PITTSBURGH — On the first play of the Steelers’ Wild Card Round playoff game against the rival Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on Sunday, center Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball 20 yards over the head of Ben Roethlisberger, Roethlisberger and running back James Conner failed to fall on it, and the Browns scored a defensive touchdown just seconds into the game.
From there, it somehow got worse.
Roethlisberger threw four interceptions, which turned into 17 more Cleveland points, the Browns jumped out to a 28-point first quarter lead and went on to a 48-37 victory.
The Steelers rallied in the second half, with Roethlisberger throwing touchdowns to Eric Ebron, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool, but the defense had difficulty containing talented Cleveland running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt all day long.
Chubb rushed 18 times for 76 yards and also caught four passes for 68 yards, while Hunt added 48 yards on eight carries and two short first-half scores.
The Steelers cut the deficit to 12 points after Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster late in the third quarter and got a defensive stop, but the drive stalled and the Steelers elected to punt the ball away on a 4th and 1 at their own 46. The punt went into the end zone, and Cleveland responded with a scoring drive capped by a 40-yard score from Baker Mayfield to Chubb.
Pittsburgh kept firing, with Roethlisberger connecting with Claypool twice late, but ran out of time to complete a comeback in the end.
The Browns will move on to face Kansas City in the second round of the NFL Playoffs.