CLEVELAND –At FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday, Nick Chubb ran for 113 yards, and a score as the Cleveland Browns grabbed control in the second half to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 29-17.
Amari Cooper, a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, forfeited the onside kick that allowed the New York Jets to win the game on Sunday. Cooper more than made up for that oversight on Thursday night against the Steelers.
He contributed to the Browns’ triumph with seven receptions for 101 yards and a score.
In reference to the breakdown against the Jets, Cooper stated this week, “We’ve got to own it, learn from it, and flush it.” Cooper was instrumental in helping Cleveland turn things around, as the Browns (2-1) now hold the top spot in the AFC North standings.
To start the fourth quarter, quarterback Jacoby Brissett faked a handoff to Chubb on third-and-1. While doing so, Cooper sprinted past Steelers CB Cameron Sutton to the Pittsburgh 39-yard line, where he hauled a 32-yard grab. Eight plays later, Cleveland slammed the ball into the end zone to increase its lead to two touchdowns. Cooper became the first Browns player in nine years to finish with more than 100 receiving yards and a receiving score in back-to-back games with the crucial play-action reception.
In his third start for the Browns, Brissett turned in yet another strong effort. In the first half, he threw two touchdown passes—the first to Cooper on a slant and the second to tight end David Njoku in the back of the end zone. Brissett ended the game 21 of 31 for 220 yards while keeping the Browns’ offense under control.
Anthony Walker, who had to be carried off the field due to a left knee injury, was one of the two starting linebackers for the Browns who were lost to injury. With a quad injury, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah also had to leave the game. Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end who hurt his ankle last weekend, was already absent for Cleveland. Jacob Trotter
Underrated statistic to know: Cooper has scored a receiving touchdown in back-to-back games. No wide receiver for the Browns scored a receiving touchdown in back-to-back contests last year.
Following two weeks of unimpressive results, the Steelers promoted an aggressive offensive strategy. They fulfilled it for about a half.
The Steelers (1-2) were defeated by the Browns, though, due to a poor second half from an offense that couldn’t sustain drives and a defense that couldn’t create a pass rush or run defense.
Troubling trend: The Steelers failed to mount a successful pass rush without T.J. Watt for the second straight game. Early on, Larry Ogunjobi and Alex Highsmith teamed for a sack, but until late in the fourth quarter, it was the only one. Only three of Brissett’s 23 dropbacks in the first half saw pressure because the pass rush was ineffective. In addition, the Steelers’ secondary made a number of errors that allowed big plays and scores to be scored. On the Browns’ first touchdown, an 11-yard ball from Brissett to Cooper, Terrell Edmunds was in the incorrect position and gave the receiver too much space. Cooper plowed through the defense for 101 yards on seven catches. The Browns were able to run the ball freely thanks to the weak pass rush, as Chubb (23 carries, 113 yards) and Kareem Hunt (12 carries, 47 yards) tore through the Steelers’ defense.
The Biggest hole in the game plan: The Steelers didn’t target the middle of the field despite all of their offensive improvements, at least in the first half. Pat Freiermuth, a tight end with the Steelers, wasn’t targeted until the middle of the fourth quarter. Mitch Trubisky fired his high-arcing throw into triple coverage. With 2:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, Freiermuth made an outstanding catch for a gain of 26 yards. On the subsequent play, he added another over the middle for an additional 15 yards. However, with a two-score deficit, it was too late for those completions to make a significant difference.
QB breakdown: In the days coming up to the meeting with the Browns, Trubisky said what he needed to do: He needed to be more aggressive and target George Pickens, at least in the first half. In the first half, Trubisky threw the ball more often, connecting with Pickens for the Steelers’ longest pass play of the year on a 36-yard connection, which was made possible by the wide receiver’s remarkable one-handed catch. In the first half, Trubisky completed 7 of 8 passes outside the line for 108 yards, the most for a Steelers quarterback outside the pocket since 2015. He also displayed his mobility as he evaded pressure. However, in the second half, Trubisky and the offense returned to a meager style of play. Trubisky completed 6 of 12 throws for 41 yards after completing 9 of 13 passes for 109 yards during the first half, but he targeted the middle of the field on the game’s last drive of the fourth quarter, putting the ball in position for a field goal. — Pryor, Brooke
Underrated statistics to know: This season, three different Steelers have now made a one-handed grab (Pickens, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool). No other squad has amassed several one-handed catches as of yet.