high run of 32 yards, Chubb only had four carries while also having less snaps (11) than backup D’Ernest Johnson (14). On a day when Baker Mayfield was 4-of-15 passing in the first half, it was inexcusable to see Chubb spend so much of the first half with a coat on.
Baker Mayfield couldn’t do much.
Whether it was Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel or DeShone Kizer, most of Roethlisberger’s matchups against the Browns featured quarterbacks that wouldn’t have started for any other team in the NFL. But over the past three years, Mayfield has provided the Browns some much-needed stability at the most important position in sports. On Monday, Mayfield looked more like one of those faceless quarterbacks than Cleveland’s franchise savior. Even with the two scoring drives, Mayfield finished with 16 completions on 38 attempts for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Despite being eliminated from playoff contention the day before, the emotions and meaning of Monday’s game should have made it Mayfield’s Super Bowl. Instead, it was another deflating performance in a season filled with them.
The pass defense kept things interesting.
Despite completing 24 passes, Roethlisberger only threw for 123 yards (his final line: 24-for-46 for 123 yards with a touchdown and interception), a testament to the Browns’ pass defense. Grant Delpit (11 tackles), Greg Newsome (eight tackles) and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (seven tackles) were some standouts, while Denzel Ward (three tackles) and A.J. Green, also played well. Despite the loss, the Browns defense made sure Roethlisberger’s final game at Heinz Field wasn’t his best.