Steelers Survive Second-Half Meltdown

The defense finally came up with a couple of big plays when it mattered to defeat the Browns, 30-27.

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Pettine told the Cleveland media that he didn't give "a fire and a brimstone speech" at halftime.

Instead, one of his players stood up and asked his team, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor!?!"

That player charged out of the locker room with his team behind him, and the Browns proceeded to bomb Pittsburgh in the second half.

No, it only seemed like a bad movie when the Browns rallied from a 24-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter. But the Steelers regained their composure and won 30-27 with a field goal as time expired.

The roller coaster ride may have caused fans to file out of Heinz Field shaking their heads and clutching their chests, but the win was all that mattered.

At least that's what the players would have us believe.

"It's AFC North football," said cornerback William Gay. "You've got your ups and downs, but you've got to thrive through adversity, and I think we did it today."

Gay was one of the reasons the Steelers are able to look back and bear this near-catastrophe. To backtrack, the Steelers did just about everything right in outgaining the Browns 364-101 and storming to a 27-3 halftime lead on opening day at Heinz Field.

But in the second half the Browns went without a huddle, increased the tempo, and in two possessions they traversed 139 yards in 4:04 and scored two touchdowns to cut the Steelers' lead to 10.

On their third possession, the Browns moved to the Steelers' 5-yard line, but a communication bust caused quarterback Brian Hoyer to attempt a run around end and Cameron Heyward tackled him for a loss. It resulted in a field goal, but the Browns tied the game on their next possession with an easy seven-play drive early in the fourth quarter.

How did the Browns put together such an exceptional half after playing so poorly to open the season?

"It was really just one play after another and those guys getting pretty tired," said Hoyer. Were the Steelers thinking about Thursday night's game in Baltimore a half too soon?

"Not at all," said Gay. "This is the NFL. Those guys get paid, too."

Whatever the reason it went so bad, the defense pulled the Steelers out of the tailspin with stops on the Browns' final two series.

On the first of those series, the Browns decided against a 52-yard field goal attempt and punted. On the second, the Steelers made plays. The Browns had the ball at their own 20 with 1:53 remaining, and Heyward sacked Hoyer for a six-yard loss.

"If they're going to block me one-on-one, I've got to make the most of those," said Heyward.

Heyward asked the crowd for noise, and Heinz Field began rocking the way it had in the first half.

With that backdrop, Gay broke up a second-down pass to Andrew Hawkins to bring up third-and-16. The Browns tried a screen to Hawkins, but Gay recognized the play from a second-quarter play and he rushed in and belted Hawkins for a five-yard loss.

The Steelers took over at their own 43, Ben Roethlisberger threw twice to Markus Wheaton, and Shaun Suisham kicked a 41-yard game-winner as time expired.

Just another day at the yard, right?

"We just had to gather ourselves and breathe," said Gay. "When they got down to it, we said, 'Look, we've got to make a play.' And that's what we tried to come up and do."

And they did.

Finally.


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