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Steelers Breakdown: Week 17

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A layered look at the Steelers' 28-24 season finale win over Cleveland Sunday at Heinz Field.


Eleven degrees was the game-time temperature at Heinz Field and five degrees was the wind chill factor in the Steelers win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Plus, several key starters sat out the game as it was virtually meaningless for the Steelers. (The New England Patriots were expected to beat the New York Jets, which they did.)

 “I wanted to make sure some of the guys made it to the playoffs,” Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin said. “I felt completely confidant in the guys that we played with today. It wasn’t a tough decision.”

 As a result, only 50,704 were in attendance.

 Stat of the Game

 The Steeler defense sacked Cleveland quarterback Deshon Kizer six times which increased this season’s sack total to a team record for sacks in a season with 56. Tyson AluAlu had the record-breaking sack, which was at the 13:36 mark of the fourth quarter. He also led the team in tackles with eight (tied with T.J. Watt).

 “We knew coming into [the game] we had a chance to break [the sack record]. We just tried to make plays,” Alualu said. “I think it’s a big deal. [Sacks] are hard to come by in this league.”

 Watt also had eight tackles. He felt it was an honor to be part of the defense that set the record for most sacks in Steeler history.

 “[Setting the season sack record] was awesome. There’s been a lot of historical teams here,” Watt said. “To be able to be a part of it as a team effort was special.”

 Even though the Browns were winless, they still fought hard and had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter. The Steelers played without several key starters, including wide receiver Antonio Brown, but

 The Player of the Game

 Juju Smith-Schuster filled in admirably in Brown’s place. He caught 9 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown, with the longest catch being 46 yards. He also made

 The Play of the Game

Came in the early in the second quarter.  The Browns tied the game 21-21 on their first possession of the second half. On the ensuing kickoff, Smith-Schuster took the kickoff at the four yard line and ran almost untouched for a 96-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 28-21 lead. It was the first Steeler’s kick return for a touchdown since Brown had one in 2010.

 It proved to be the winning touchdown as the Steelers held the Browns to a field goal the rest of the game. The fourth quarter was scoreless.

 “When Antonio Brown isn’t here, we take his plate and eat off of it,” Smith-Schuster said. “Obviously, the guys did a great job blocking (on the touchdown return). I just stiff-armed [the last defender] and ran in for the score.”

Boneheaded Play of the Game

 The Steelers were stuffed in the red zone midway through the second quarter after an incomplete pass on third down at the nine yard line. Cleveland defensive lineman Myles Garrett was called for roughing the passer on the play though, which gave the Steelers a first down at the four yard line. On the next play, Stevan Ridley banged in for the touchdown, which gave Pittsburgh a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

Co-Stat of the Game

 The Steelers defense held the Browns to negative 16 yards in the first quarter. Other defense stars included Mike Mitchell, who recovered a Duke Johnson fumble at the Steelers 32 yard line (which was forced by William Gay) when the Browns were driving, and a Sean Davis interception at Browns 47 yard line with 6:47 left in game.

 Landry Jones started at quarterback for Ben Roethlisberger. He responded by completing 23 passes on 27 attempts for 239 yards and a touchdown. However, he also threw an interception and lost a fumble.

 “It wasn’t cosmetically pretty but we got the win. I did some good things and I did some things I wish I could get back,” Jones said. “For me to go out there and play and win the game, that was huge for me. I sat around here for five years preparing for moments like this.”

 Roethlisberger will be back at the helm in two weeks when the Steelers start their playoff run.

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