PITTSBURGH — In a game that was supposed to be all about Ben Roethlisberger, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense and rookie running back Najee Harris that led the team to victory.
Harris rushed for a career-high 188 yards on 25 carries, the T.J. Watt sacked Baker Mayfield four times, and Chris Boswell kicked four field goals as the Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Browns, 26-14 at Heinz Field on Monday.
Harris sealed the victory with a 37-yard scamper on the Steelers’ final offensive possession.
The Steelers broke a lengthy deadlock to start the game when Roethlisberger hit Diontae Johnson for a short score after a personal foul penalty against Browns defensive end Jadaveon Clowney for throwing Chase Claypool’s shoe extended the drive.
From there, Harris powered the offense through a back-and-forth slog. He carried the ball 28 times for 188 yards, the most productive night of his young career.
Roethlisberger, meanwhile, did just enough to keep the sticks moving. He threw 46 times for 123 yards and the touchdown. He was also intercepted once on the final play of the first half and sacked twice.
The game will likely be Roethlisberger’s last with the Steelers, he said during the week. The 39-year-old has not officially announced his retirement, but does not expect to get another contract from the Steelers after the season.
After Boswell’s third field goal to put the Steelers up 16-7, the crowd and the defense got into the act. The Heinz Field public address played Renegade, Derrek Tuszka got a sack, and the Browns took three penalties while being backed up inside their own five-yard line.
The offense coupon’t capitalize, going three and out, but Boswell added a fourth to make it 19-7.
The Browns got back into the game with a Mayfield touchdown to Harrison Bryant, but Minkah Fitzpatrick recovered the Cleveland onside kick attempt, leading to Harris’ game-sealing score.
The Steelers remain in the AFC playoff hunt thanks to their victory. They will need to defeat Baltimore next Sunday, have the Indianapolis Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and avoid a tie between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders.