Steelers vs. Browns score, takeaways: Pittsburgh's defense the difference in comeback win over rival Cleveland
Steelers pass rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith both scored Monday night
In a quarterback-driven league, two of the Steelers highest-paid players are outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Watt and Highsmith proved their worth Monday night, as both players scored touchdowns in the Steelers' 26-22 win over the Browns, who alsoto a gruesome knee injury in the first half.?
Highsmith opened the scoring with a 30-yard pick-six of Deshaun Watson on the game's opening play. Watt scored the game's final touchdown after he scooped up Highsmith's strip sack of Watson with 6:58 left. Watt's night also included when he took down Watson with just over a minute left in the first half.?
Fittingly, the Steelers' defense secured the win when it forced a turnover on downs on Cleveland's ensuing possession. The game-clinching play was delivered by rookie Joey Porter Jr., who broke up Watson's fourth-down throw to Donovan Peoples-Jones with just over a minute to play.?
Pittsburgh led, 16-14, at halftime on the strength of Highsmith's pick-six and Kenny Pickett's 71-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens, who recorded his second career 100-yard receiving game. Cleveland's lone touchdown in the first half came on Watson's three-yard touchdown pass to running back Jerome Ford one play after Chubb was carted off the field.?
Here's a closer look at what transpired in Pittsburgh.?
Why the Steelers won
It's hard to lose a game when your defense scores multiple touchdowns, which was the case Monday night. But the Steelers still had to eke out a win due to their ongoing struggles on offense that will likely be the topic of conversation this week in Pittsburgh. The unit did start to show signs of life in the second half, specifically the running game and Pickett's connection with Pickens.?
As noted above, the Steelers' defense carried the day. But Pittsburgh also received a significant contribution from punter Pressley Harvin III, who had a 61-yard punt and four punts that were downed inside the Browns' 20-yard-line.?
Pittsburgh's win did come at a cost, as All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick left the game with a chest injury during the second half. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that Fitzpatrick was.?
Why the Browns lost?
Four turnovers and several damaging penalties (including two personal fouls on Watson) were two big reasons why the Browns came up short in their quest to get to 2-0 for the first time since 1993. The biggest reason, however, could very well have been the loss of Chubb, whose tangible and intangible impact on the Browns is hard to put to words.?
The Browns put up a valiant fight after losing Chubb, who had 64 yards on 10 carries prior to the injury. Ford, who is slated to replace Chubb in the starting lineup going forward, rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries Monday night that included his 69-yard run that set up the Browns' go-ahead score five minutes into the third quarter.?
The Browns had eight penalties Monday, but none was more damaging to Cleveland's cause than the one that occurred with 11:28 left and the Browns up, 22-19, and facing a third-and-2 on the Steelers' 35-yard-line.?
Ford appeared to give the Browns a big first down on a five-yard run, but a holding call on lineman Ethan Pocic wiped out the play and took Cleveland out of field goal range. On the next play, Watson ran for seven yards but was penalized 15 yards after grabbing linebacker Nick Herbig's face mask.?
Now facing a third-and-26, Watson checked down to tight end David Njoku, who fumbled the ball on a heads-up play by linebacker Cole Holcomb, giving the Steelers possession on their own 44-yard-line.?
The Steelers didn't score on their ensuing drive, but they mange to pin the Browns back at their 6-yard-line following Harvin's 61-yard boot. Watt scored off of Highsmith's strip sack five plays later.?
Play of the game?
On his strip sack, Highsmith beat Browns tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. off the snap before getting to Watson, who was taken down six times Monday night. Watt, who was closing in on Watson himself, grabbed the loose pigskin before scoring his first career touchdown.?
"We looked at each other before the play and knew it was play-pass. We knew exactly what the play was going to be. [Highsmith] came off the edge, caused the fumble, was just in the right area at the time time. Was able to scoop and score and the place went nuts." -- Watt to ESPN's Lisa Salters while describing his game-winning score?
The Steelers will head to Las Vegas for a prime-time showdown Sunday night. The Raiders edged the Broncos in Week 1 but were on the wrong end of a lopsided result (38-10) this past Sunday in Buffalo. The Browns will return home to host the Titans, who evened their record at 1-1 after upsetting the Chargers this past Sunday.?
The Steelers still have never lost a MNF game at Heinz Field. They haven't lost a MNF game at home since 1991. The Browns haven't been 2-0 since 1993, as teh 27-year drought is the?longest streak in NFL history.?
Was that holding by Joey Porter? Probably, but officials have not been calling that late in games. Commanders game, Cowboys game, Eagles game had questionable no-calls this week on PI or holding. This appears to be the same.?
T.J. Watt wa sin Watson's face on that last play. Watson got rid of the ball quick and it was incomplete to Donovan Peoples-Jones. The Browns will go to 1-1 while Pittsburgh improves to 1-1. The Steelers still have never lost a MNF game at Heinz Field.?
This is it for the Browns. It's fourth down and they'll need Watson's arm to extend this game.?
We reached the 2-minute warning. Watson has the Browns at midfield down 26-22. He's 3-of-3 for 30 yards on this drive.?
Deshaun Watson just looks beaten and bruised right now. He's been hit 9 times tonight and sacked 5. Been pressured over a dozen times. The Browns have punted or fumbled on each of their last four drives.?
T.J. Watt with the TD after Alex Highsmith with the forced fumble. That's Steelers football.?
Cleveland has 185 yards rushing despite Nick Chubb being out. Let's see if they can sustain that in the final minutes with the Steelers likely putting 8 in the box on early downs.?
Sione Takitaki sacks Pickett for an 11-yard loss on third down. Jaylen Warren whiffed and missed the Browns linebacker, as Pittsburgh has to punt again.?
Cole Holcomb forces a fumble of David Njoku, giving the Steelers the ball at their own 44.?