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.