CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on their home turf rather comfortably in week six of the 2014 NFL season by the score of 31-10. Two things were rather apparent early on in the Browns vs. Steelers matchup. The Browns’ run fits were dramatically improved from last week, and they tackled the ball carrier exponentially better than they did against the Titans. John Hughes was very stout at the point of attack and showed exceptional burst hustling down the line in backside pursuit.
Unfortunately the Browns’ wide receivers were unable to get separation in the early goings of the game, but the Browns’ constant commitment to the run allowed them to set up play action toward the tail end of the first half resulting in a 42-yard completion to Jordan Cameron. The play set up a nine-yard touchdown by Isaiah Crowell.
Brian Hoyer would again connect with Cameron, but this time on a 51-yard touchdown right down the seam of the Steelers’ defense. The Browns’ offense was driving again when Alex Mack sustained a lower left leg injury and was carted off the field. Though Mack was ruled out by team doctors for the remainder of the game, Greco filled in admirably for him. The Browns went on an eleven play 85-yard drive capped off by a Ben Tate touchdown run to take a 21-3 lead before halftime.
In the second half, the Steelers seemingly abandoned their running game and relied heavily on Ben Roethlisberger to lead their comeback attempt, but the Browns’ defense continued to stand their ground. The Browns’ defensive front harassed Roethlisberger in the pocket consistently rushing no more than four players. While they hardly blitzed, the Browns forced him into quick throws and eventually a critical third quarter interception by Buster Skrine. The Browns capitalized on the interception with a one-yard touchdown run by Tate. The score gave the Browns a 31-3 lead over the Steelers.
Browns’ left tackle Joe Thomas elaborated after the game about the emotions of losing Alex Mack
“It was pretty emotional, for me especially. We have played every snap together for six years and you are finally getting the best of Pittsburgh, he deserved to be out there with us. It was hard to go on because we have gone through hell together and this was finally the payoff and he didn’t get to be out there with us.”
Crowell and Tate continued to exploit cutback lanes throughout the second half of the game in route to a total of 155 yards and three touchdowns combined. Following the game, Brian Hoyer touched on the effectiveness of the run game.
“You could tell that they were trying to stop the run, especially in our no huddle looks. The safeties were down and that’s where we got a lot of our big passing plays. [...] When we have something that’s working really well and the defense tries to take it away, you have got to take advantage of what they try to do. We hit some big passes behind that.”
The Browns also moved Cameron along multiple spots in their formation in an effort to generate mismatches. Cameron finished the game with 102 yards on just three receptions.
In the fourth quarter, the Browns secondary continued to do a marvelous job mirroring Steelers’ wide receivers down the field. Justin Gilbert displayed the athleticism that made him a first round pick, while Skrine and Haden both broke up passes in the end zone and gave opposing wide receivers little room to operate. The Browns gave up only 228 yards and one touchdown through the air in their second meeting with the Steelers, compared to the 365 yards they gave up to Roethlisberger in week one. Joe Haden was asked about the defense’s performance after the game.
“It was a long time coming. For us to finally put a whole game together, it was great. We’ve been doing well in certain parts of games and in certain halves, but we just wanted to come out here and get an identity for our defense of what we wanted to be, and I think everybody just did a really good job making tackles, making plays, and staying into the game for the entire game.”
The Browns allowed a late touchdown to Lance Moore, but aside from the late defensive breakdowns; the Browns were very impressive on both sides of the football. The Browns will look to continue trending upward as they face the Jacksonville Jaguars next week.
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