NFL Week 2 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Cleveland Browns 22

2RWDR7H Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens scores a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Cleveland Browns traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the division-rival Steelerslooking to improve to 2-0 on the season and in the vaunted AFC North.

Before we dive into the data, we’d like to send our best wishes to Browns running back Nick Chubb, who took a hit to the knee down near the goal line and suffered an injury that looks to be season-ending at the least. Until then, Chubb was his usual dominant self, racking up 64 rushing yards on 10 carries and several totes where he pushed a pile of defenders several yards. 

It was a wild game featuring five fumbles, two interceptions and eight sacks,  and it was one of the uglier battles of the 2023 season so far, but the Steelers ultimately emerged victorious with a 26-22 win.

Offensive spotlight: Browns backup running back Jerome Ford, a fifth-round pick in 2022 out of Cincinnati, figures to have a prominent role in the offense going forward, even if Cleveland looks to add help from outside the building. Ford broke off a 69-yard run that got the Browns down to the 1-yard line, where Cleveland’s third running back Pierre Strong Jr. was able to punch it in for a score. 

Steelers second-year wide receiver George Pickens had a few explosive receptions, none more explosive than the 71-yard catch-and-run touchdown where he was simply too fast for anyone to keep up, though there did not appear to be much safety help over the top. 

Defensive spotlight: Compared to last year, the Browns' revamped defensive front has had remarkably different results against the run through two games. Cleveland allowed the fifth-most expected points per rush in the NFL in 2022, ranking bottom-10 in tackles for loss or no gain against the run and top-10 in missed tackles against the run.

In the first half, Pittsburgh took seven carries for 2 yards, and Cleveland had five tackles for loss or no gain. Pittsburgh finished with 57 rushing yards on 19 carries, with more rushing yards after contact than total rushing yards, a trend that has carried over from 2022 despite an upgraded offensive line. 

Steelers edge defenders T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith wreaked havoc all night long. Watt continued his dominant start to the 2023 season with a sack, two tackles for loss and a fumble returned for a touchdown. Highsmith had a pick-six on the first play of the game and had the sack fumble that Watt took to the house.

Interior defender Larry Ogunjobi also forced a fumble from Deshaun Watson, and linebacker Cole Holcomb forced a fumble from tight end David Njoku.

The Browns truly fumbled this game away. 

Rookie spotlight: Browns rookie right tackle Dawand Jones had his hands full with T.J. Watt all night, with the Browns eventually providing chip help from running backs, tight ends and wide receiver David Bell late in the game. 

Steelers rookie interior defender Keeanu Benton and edge rusher Nick Herbig both contributed two tackles. Rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. was sticky in coverage on the final fourth-and-10 heave from Cleveland that flew out of bounds. And while one could argue defensive pass interference was warranted, it wasn’t called — and that was all she wrote.

Box Score

Passing
Cleveland Browns
Player Fantasy Comp/Att Yds YPA TD Int Sacks Rtg
Deshaun Watson 14.6 22 / 40 235 5.9 1 1 6 70.3
Pittsburgh Steelers
Player Fantasy Comp/Att Yds YPA TD Int Sacks Rtg
Kenny Pickett 11.3 15 / 30 222 7.4 1 1 2 71.8
Rushing
Cleveland Browns
Player Fantasy Car Yds YPC TD Long Fum Lost
Jerome Ford 27.1 16 106 6.6 0 69 0
Deshaun Watson 14.6 6 22 3.7 0 12 2
Elijah Moore 7.1 1 5 5.0 0 5 0
Nick Chubb 6.4 10 64 6.4 0 20 0
Pierre Strong Jr. 6.1 2 1 0.5 1 1 0
Pittsburgh Steelers
Player Fantasy Car Yds YPC TD Long Fum Lost
Jaylen Warren 12.6 6 20 3.3 0 8 0
Kenny Pickett 11.3 4 -6 -1.5 0 -1 0
Najee Harris 5.3 10 43 4.3 0 21 0
Calvin Austin III 1.8 1 -2 -2.0 0 -2 0
Receiving
Cleveland Browns
Player Fantasy Tgt Rec Yds YPT YPR TD
Jerome Ford 27.1 4 3 25 6.2 8.3 1
Amari Cooper 16.0 10 7 90 9.0 12.9 0
David Njoku 7.8 4 4 48 12.0 12.0 0
Elijah Moore 7.1 9 3 36 4.0 12.0 0
Pierre Strong Jr. 6.1 1 0 0 0.0 0.0 0
David Bell 5.7 3 3 27 9.0 9.0 0
Donovan Peoples-Jones 1.7 4 1 7 1.8 7.0 0
Jordan Akins 1.2 1 1 2 2.0 2.0 0
Marquise Goodwin 0.0 2 0 0 0.0 0.0 0
Harrison Bryant 0.0 2 0 0 0.0 0.0 0
Pittsburgh Steelers
Player Fantasy Tgt Rec Yds YPT YPR TD
George Pickens 25.7 10 4 127 12.7 31.8 1
Jaylen Warren 12.6 6 4 66 11.0 16.5 0
Najee Harris 5.3 3 1 0 0.0 0.0 0
Allen Robinson II 3.2 3 2 12 4.0 6.0 0
Calvin Austin III 1.8 4 1 10 2.5 10.0 0
Miles Boykin 1.5 1 1 5 5.0 5.0 0
Pat Freiermuth 1.2 1 1 2 2.0 2.0 0
Gunner Olszewski 0.0 1 1 0 0.0 0.0 0
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