4 quick takeaways from the Browns Week 17 win over the Steelers

Jeff Risdon
·4 min read

The drama carried a lot deeper into the fourth quarter than it needed to, but the Cleveland Browns finally captured the victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns advanced to the postseason with the 24-22 win at FirstEnergy Stadium, capping the 2020 regular season with an 11-5 record.

It was not an easy game to watch from either an aesthetic or emotional standpoint. The depleted Browns roster barely survived against a Steelers unit resting several key players, including EDGE T.J. Watt and QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Here are my quick takeaways from the initial broadcast watch of the playoff-clinching Cleveland victory.

Nick Chubb didn't get enough action

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The Browns rode Nick Chubb's legs to an easy, important touchdown on the team's first offensive drive. Chubb churned out 61 yards on three carries, including the 47-yard TD scamper that put the Browns ahead, 7-0. He would touch the ball just four times in the Browns' next five offensive possessions. Once again, Kareem Hunt did not prove a capable substitute, netting just 37 yards on 10 carries. Chubb came back in and helped seal the game late. He would finish with 108 rushing yards on just 14 carries. The offense was effectively nonexistent without him on the field most of the day. It's the second week in a row Chubb needed more carries. I know Kevin Stefanski likes the two-headed monster, but the way Chubb has been playing and the way Hunt has been playing lately dictates changing things up in a critical situation.

Robert Jackson wore a bulls-eye in coverage

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Robert Jackson doesn't get a lot of playing time. Injuries and COVID-19 issues at cornerback thrust No. 34 into action for the Browns. If you watched the Steelers play offense for even a little bit, you probably saw a lot of Jackson. For much of the afternoon, the Steelers basic passing game strategy was little more than Mason Rudolph identifying who Jackson had in coverage and throwing the ball there. Jackson did have some solid plays, including a very nice PD and a solid tackle. But it was easy to see why he's behind Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson and others on the depth chart at cornerback. It was a long afternoon for Jackson. Hopefully Ward and Johnson clear COVID-19 protocols in time to play next weekend. If Jackson is thrust into extensive action once again, I don't like the Browns' chances.

3 key plays

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There were several big plays in the game, but none bigger than these three: 3. M.J. Stewart's interception. After the Browns extended the third-quarter lead to 17-9, the Steelers were driving toward midfield when Stewart picked off Mason Rudolph by smartly undercutting a route. It was a great defensive play call, with a well-timed blitz by LB Jacob Phillips forcing Rudolph to chuck the ball up for grabs well before he wanted to throw. The long return set up the final Browns touchdown. 2. Baker Mayfield's scramble run for 28 yards. On the drive before the Stewart interception, Cleveland had 1st-and-10 at the Steelers' 44-yard line. Pittsburgh ran out in man coverage and Mayfield made them pay. The offensive line did a good job pushing the rush up the field, and Mayfield took off. It was a brilliant read by Mayfield and it set up a sweet TD pass to Austin Hooper a few plays later. 1. Nick Chubb's touchdown run. The capper on the Browns' opening drive gave the team a lead they would never relinquish. It cannot be overstated how critical it was for the Browns to get that early lead. Thank Chubb for that.

Enjoy the day

(AP Photo/David Richard)

It was not pretty but it's a win. A very important win. The most important win in Cleveland in well over a decade. Enjoy it! The way the Browns played on Sunday will not win a playoff game, no matter who the opponent is next week. I do expect coach Stefanski to have a more filled-out roster and a better grasp on managing a critical game next weekend. But the team has to be better than it was on Sunday. But that is for later. Now is for celebrating the accomplishment of finishing 11-5, advancing to the postseason and beating the rival Steelers to make it happen. That is a tremendous start to 2021 and one the team can build upon to even bigger and better things.