Steelers tune up for playoffs with OT win vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH -- Landry Jones threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton in overtime and the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing a meaningless game, won their seventh in a row by rallying past the mistake-prone Browns 27-24 on Sunday, after Cleveland blew a two-touchdown lead and two chances to win the game.
The Browns were in a position to win it in regulation when Robert Griffin III completed a 48-yard pass to former Pittsburgh high school star Terrelle Pryor Sr. to the Steelers' 5 in the final minute of the fourth quarter. But instead of running down the clock with 1:12 remaining and kicking a chip-shot field goal to win it, the Browns ran the ball and Isaiah Crowell fumbled at the 3-yard line, and the Steelers (11-5) recovered -- their second turnover inside the 20.
Crowell finished the day with 152 yards
Cleveland then had a first-and-goal at the Steelers' 2 in overtime following a 65-yard drive to start the extra period, only to inexplicably run a screen pass to Andrew Hawkins that lost 14 yards. They were forced them to settle for Cody Parkey's 34-yard field goal.
Jones, who was 24 of 37 for 277 yards and three scores, then led the Steelers downfield for the game-winning touchdown, made possible when he completed a 6-yard pass to DeMarcus Ayers on a fourth-and-2 from the Browns' 32.
The loss secured the No. 1 seed in the NFL Draft for the Browns (1-15).
The Steelers, who are third-seeded in the AFC and will play the Miami Dolphins (10-6) next weekend at Heinz Field, rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to take a 21-14 lead on backup quarterback Jones' 11-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver DeMarcus Ayers with 5:21 remaining.
But the Browns offense, quiet since midway through the second quarter, came back to tie it at 21 with a 68-yard drive ended by George Atkinson with 3:33 remaining, then were in position to win it — twice.
The Browns haven't won in Pittsburgh since 2003 -- a year before Ben Roethlisberger took over as Steelers quarterback -- and they got off to a promising start by opening a 14-0 lead behind quarterback Robert Griffin III, who threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to tight end Seth DeValve and 4 yards to tight end Garry Barnidge.
Barnidge made only his second touchdown catch this season after having nine a year ago, when he was a Pro Bowl player. Griffin ended 29 of 40 for 232 yards and an interception.
But, as usual against the Steelers -- who have beaten them in 30 of their last 34 meetings -- the lead quickly got away from Cleveland after that, even though Pittsburgh sat out key starters such as Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, running back Le'Veon Bell and center Maurice Pouncey in what was a meaningless game for the AFC North champions.
The Steelers finally scored late in the first half, after a shotgun snap by new Browns center Anthony Fabiano — making his first NFL start — sailed over Griffin's head and Steelers safety Sean Davis, Pittsburgh's rookie of the year, recovered.
That mistake led to DeAngelo Williams' 11 yard catch-and-run touchdown only 39 seconds before halftime. That made it 14-7, even though the Steelers had only 52 yards in the first half.
The Browns, trying for their first two-game winning streak since midway through the 2014 season, appeared to go up 20-7 when defensive back Brian Body-Calhoun intercepted a too-high Jones pass and appeared to return it 68 yards for a touchdown. But, after a reply review, it was ruled Boddy-Calhoun fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line and into the end zone for a touchback, and the Steelers regained possession.
Yet another Browns mistake led to an 80-yard Steelers touchdown drive that featured runs of 7, 11 and 12 yards by Williams, who finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
NOTES: Steelers QB Landry Jones, in his fourth season and a free agent after this season, started his second game of the season and the fourth of his career. He also started against the Patriots on Oct. 23. ... Pouncey was the only Steelers offensive line starter who didn't start. ... The Browns started Fabiano at center and moved usual starting C Cam Erving, a first round pick in 2015, to right tackle. Erving was lifted in the second half with a knee injury. ... Browns coach Hue Jackson called the offensive plays. ... Steelers DL Javon Hargrave left with a possible concussion in the second half. ... Pryor, a longtime QB in his first season as a wide receiver, went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark. ... The Dolphins beat the Steelers 30-15 earlier in the season.