In their opening game of the 2014 NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers got a late field goal to beat the Cleveland Browns 30-27. It was a tale of two halves as the Steelers jumped out to a 27-3 first half lead and then had to absorb a furious Browns comeback in the second half. Cleveland clawed their way back to tie it up in the second half, but Pittsburgh sealed the win with a last-second field goal from Shaun Suisham.
During the first half, the Steelers offense was firing on all cylinders – coming out of the gate to a big first-half lead. The 27-3 first-half lead came from some big plays from key guys. Leveon Bell broke off a huge 38-yard touchdown run that highlighted his big day on the ground and in the passing game. Antonio Brown had a huge first half, including a great touchdown catch after Ben Roethlisberger escaped the rush to find him in the end zone.
The possibility of Johnny Manziel playing was a big storyline coming into this opening game. He did not make an appearance on the field, but fans may have wanted him to replace starting QB Brian Hoyer in the first half. Hoyer and the entire Browns defense could not get anything going in the first half, but improved greatly in the second half. Two rookie running backs, Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell, played great in the second half. West racked up 100 yards and Crowell scored two touchdowns, showing great signs for the Browns run game this season. Hoyer did not light the world on fire passing for 230 yards and a touchdown, but he did do enough to almost lead a comeback. Andrew Hawkins was the best receiver – catching 8 passes for 87 yards – and no one else was really able to make an impact in the passing game.
In the second half, the Steelers defense was exposed as slow and lacking playmakers, which was the fear for them coming into the season. As soon as the Browns were able to get into a rhythm, the Pittsburgh defense was not able to cope. They were able to get pressure on the quarterback and that is a good sign, but both the run and pass games worked well for the Browns.
The Steelers got some great production in the passing game with Roethlisberger ending the game with 365 yards. Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Bell all ended with over 80 yards in the air. Wheaton got six balls, which equaled his entire total from the 2013 season, for 97 yards including a crucial catch in the final seconds that put Pittsburgh in range for the game-winning field goal. Bell may have had the best game of his young career with 198 total yards and a rushing touchdown. Bell will be crucial to the offense going forward with his ability to be effective on both the ground and in the air.
Pittsburgh barely escaped a second-half breakdown, beating the Cleveland Browns 30-27. Both teams showed they have areas to improve upon but also showed their fans that they can make waves in the AFC North. The Steelers have the Ravens on Thursday night and the Browns have a tough road trip to New Orleans to face the Saints.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius