PITTSBURGH — If there was any doubt as to which team still dominates the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, the Steelers put an end to it on Sunday.
In the first game between he teams in 2020, the Steelers dominated in all three phases in a 38-7 rout of the Browns.
The Steelers defense abused Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield all day. Mayfield entered the game with a rib injury, and Steelers defensive captain Cameron Heyward said during the week that they planned to inflict some “good punishment” on the banged-up Browns passer.
They did just that, sacking Mayfield four times, led Bud Dupree’s pair, and also hurt him on the scoreboard, as Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted Mayfield and returned it for a touchdown in the first quarter to give the Steelers an early 10-0.
Offensively, James Conner ran right at, and frequently over, the Cleveland defense. He finished with 101 yards on 20 carries to go along with an early second quarter 3-yard touchdown that made it 17-0.
Conner has now rushed for over 100 yards in three of his five games this season, and the Steelers as a team have had a 100-yard rusher in four of five.
Ben Roethlisberger found James Washington on a busted coverage for a 28-yard score later in the second quarter as the Steelers built a 24-0 lead. Roethlisberger was not asked to do much with the defense providing seven points of their own and two other short fields.
He finished with 162 yards on 14 of 22. The Steelers did not turn the ball over on the day.
Roethlisberger’s most consistent target was rookie Chase Claypool, who hauled in all four targets for 74 yards, twice getting stopped inside the five yard line, once to set up Conner’s touchdown and another to set up Benny Snell later in the game.
Claypool scored on a 3-yard jet sweep in the third quarter to make it 31-7 Pittsburgh, which tied an NFL rookie record with six touchdowns in the first five games of his career.
The biggest downside of the day for the Steelers came on the injury front, as starters Devin Bush and Maurkice Pouncey and Nickel corner Mike Hilton all left with injuries.
The Steelers improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1978. They’ll face a three-game road trip thanks to a revamped schedule, the first of which will come Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, which entered Sunday 4-0.
The Browns fell to 4-2, two games behind the Steelers and into third place behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. They have lost 17 straight games at Heinz Field and have won just once in the building since it opened in 2001.
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.”