The Steelers’ defense played a crucial role in the victory, scoring two touchdowns in the game. Outside linebacker Alex Highsmith scored just nine seconds into the game by returning an interception 30 yards for a touchdown after Minkah Fitzpatrick deflected Deshaun Watson’s first pass. In the fourth quarter, Highsmith forced a Watson fumble, which outside linebacker T.J. Watt recovered and returned for a 17-yard touchdown. This marked the first time since 2010 that the Steelers had two defensive touchdowns in a game and the first time since 2009 that they recorded both a fumble return touchdown and an interception return touchdown in the same game. The Steelers’ defense also tallied 6 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and 11 quarterback hits.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett had an up-and-down performance, completing 15 of 30 passes for 222 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He struggled with decision-making and mechanics in the first half but showed improvement as the game progressed. However, the Steelers’ offense still had trouble sustaining drives.
One concerning trend was the Steelers’ inability to establish a strong running game. They recorded only one rushing yard in the first half, marking the fewest rushing yards in the opening half of a game for the Steelers in the past 45 seasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Running back Najee Harris had a slow start, gaining just 4 yards on six attempts before breaking off two significant runs in the third quarter. Overall, the Steelers finished with 55 rushing yards, with Harris contributing 43 yards on 10 carries.
— SteelersNationUnite (@SteelersUnite) September 19, 2023
An eye-popping Next Gen Stat highlighted wide receiver George Pickens’ 71-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Pickens gained 56.8 yards after the catch, far exceeding the expected 21.4 yards. This play was Pickens’ longest career touchdown and showcased his speed and big-play potential.
On the other side, the Cleveland Browns faced a devastating loss as Nick Chubb suffered a significant left knee injury in the second quarter. The Browns’ offense struggled for much of the game, and Deshaun Watson’s late-game efforts fell short.
Describing the game in two words, it was a “gut punch” for the Browns, with Chubb’s injury ranking among the worst moments in recent franchise history. Watson’s performance continued to raise concerns, as he committed costly penalties, turned the ball over twice, and failed to make key plays in the fourth quarter. With Chubb’s injury, the Browns’ season now depends on Watson carrying the offense, a task that remains uncertain.
Despite the loss and Chubb’s injury, running back Jerome Ford provided a bright spot for the Browns, gaining 106 yards on 16 carries and demonstrating that the team can still run the ball effectively moving forward.
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