5 things we learned from Steelers’ 3rd straight win
Five things we learned from Steelers 33, Browns 18:
1. Less is more for Burns
Perhaps he was playing a game of subterfuge or maybe he simply had a change of heart. Whatever the reason, coach Mike Tomlin didn’t stick to his plan for dealing with struggling cornerback Artie Burns.
In an article published on the team website Sunday morning, Tomlin was asked what Burns needs to get better.
“More snaps,” Tomlin responded.
To be fair, Tomlin never said that would happen against the Cleveland Browns. And it didn’t.
Not only didn’t Burns get more snaps, he didn’t get any in the secondary. Coty Sensabaugh started, but Burns never rotated in - as had been the case in previous weeks. When Sensabaugh left with a foot injury in the second half, Cameron Sutton played the remaining snaps at corner.
As for Burns, his playing he time was limited to 10 plays on special teams.
Tomlin can’t be blamed for using Sensabaugh and Sutton. The Steelers limited Browns’ rookie Baker Mayfield to 180 yards passing and no completion longer than 21 yards until the meaningless touchdown drive in the final two minutes.
2. Haden keeps his hands on the ball
The Steelers had just four interceptions as a team entering the game, with two coming from cornerbacks who usually play in subpackages (Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton) and none from starters Joe Haden and the Sensabaugh-Burns combination.
Haden changed that when he intercepted a deep pass from Mayfield midway through the second quarter. The Browns were at the Steelers 44 when Mayfield tried to find wide receiver Damion Ratley on a 31-yard toss down the right sideline.
Haden leaped and got to the ball first, staying in bounds as he came down with the pick. It was the second career interception for Haden with the Steelers.
The Steelers took advantage by not giving the ball back to the Browns until 10 seconds remained in the half. In between, they moved 87 yards on 16 plays, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown catch by Antonio Brown for a 14-6 lead.
3. Tuitt finds his way into the backfield
That slow start by defensive end Stephon Tuitt seems to be a distant memory.
Tuitt, who was bothered by injuries through most of 2017, wasn’t his usual disruptive self in the first month of the season. But he has gotten sacks in back-to-back games, and he tied for the team lead with seven tackles against the Browns.
After the Steelers used a Chris Boswell field goal to take a 26-12 lead early in the fourth quarter, Tuitt sacked Mayfield for a 13-yard loss on third down, forcing a punt.
Tuitt had a six-yard sack negated in the third quarter because of a holding call against Haden.
4. Clutch punt leads to safety
Jordan Berry hit two line-drive punts in the first half that led to a pair of 13-yard returns, but his third attempt was placed at the right spot to help the Steelers get a safety for a 16-6 lead in the third quarter.
When a drive stalled at the Browns 46, Berry dropped a punt inside the 10, with Darrius Heyward-Bey downing it at the 4.
Two plays later, with the ball at the 5, Browns tackle Desmond Harrison was called for holding in the end zone while trying to stop Bud Dupree from pressuring Mayfield.
The sequence will be remembered for the Steelers botching the free kick that followed, which allowed the Browns to regain possession at the Steelers 24 en route to a touchdown. But Berry, with his properly placed punt, did his part to contribute to the Steelers getting those two unexpected points.
5. Offensive line doesn’t skip a beat
With right tackle Marcus Gilbert on the sidelines with a knee injury, the Steelers turned to Matt Feiler to replace him for the second time this year.
All the Steelers line did in Gilbert’s absence was pave the way for James Conner to gain 146 yards rushing and average 6.1 yards per carry. While Ben Roethlisberger’s streak of games without being sacked ended at two, the Browns took him down just once, a four-yard loss by Myles Garrett in the first quarter.
The only infraction called against the line was a hold by Ramon Foster, who ended a string of six games without a penalty. He became the last starting lineman to be penalized this season.
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