HEADLINE

Browns don’t win, settle for tie with Steelers

The Sports Xchange

September 09, 2018 at 7:43 pm.

At least the Cleveland Browns won’t go 0-16 this season.

But the Browns were unable to take advantage of six Pittsburgh turnovers and the Steelers blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead as the two teams played to a 21-21 tie in a steady downpour on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Hue Jackson’s record as head coach of the Browns is now 1-31-1. The Browns still haven’t won a regular-season game since Dec. 24, 2016, or an opener since 2004.

“Obviously disappointed at the outcome, a tie game,” Jackson told reporters after the game. “This is not preseason football, this is the National Football League, it’s the regular season, and we have to get better. I think the guys can see that we’re an improved football team, but there are some areas we have to clean up and clean up fast, and we will.”

The tie was the first in an NFL opener since 1971. Both teams had plenty of chances to win, and both team’s kickers can commiserate after missing field-goal attempts that would have given their team a victory in overtime.

Cleveland’s Zane Gonzalez’s 43-yard attempt with 13 seconds left in overtime fell short after being blocked by T.J. Watt.

His opportunity only came about after Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell missed badly from 42 yards out with 1:44 left in overtime.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also was left with an empty feeling. But he understood, his team was lucky not to have lost.

“You turn the ball over the way we did, and you don’t get turnovers, particularly in a hostile environment, you don’t have a very good chance to win,” Tomlin said. “We were in the game, but not enough to win today. We take responsibility for that.

“We tip our cap to the Browns. They played tough, competitive ball. We’ve got to be better. We intend to be. We’ll analyze tomorrow and move forward,” he added.

Optimism was rampant around Lake Erie heading into the game. A new-look Browns’ offense had showed so much promise in the preseason. Led by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, running back Carlos Hyde and wide receiver Jarvis Landry, the offense was handcuffed most of the game.

While the tie was disappointing, Taylor took saw a positive from the outcome.

“Just to see the fight in everyone in all phases. Things were not going pretty by any means,” he said. “We were able to bounce back and get things on the right page in the second half. To fight as hard as we did and not get rewarded with a W, that is how the ball rolls sometimes.”

The Steelers had a new look on offense as well with running back Le’Veon Bell holding out. Second-year tailback James Conner got the start, and he was stellar as the Steelers ground game didn’t miss a beat.

Conner chewed up 135 yards on the ground, including two touchdowns as the Steelers looked like they usually do against Cleveland — dominating.

But leaving with a tie seemed more like a loss for Conner.

“It wasn’t enough to win,” he said of his effort. “I had some good runs, but it wasn’t enough to win. We want to win, but credit to the Browns. Solid defense. We’ll see them again. Winning is what we do, and we didn’t do that. It kind of feels like a loss.”

The Steelers came into the game having won six straight and 11 of 12 against their fellow AFC North rival.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger entered play with a 21-2 record against the team he wanted to play for as a young boy. He’s lucky he didn’t suffer his third career loss to the Browns after throwing three interceptions and fumbling twice.

Rookie Denzel Ward picked Roethlisberger off twice and earned at tip of the cap from the veteran quarterback.

“I thought they made a good play,” Roethlisberger said. “I rolled out and I thought he was still on the short guy and he came back and made a good play.”

After recording only 13 takeaways all of last season, the Browns forced six on Sunday.

One of those turnovers, a fumble by Conner in the fourth quarter jump-started the offense as the Browns scored two touchdowns in less than five minutes late in the fourth quarter to tie the game 21-21 with 1:58 left in regulation.

Carlos Hyde plunged into the end zone for one score and on the next possession, Taylor hit a streaking Josh Gordon in stride on an acrobatic play to tie the game.

Roethlisberger finished the day 23-for-41 for 335 yards and one touchdown.

“It felt like we had a chance. Our defense did a great job of giving us that chance,” he said. “It’s just frustrating that we can’t make the plays down the stretch. We just didn’t make them.”

NOTES: James Conner was a third-round pick out of Pittsburgh in 2017. Conner was a two-time All-ACC performer who overcame Hodgkin’s-Lymphoma in 2015-16. He was making the first start of his career. … Myles Garrett, the top pick in 2017, recorded six tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two quarterback hurries and a pass deflection. … The Browns rushed for 177 yards. Tyrod Taylor ran for 77 yards, Carlos Hyde had 22 carries for 62 yards and a score while Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson chipped in 21 and 17 yards, respectively.

 

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