Pittsburgh— With an injury to Ben Tate, two rookie running backs took advantage of the Browns second half up tempo offense.
“I think the tempo helped,” Mike Pettine said. “I think the information you gather over a half. I think it limits the defensive call sheet when you pick the tempo up. So you’re getting looks since you’re comfortable with it. You’re not getting a lot of movement. Guys are just getting lined up. Those guys were fresh and they ran hard.”
Crowell scored a touchdown on his first NFL carry and then added a second score from 15 yards out. He finished with 32 yards on five carries for an impressive average of 6.4 yards per carry. West had 16 carries for 100 yards (6.3 avg.), including a long of 29 yards.
Pettine was impressed with the performance from the rookie backs.
“They did (play well),” he said. “To their credit, they weren’t wide-eyed. They went in there and executed. I thought Crowell was a good change of pace. When you go to the up tempo, West hit a couple of back-to-back runs and then Crowell had to go in there and clean up the drive. I thought they both did a really good job.”
Tate was averaging 6.8 yards a carry, including a 25-yard run before he injured his knee. Tate finished with 41 yards on six carries.
The Browns rushed for 183 yards yards, which was the most the team has had since they rushed for 230 yards in 2010 against the Patriots.
Tate, Cameron Injured: RB Ben Tate left the game in the first half with a knee injury and didn’t return. He had six carries for 41 yards , including a 25-yard run before the injury. Tate led the Browns with a 6.8 average per carry.
TE Jordan Cameron left with a shoulder injury. He had two receptions for 47 yards, including his first catch for 47 yards.
Pettine was asked about their status after the game.
“We’re still in a wait-and-see deal,” he said. “We’ll see soon enough.”
“First game for a rookie it was a learning experience,” Pettine said.
Wheaton’s 20-yard reception with five seconds remaining set up the winning field goal.
Gilbert was asked about his performance.
“Not great and not what I wanted,” he said. “I can always get better from here on out.”
Gilbert was asked what the coaches told him.
“Keep fighting,” he said. “Everybody just told us to keep fighting.”
Kruger Plays Big: LB Paul Kruger led the Browns with two of their four sacks. Kruger had just 4.5 all of last season.
His second sack came the play after LB Chris Kirksey made his first NFL sack in the third quarter.
OLB Jabaal Sheard had the fourth sack. Kruger finished with five tackles, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries. Sheard had three tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hurry.
The Hawk: WR Andrew Hawkins led the Browns with eight receptions for 87 yards (10.9 avg.), including a long of 25 yards on 10 targets.
Bad, Bad Record: The Browns have now lost 15 of their 16 opening games since returning in 1999. Their only win was in 2004. They are 5-27 against the Steelers since returning to the league in 1999. They are 2-20 against the Steelers since winning in 2003.
Hitner: DB Donte Whitner led the Browns with 13 tackles, followed by CB Justin Gilbert, who had seven.
Dansby Pick: LB Karlos Dansby had the Browns interception and he finished with six tackles, a tackle for loss and two passes broken up.
Agnew Debut: Undrafted rookie free agent FB Ray Agnew from Southern Illinois started and picked up the Browns first offensive first down of the season on a two-yard run over left tackle on third and one.
The Rabbit: WR/KR Travis Benjamin returned after a torn ACL sidelined him last season. He ran a reverse for a 10-yard gain in the first half. He caught two passes for 20 yards, including an 11-yard reception for a touchdown to tie the game at 27. Benjamin returned four kickoffs for 85 yards (21.3 avg.) with a long of 28 yards. He also had three fair catches on punts and one return for zero yards.
Bryant, McQuistan, Hughes Miss: The Browns opened the season without three veterans due to injury. They were without the services of two of their prominent defensive line in Desmond Bryant (wrist) and John Hughes (hamstring).
Bryant was hopeful he’d be able to play after having surgery two weeks ago, while Hughes practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, but was held out Thursday and Friday.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Browns have only eight offensive linemen on the 53- man roster and with McQuistan sidelined the other two have been with the team less than a week.
Ryan Seymour was signed after the 49ers waived him in the final roster cuts and Painter was on the Broncos practice squad after being released last week.
Kick it Billy: K Billy Cundiff kicked field goals of 39 and 25 yards but the Browns opted to not try for the go ahead field goal late in the game that would’ve been a 53-yard attempt.
New Number: Rookie RB Terrance West changed his number from 20 to 28.
Captains: OL Joe Thomas, DB Joe Haden, OL Alex Mack, DB Donte Whitner and LB Karlos Dansby were the captains for the game.