Steelers-Browns report card: Pat Freiermuth comes up big with game-winning touchdown
(Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
Quarterback - It was a workman-like win for the Steelers, and while Ben Roethlisberger didn't put up gaudy numbers. He made some clutch passes down the stretch and didn't turn the ball over. In the fourth quarter, he completed a touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth, which ended up being the game-winner. And then on the Steelers' final drive of the game, Roethlisberger completed to Diontae Johnson off an RPO for a gain of 50 yards, which sealed the win for the Steelers. Roethlisberger was 22 of 34 (64.7%) for 266 yards with a touchdown, along with a quarterback rating of 98.4. Roethlisberger is now 12-2-1 in his career when playing in Cleveland.
Running backs - Najee Harris had 120 total yards from scrimmage on 29 touches, rushing for 91 yards on 26 carries (3.5 average) and a touchdown, along with three receptions for 29 yards. On fourth-and-1 in the third quarter from the Steelers' 48-yard line and trailing 10-3, Harris powered his way for a first down on a run up the middle, showcasing a great second effort to move the chains. Harris ended up capping off the drive with an 8-yard rushing touchdown. The Steelers have now rushed over 100 yards as a team in their last three games and Harris is displaying why he was worth being selected in the first round.
Wide Receivers - The stats were not glaring for the receivers, but they came up with some big plays down the stretch. Freiermuth had a tremendous touchdown grab in the back right corner of the end zone on fourth-and-goal to give the Steelers a 15-10 lead in the fourth quarter, which they didn't squander. Freiermuth juggled the ball but was able to haul in the pass and get both feet in bounds. Freiermuth finished the game with four receptions for 44 yards on seven targets. Roethlisberger is really starting to build chemistry with the rookie tight end out of Penn State. Zach Gentry also had a huge 24-yard reception over the middle of the field on the touchdown drive. Diontae Johnson led the Steelers in receptions and receiving yards with six catches for 98 yards. No reception was bigger than Johnson's 50-yard catch-and-run to secure the win for the Steelers.
Offensive Line - The Browns came into today's game with the No. 2 ranked run defense and the Steelers ended up rushing for 115 yards. The young offensive line continues to develop under Adrian Klemm, who has really done a good job with this unit. They look like a completely different group from early in the season. All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett beat Dan Moore Jr. for a sack, but other than that he really didn't have much of an impact. The offensive line needs to be more consistent in avoiding penalties, but overall, it was a pretty solid performance upfront in Cleveland.
Defensive Line - The Browns had the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, averaging 170.4 yards per game, and the Steelers held Cleveland to just 96 yards rushing. The Steelers needed to win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball in order to win this game, and they did just that. Cameron Heyward continues to play at an extremely high level, as he had numerous impressive run stops, along with a half-sack and two quarterback hits. This is a career year for Heyward. I haven't seen him play better than he is right now. Chris Wormely and Isaiahh Loudermilk were also credited with sacks. The defensive line came up big today.
Linebackers - With the Browns driving down the field and the Steelers holding onto a 15-10 lead in the fourth quarter, the defense desperately needed to force a turnover. And Joe Schobert and T.J. Watt came through and did just that. Schobert stripped the ball from Jarvis Landry after a reception and Watt recovered the fumble. Schobert also had a team-high nine tackles (six solos). Along with the fumble recovery, Watt finished the game with six total tackles, four of them being solos, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for a loss and three quarterback hits. Devin Bush continues to struggle, however, as he over pursued on a 10-yard D'Ernest Johnson touchdown run in the third quarter.
Secondary - The Steelers kept a lid on things against a banged-up Baker Mayfield. Most of Mayfield's completions came on quick short passes or screens. The secondary kept everything in front of them. Odell Beckham Jr. had just one reception for 6 yards, which is a career-low for OBJ. It's really started to look like Beckham is just washed up. Jarvis Landry also had a horrendous game with a fumble and a brutal drop that would have gone for first-down yardage on the Browns' last drive of the game.
Special Teams - Chris Boswell got knocked out of the game with a concussion late in the second quarter, as Boswell got hit while throwing a pass to Zach Gentry that fell incomplete on a fake field goal. It was an awful play-call, more on that below. Rookie punter Pressley Harvin III served as the kicker, but he doesn't have a kicking background. Luckily, the worst that came out of it was a kickoff by Harvin that went out of bounds. Harvin had a 56-yard punt, but he also had a 38-yard punt late in the fourth quarter. Harvin has to be more consistent. Ray-Ray McCloud muffed a punt in the second quarter, but luckily it was recovered by Justin Layne. It was a weird game for the special teams, to say the least.
Coaching - Mike Tomlin took the blame for the fake field goal, as he should. You just have to take the points in a tight defensive game. Tomlin told Tracy Wolfson of CBS at halftime that he called a fake field goal because they wanted to be "aggressive." Well, the decision nearly cost the Steelers the game with not having a kicker due to Boswell being concussed. Man, if the Steelers ended up losing say 17-15 or 18-15, Tomlin would have been heavily criticized. He would have deserved it, too.