They picked off Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph four times in a 21-7 victory over the Steelers to improve to 4-6, but played with a lack of discipline and made egregious mistakes.
Myles Garrett got into it at the end of the game with Rudolph, and ripped off the QB’s helmet. He then whacked Rudolph in the head to get ejected from the game. While a scuffle ensued, with center Maurkice Pouncey kicking Garrett in the helmet when he was on the ground, Larry Ogunjobi walked up to Rudolph and shoved him in the back.
He was also ejected, as was Pouncey.
But Garrett and Ogunjobi weren’t the only Browns defenders thrown out of the game. Damarious Randall was also thrown out for a helmet-to-helmet blow on Diontae Johnson that knocked him out of the game with a concussion.
Garrett will probably be suspended for next week’s game, if not longer.
The Browns failed to convert their first two interceptions off Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, but they wouldn’t be denied on the third.
Browns linebacker Joe Schobert swiped his second pass of the night off Rudolph with 6:22 left in the game, on a pass intended for James Washington and returned it 20 to the Steelers’ 4.
If that wasn’t enough of a gift for this sluggish Browns’ offense, which sputtered after taking a 14-0 lead in the second half, nothing was going to be.
Drive after drive the Browns defense got the ball for the offense, and time and again they wasted the opportunities and punted.
But not this time. After a Beckham incompletion and a Nick Chubb loss for four yards, Baker Mayfield, facing a third and 8 from the 8, found tight end Stephen Carlson on a post route over the middle for an 8-yard that produced the final margin, 21-7.
Carlson, called up from the practice squad Nov. 1, leaped up over linebacker Mark Barron and plucked the ball off his helmet. In a game featuring Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, Carlson was an unlikely hero. The TD was his first career catch.
But the Browns needed someone on offense to make a big play, and Carlson was the man. Take that, Pittsburgh.
But just to make sure this upstart Steelers teams didn’t come clamoring back, safety Juston Burris picked off Rudolph a fourth time, with 3:54 left in the game to seal the victory.
The victory, the Browns’ second straight, improved them to 4-6 and kept their faint playoff hopes alive. The Steelers had their four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 5-5. The two teams will meet again in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1.
The Browns’ defense was dominant throughout the game, but then played with the out-of-control emotion that Freddie Kitchens wanted them to avoid.
From 2002 to 2018, only seven of 99 teams (7.1 percent) that went 4-6 reached the postseason.
The Steelers lost three of their best offensive players in the game in leading receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, receiver Diontae Johnson and running back James Conner.
Smith-Schuster and Johnson and both suffered concussions on helmet blows by Browns defenders, and James Conner re-injured his shoulder.
The Browns couldn’t be satisfied with the dominant defense they were playing. They had to lose their cool and start committing dumb and dangerous penalties.
Randall was ejected from the game with 8:05 remaining after a crushing helmet-to-helmet blow on receiver Johnson, who appeared to be knocked out cold from the hit. He was helped up and wobbled off to the sidelines. He left the game with a concussion and did not return.
The loss of Randall hurt a lot, considering the Browns had already lost starting strong safety Morgan Burnett to an Achilles injury with 1:26 left in the half.
Randall’s 15-yard penalty for the illegal hit was the first of three defensive penalties on the drive, and the Steelers cashed in with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Rudolph to Jaylen Samuels that made it 14-7 with 5:39 left in the third.
The other two penalties were an illegal contact by Juston Burris and a 38-yard pass interference penalty against Williams to the 3 to set up the TD.
The Browns defense picked off Mason Rudolph twice, and the offense couldn’t convert either one into points. The first was in the second quarter when Burnett picked off a ball tipped by Denzel Ward and returned it 43 yards.
Austin Seibert was wide right on a 45-yard field goal attempt.
Joe Schobert intercepted Rudolph with 9:44 left in the half to start the Browns at midfield in the third quarter, but T.J. Watt sacked Mayfield on the first play, and the Browns went
The Browns led 14-0 at the half after scoring on a 1-yard Mayfield sneak and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry.
The Browns defense played lights-out in the first half, shutting out the Steelers for the first time in 13 years, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
The Steelers also lost their leading receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster to a concussion with 9:08 left in the half when he was drilled in the helmet by Greedy Williams and other Browns’ defenders, and running back James Conner re-injured his shoulder in the first quarter and was lost for the game.
Smith-Schuster was face down on the field before walking straight into the locker room with help.
The Browns set the tone early in the game when the defense forced a convincing three-and-out, holding Pittsburgh to no yards on their opening drive. They stuffed the run twice and then pressured Rudolph into a throwaway.
Mayfield’s first pass was batted down by Cam Heyward, but he found Kareem Hunt down the right side for a 20-yard strike and then came right back and hit Odell Beckham Jr with a 42-yard bomb on a post route. It was first ruled a TD, but he was ruled down at 1 upon review.
Mayfield scored on the sneak to open the scoring 7-0 with 11:07 left in the half.
The Steelers drove to the Browns’ 33 thanks to a 33-yard pass interference call against Denzel Ward, but Chris Boswell sailed a 44-yard field goal wide left at the Dawg Pound end.
The Browns increased their lead to 14-0 on a 1-yard TD pass from Mayfield to a wide open Jarvis Landry with 9:55 left in the half. Key play on the drive was a 41-yard pass to KhaDarel Hodge, who fought for extra yards after the reception. Mayfield, who re-discovered his elusiveness, got the pass off despite Jayrone Elliott crashing in.
Burnett, who had a sensational first half against his former team, picked off a Rudolph pass tipped by Denzel Ward, and returned it 43 yards to the Steelers’ 30. But Mayfield threw two incomplete passes to Landry, and Seibert was wide right on is 45-yard field goal attempt with 2:31 left in the half.
Unfortunately for Burnett and for the Browns, the starting safety suffered the Achilles injury with 1:26 left in half and hobbled off the field.
The Browns host the Dolphins on Sunday, Nov. 24 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.