PITTSBURGH — In perhaps the most pivotal regular season since the renewal of the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns in 1999, the Steelers once again took care of business.
The Steelers flipped an early deficit on its head for a 20-13 victory, their 16th consecutive win over the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.
The 136th playing of the rivalry game came just two weeks after the Browns’ Nov. 14 victory in Cleveland that was marred by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripping off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and hitting him with it.
This time around, the beating happened where it hurt the most, as the Steelers scored on four straight possessions in the middle of the game to not only win, but deal a near-fatal blow to Cleveland’s postseason chances.
Now 5-7, the Browns are two games behind the 7-5 Steelers in the AFC Wild Card hunt with four games to play.
The resurgent Steelers were led by undrafted rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, who threw a second-quarter touchdown pass to James Washington. Hodges, making his first start at Heinz Field after entering in relief of Rudolph on Nov. 24 at Cincinnati, finished 14 of 21 for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
After the Steelers got a fourth-down stop on the ensuing drive, Hodges led a seven-play, 78-yard drive that finished with a 1-yard Benny Snell touchdown, the first of his career.
With starter James Conner inactive with a shoulder injury, Snell became the Steelers’ primary rushing threat. He finished with 63 yards on 16 carries and was vital to the Steelers’ being able to chew clock late in the victory.
The Pittsburgh defense largely held Baker Mayfield and company in check, with the pass rush, sacking Mayfield five times and harrying him throughout the game. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree had 1 1/2 sacks, one of which caused a Mayfield fumble. Former Browns cornerback Joe Haden sealed the victory with an interception with 1:06 left in the game.
The Steelers will visit the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 8. That game has a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Regret Punt, Will Talk to Ben Roethlisberger About Future
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answers questions from the media following his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of the Browns in the playoffs. Tomlin explained why he decided to punt on a 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter while trailing by multiple scores. He also touched on the timeline for when he will talk to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about his future with the team.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Says He Doesn’t Regret ‘Browns Is the Browns’ Comment
PITTSBURGH — It was repeated so often in the five days between when JuJu Smith-Schuster said the phrase on Wednesday to Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field, that it nearly became the No. 1 talking point coming into the game.
“The Browns is the Browns.” Before the game, after the game and probably during the game, many of the Browns made it clear that they had taken exception to Smith-Schuster’s characterization of the team.
The Browns IS THE BROWNS!! 🌚
— Jedrick Wills Jr.®️++💕 (@JWills73) January 11, 2021
Smith-Schuster said after the game that he had no regrets about what he said.
“You know, I don’t regret what I said,” Smith-Schuster said. “I said, ‘The Browns is the Browns.’ They came out and they played a hell of a game. You know, there’s been games where we feel we lose them and today wasn’t our night and hopefully the same Browns will show up next week against the same opponent and go out and do the same thing they did tonight and have a hell of a game.”