Antonio Brown, Steelers receiver
He was almost single-handedly responsible for the win. Ben Roethlisberger threw in his vicinity 11 times, and Brown came away with 11 catches for 182 yards — the Steelers totaled 290 — picking on a variety of Browns defenders.
“It was real fun,” cornerback Jamar Taylor said of covering Brown. “He made some crazy catches. I love competition, so we were going at it. He’s one of the best in the league, so I was looking forward to that one.”
Brown made the two biggest offensive plays of the game and drew the most important penalty. He showed great concentration to catch a tipped ball over the middle and went 50 yards to set up a touchdown in the second quarter. He jumped among three defenders and came down with a 38-yarder to seal the victory in the fourth quarter. He drew a 41-yard pass interference penalty on Taylor to set up Pittsburgh’s last score.
“It’s not our first rodeo,” Roethlisberger said. “You know, I see AB going, I’m going to take that shot. I’ve got all the trust in the world in him and he’s got it in me. I don’t think there are any two guys that work together like him and I do, so it’s fun to watch him play and be on the same team with him.”
Kenny Britt, Browns receiver
His preseason struggles carried into the regular season, and it’s fair to start wondering if the Browns made a giant mistake by signing him to a four-year, $32.5 million deal in free agency.
Britt had one catch for 13 yards. He dropped an 18-yard pass in the fourth quarter that led to a punt and took away an opportunity to trim the deficit.
One game isn’t the season, but Britt, 28, was bad during the preseason and is dealing with a pair of surgically repaired knees.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The start was a disaster.
After an opening series that lost yardage, the Browns called on the punting unit. Pittsburgh’s Tyler Matakevich came right up the middle, and punter Britton Colquitt didn’t have a chance. The block sent the ball into the end zone, where Anthony Chickillo jumped on it for a quick 7-0 lead for the Steelers.
“If we get rid of that play, it is a super close game,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said.
Matakevich went between long snapper and tight end Seth DeValve without resistance. Rookie running back Matthew Dayes was in position to block him but looked in a different direction, giving Matakevich a clear path.
“We had a miscommunication there and let a guy go free,” coach Hue Jackson said. “We didn’t handle that right early in the game. That is disappointing, but we have to grow from that.”
The Browns aren’t talented enough to overcome special teams mistakes.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Browns’ advantage in first downs. Pittsburgh had the yardage edge, 290-237.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
“Guys, we weren’t going to go 16-0. This game is behind us. We have watched teams in the regular season make a huge jump in Week 2 when you really can see who you are and what you are.” — Browns coach Hue Jackson.
Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer was solid in his debut but didn’t get enough help from the receivers and running game.
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown was the difference-maker, catching 11 passes for 182 yards. Tight end Jesse James caught two short touchdowns.
The Browns defense is legit. Even without No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, it held the Steelers to two offensive touchdowns and 35 rushing yards. The pass rush was the only weakness, generating only one sack.
The Steelers sacked Kizer seven times and held the Browns to 57 yards rushing. Rookie linebacker T.J. Watt had two sacks and an interception.
The blocked punt for a touchdown was the story. Rookie Zane Gonzalez made a short field goal, and rookie Jabrill Peppers had a 25-yard punt return. He also muffed one but recovered.
Hue Jackson wasted a crucial timeout before deciding to challenge Brown’s remarkable catch late in the fourth quarter. He lost his last timeout when the challenge was unsuccessful.
Mike Tomlin just finds ways to beat the Browns. Of course, he always has better players.