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Jones rallies Steelers past Browns as starters rest in regular season finale

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Landry Jones threw three touchdown passes, including the game-winning 26-yarder to Cobi Hamilton in overtime as the Steelers won their regular season finale over the Browns 27-24.

PITTSBURGH—The Browns did not have to enter Sunday’s game looking for their first win of the season as they got that out of the way by beating San Diego last week. The Steelers entered the game not needing a win at all, as they already clinched the AFC North Division championship and had nothing to play for on Sunday.

As a result, the contest bore some resemblance to a preseason game for Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Maurkice Pouncey all sat out and rested. The rest of the Steelers did not treat it as a meaningless game, however, and battled through four quarters before pulling out a 27-24 overtime win at Heinz Field. It also extended their current winning streak to seven games.

"We had a no-blink attitude and demeanor and that was good," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. "We were able to finish [the season] with an exclamation point to continue the winning streak we're on. That's important."    

It looked like Pittsburgh (11-5) was going through the motions early on as Cleveland (1-15) took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter and extended their advantage to 14-0 early in the second quarter.

The Browns were on the verge of putting the game out of reach midway in the second when Ryan Shazier intercepted a Robert Griffin III pass at Steelers two yard line to snuff out the scoring chance.

Cleveland forced a punt on the ensuing possession but on the first play, Griffin fumbled near midfield and Sean Davis recovered to stop another Browns drive. The Steelers scored on the ensuing possession. Landry Jones hit De'Angelo Williams for an 11-yard touchdown in the last minute of the first half.

Jones had to fill in for Roethlisberger and although he looked rusty through most of the first half, he rebounded in the second half and completed 24 passes on 37 attempts and threw three touchdowns.

Cleveland committed an ultimate self-destruct play late in the third quarter to allow the Steelers to stay within striking distance.

PLAY of the GAME
Briean Boddy-Calhoun intercepted a Jones pass at the Browns 32 yard line and returned the pick for what appeared to be a sure touchdown. However, as he neared the goal line 67 yards later, Darius Heyward-Bey stripped the ball at the one yard line. It bounced across the goal line, where Jones recovered the loose ball, turning a potential Cleveland touchdown into the Steelers ball after a touchback.

"After the pick, I understood that if [Cleveland] scored a touchdown, they would go up 21-7 and we couldn't have that. I just ran as fast as I could and made the play," Heyward-Bey said. "I knew I stripped it. I saw the ball slipping a little and I just tried to punch it. I told the official that as soon as I made the play."

The turn of events was a 14-point swing. Pittsburgh tied the game on the ensuing possession as Williams burst into the end zone for a one yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Williams gained 67 yards on 23 carries.

"It was fun getting the opportunity to play. I hadn't played in a month and a half," Williams said. "I tested the knee so I know everything is right.  

Williams explained how players did not consider the game to be a practice round.

"Everything was at stake today. A lot of guys in the huddle hadn't seen significant playing time all year. Now the coaches know what they can do," Williams said. "Some guys playing today don't have contracts next year, so this game was not meaningless at all."

The Browns attempted a 49 yard field goal late in the fourth quarter but the kick was wide. The Steelers took over on the miss at their 39 yard line and took a 21-14 lead on an 11-yard Jones touchdown pass to Demarcus Ayers. The game was just the second NFL contest for Ayers, whoe made his debut last week,

"I think I grew up as a player last week. I credit the coaches in developing us," Ayers said. "I'm not trying to be Antonio Brown. I'm just trying to pick up some slack. I'm glad I was able to make some plays to help us today."

Cleveland tied the game on the next possession in lightening fashion by tying the game on a three-play drive. An Isaiah Crowell 67 yard run fueled the drive.

The Browns were in prime position to win the game in the final minute as they drove to the Steelers 5 yard line. Crowell then burst through the middle of the line trying to score the probable game-winning touchdown, but Jarvis Jones forced a fumble and Mike Mitchell recovered at the 3 yard line which sent the game into overtime.

Each team had one chance in overtime. The Browns won the toss and drove the ball to the Steeler two yard line. If they scored a touchdown, they would have won in overtime, but Griffin threw a screen pass that Ryan Shazier stuffed for a 14-yard loss. Cleveland had to settle for a 34 yard field goal, which gave the Steelers one possession to attempt to tie or win the game.

Steelers Landry JonesJones drove the team down the field with short passes to Eli Rogers for 6 yards, Coby Hamilton for 11, and Rogers again for 19. The key to the drive was a 6 yard completion on fourth and 2 to Ayers from the Browns 40 yard line. On the next play, Hamilton flew by the defender down the right sideline and Jones hit him with a perfect pass as he streaked across the end zone for the game-winning 26 yard touchdown.

The Steelers entered the game with the third playoff spot already clinched but they now know their opponent in the first round, which will be Miami. The game will be next week at Heinz Field but the time and day are not confirmed yet.

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