CLE-PIT grades: QB Landry Jones settles in after slow start
Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Cleveland Browns 24
Here are the highest-graded players and top takeaways from the Steelers’ Week 17 AFC North win over the Browns.
Quarterback grade: Robert Griffin III, 68.2
Griffin, Browns utilize short passing game
Robert Griffin III had success in the short passing game against the Steelers, going 25-of-28 for 177 yards and a touchdown on throws that traveled less than 10 yards. He was less successful in the intermediate and deep passing attack, going 4-of-9 for 83 yards and an interception, with the interception being a forced pass into tight coverage in the red zone. Griffin was forced out of the pocket on a few occasions, but was provided with decent protection throughout most of the day; he was pressured on 16 of his 45 dropbacks, going 7-of-12 for 93 yards for a passer rating of 48.3 when under duress.
Top offensive grades:
T Joe Thomas, 82.1
T Shon Coleman, 81
G Spencer Drango, 78
TE Gary Barnidge, 76
WR Andrew Hawkins, 67.7
Makeshift offensive line provides running lanes
Cleveland ran for 231 yards on 33 carries on the afternoon, with 134 of those yards coming after contact. A big reason for those running lanes was the offensive line—granted, Isaiah Crowell made the right cuts and showed some burst on a few of his runs. Three of the Browns’ offensive linemen earned run-blocking grades above 80.0, with rookie Shon Coleman leading the team at 84.5. In the air, converted wide receiver Terrelle Pryor surpassed 1,000 yards on the season after being targeted 10 times, catching seven passes for 94 yards.
Top defensive grades:
LB Chris Kirksey, 91.5
CB Jamar Taylor, 86.2
LB Demario Davis, 82.9
NT Danny Shelton, 80.8
S Ed Reynolds, 72.4
Defense falters late after strong start
The Browns’ defense looked energized after their first win last week, and it was evident in the first quarter. They allowed Pittsburgh very little, and were quickly able to get off the field. LB Chris Kirksey starred as he racked up 10 tackles, seven stops, one sack, one QB hit, and two QB hurries, while also only surrendering 5 yards in coverage. CB Jamar Taylor also had a good day, with a pass breakup on four targets, while only allowing one completion for 3 yards. CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun did not fare as well, as he allowed 106 yards on 11 targets, including two TDs, one of which was the game-winner. He did manage to come away with a pass breakup and an interception, which was overshadowed by a fumble for a touchback on his return.
Quarterback grade: Landry Jones, 72.5
Jones settles in after slow start
The first quarter of the game did not do much to excite Landry Jones fans. The offense as a whole did not move the ball, but Jones was off-target on some makeable throws, and even put a couple in some dangerous areas. He settled in nicely later in the game, earning a 72.2 passing grade. Surprisingly, Jones played well when under pressure, although he was sacked four times. Most encouraging were two drives at the end of the game—one to seal it with a nice throw on a deep ball, and another drive in a 2-minute situation at the end of regulation. He still threw a couple of perplexing balls, like the one interception he had in the game, but his clutch performance at the end was most memorable.
Top offensive grades:
WR Cobi Hamilton, 81.5
TE Jesse James, 74.8
RT Marcus Gilbert, 74.5
LT Alejandro Villanueva, 73.3
LG Ramon Foster, 73.3
Pittsburgh pulls out win despite resting stars
As the majority of the Steelers’ playmakers were on the sideline preparing for the playoffs, those out on the field managed to fight and claw their way back into the game and eventually pull out the win over the Browns. The unit had a lackluster start in the first quarter, as they were shut down by the Cleveland defense, but made enough plays late to extend the game. Pittsburgh eventually had to rely on moving the ball through the air as the ground game struggled. Alejandro Villanueva had a solid game, but it wasn’t as stellar as his recent performances, as he surrendered one QB hit and two QB hurries. That was the case for much of the offensive line, as they played solid after a lackluster beginning of the game, and it enabled Jones to get the offense in a rhythm at the end of regulation and in overtime.
Top defensive grades:
CB Ross Cockrell, 82.7
LB Ryan Shazier, 81.8
DI Daniel McCullers, 78.1
ED Bud Dupree, 78
ED Jarvis Jones, 77.7
Steelers struggle against the run, but come up with late stops
Pittsburgh allowed 7 yards per rush on 33 carries against the Browns, with a big chunk of those coming on a 67-yard Isaiah Crowell run. They’ll look to shore up the run defense as they head into the playoffs next weekend, taking on a Dolphins team that will surely look to keep it on the ground often. Linebacker Ryan Shazier was walled off a few times in the run game, but made his presence felt in coverage as he picked off a Robert Griffin III pass in the red zone, while allowing six catches for only 26 yards, resulting in a 95.1 coverage grade.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Browns LB Chris Kirksey
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