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Browns, Steelers play to 21-21 tie

By MARY KAY CABOT • Sep 9, 2018 at 7:32 PM

CLEVELAND — The Browns didn't lose to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in the season opener Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, but they didn't beat them either.

The game ended in a 21-21 tie after Zane Gonzalez's 43-yard field goal attempt in the driving rain with 9 seconds left in overtime fell short after being blocked by the Steelers' T.J. Watt.

The Steelers knew exactly how the Browns felt. Chris Boswell's 42-yard attempt with 1:44 left in overtime sailed wide left.

The last time a Browns game ended in a tie was Nov. 19, 1989 against Kansas City, a 10-10 final.

"Obviously disappointed at the outcome, a tie game," Browns coach Hue Jackson said after the game. "... The guys fighting, coming back and giving us a chance ... the defense did some good things.

"This is not preseason football, this is the National Football League, it's the regular season, and we have to get better. Again, 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.

"We didn't finish it. A tie ... a tie."

The Browns went three-and-out on their first three drives in overtime.

They failed to win the game despite getting six takeaways by their opportunistic defense: three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 15 of 39 attempts for 197 yards, with one touchdown and one interception for a 53.1 rating. He was sacked seven times.

Roethlisberger completed 23 of 41 attempts for 335 yards with one TD and three picks. He was sacked four times and stripped twice, finishing with a rating of 51.4.

The Browns won the toss in overtime and elected to receive, but went three-and-out on their first three drives in overtime.

On their first opportunity, Taylor's deep ball down the seam to tight end David Njoku was knocked away, and almost intercepted by Sean Davis.

The Steelers took over at their 17, but punted from their 28 after Larry Ogunjobi sacked Roethlisberger for a 10-yard loss.

On the punt, Jabrill Peppers called for a fair catch despite having 20 yards to run, and the Browns started their second drive in OT at their 19. Once again, they went three-and-out, and this time, they had another special-teams gaffe. Roosevelt Nix got penetration, and Britton Colquitt uncorked a 29-yard punt to start Pittsburgh at its own 45.

The Steelers blew a 14-point lead in regulation as the Browns scored twice in the final 7:32 on a Carlos Hyde 1-yard touchdown run and a Josh Gordon 17-yard TD catch.

The Browns defense, as dominant as it had been all preseason, got six takeaways: three interceptions and three fumble recoveries, including one off a strip-sack by Myles Garrett.

Garrett, who delivered the monster game he promised, forced Steelers running back James Conner to fumble with 7:36 left, and Peppers recovered and returned the ball 16 yards to the 1. Carlos Hyde punched it in to narrow the gap to 21-14.

Garrett came through again, strip-sacking Roethlisberger with 6:41 left in the game, and Joe Schobert dove on the loose ball. But the Browns went three and out on the ensuing drive.

The Browns D forced another three-and-out, and Taylor started at his own 45. He fired a 38-yard pass to Rashard Higgins on the first play of the drive to the Steelers' 17, and then a 17-yard TD pass to Josh Gordon with 1:58 left in regulation.

Gordon's TD catch, over Cameron Sutton, at the front right pylon, was his only reception of the game.

Tyrod Taylor's TD run

The Browns, trailing 7-0 at the half, came out in the third quarter and ran it down to the Steelers' throats to the tune of 76 yards on an all-rush 10-play TD drive. That march tied the game at 7 with 10:05 left in the quarter. It was capped by Taylor's 20-yard TD run, on which he scrambled up the left side and dove over Artie Burns at the pylon. Hyde had runs of 9, 15 and 12 on the drive, and Nick Chubb woke up for a 17-yard gain.

Short-lived euphoria

The play after Taylor's TD, Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster on a short slant over Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and he raced 67 yards down the left side to the Browns' 7. After a couple of Steelers penalties that wiped out TDs, Roethlisberger threw a 22-yard TD pass to Antonio Brown over Denzel Ward that made it 14-7 with 8:24 left in the third.

Le'Veon who?

With the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell holding out, Conner played like a Pro Bowl running back, rushing for 135 yards 31 carries and two TDs. He opened the scoring with a 4-yard run in the second quarter, and then ran in from 22 with 5:23 left in the third to increase the Steelers' lead to 21-7. He kicked off the two-play drive with a 17-yard blast as the Browns' defense got gashed on the ground by the second-year back out of Pitt.

Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey believed before the game that the Steelers would be disadvantaged without Bell, but that proved not to be the case.

Josh Gordon starts

Jackson said Gordon wouldn't start the game. He did, but he didn't have much impact the way Haley thought he would.

By the of the third quarter, Gordon had been targeted once with no receptions despite playing most of the snaps. The pass was a 47-yard attempt into the end zone on which Joe Haden reached in and broke it up, slightly grabbing Gordon's facemask in the process, but with no flag.

Jackson said after the game that he did not intend for Gordon to start, but the Browns' personnel grouping called by offensive coordinator Todd Haley sent Gordon out for the opening offensive snap.

Ward's two picks

In one afternoon, Ward picked off Roethlisberger twice to equal his interception total in three seasons at Ohio State. Unfortunately for the Browns, they weren't able to cash in on either of the picks.

The first one came with 5:22 left in the first quarter after Roethlisberger moved Pittsburgh to the 18 on a 27-yard pass JuJu Smith-Schuster. On a pass intended for Antonio Brown on the right side, Ward layed out and swiped the ball in traffic at the Steelers' 10. But the Browns punt from their own 26 after Bud Dupree batted a pass intended for Jarvis Landry.

Ward picked off Roethlisberger again with 42 seconds left in the half when he grabbed a short pass to the right intended for Jesse James at the Browns' 29 and returned it 26 yards to the Pittsburgh 45.

Once again, the Browns' offense faltered. After Duke Johnson lost six yards, Taylor was strip-sacked by Bud Dupree after he beat Desmond Harrison. The half ended on that play.

Garrett's first sack of Big Ben

Garrett got one of the things he came for: his first sack of Roethlisberger, whom he vowed to "chop down'' last year shortly after being drafted No. 1 overall. Garrett dropped Roethlisberger for a 5-yard loss on the first play of the second quarter, but it didn't do much to slow down Roethlisberger. Two plays later, he bolted for 22 yards on third down, and then hit James for 13 to the Browns' 11.

Garrett was flagged for roughing after Roethliberger threw the ball away in the back of the end zone, but it looked like a legal wrap-up of the QB to most,

Offensive line woes

The Browns revamped offensive line, with rookie Desmond Harrison at left tackle, surrendered — sacks. On one drive, Joel Bitonio and Harrison were flagged for back-to-back false starts. All in all, it was a challenging afternoon for the line. Harrison was also beat on that Dupree strip-sack.

Randall’s interception

Randall joined the pick party in the second quarter, but once again, the Browns' offense couldn't cash in.

Up next

The Browns play in New Orleans next Sunday at 1 p.m.

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