Najee Harris ran for 84 yards and a touchdown and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns 28-14 on Sunday but were eliminated from the playoffs when Miami edged the New York Jets.
The Steelers (9-8) will have to settle for a 16th straight non-losing season under coach Mike Tomlin, fueled by a 7-2 finish. Pittsburgh’s ugly 2-6 start included an injury to star linebacker T.J. Watt and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s ascension to the starting job at halftime of a Week 4 loss to the Jets.
Pickett completed 13 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown and avoided an interception for the sixth time in his last seven appearances.
Pittsburgh’s defense sacked Deshaun Watson seven times to assure the Steelers of finishing ahead of the Browns (7-10) in the standings for the 34th consecutive time.
Cleveland has had 17 seasons of 10 losses or more since the franchise rebooted in 1999.
Watson, who was suspended for the first 11 games of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, connected on 19 of 29 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, both of which the Steelers turned into points. Nick Chubb ran for 77 yards and caught a touchdown pass to join Jim Brown as the only players in Browns history to exceed 1,500 yards rushing in a season.
Pittsburgh ran off 20 straight points — 10 of them directly after turnovers — after spotting Cleveland an early touchdown. The Browns drew within 20-14 on a 2-yard flip from Watson to Chubb with 10:20 to go.
The Steelers responded with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard plunge by fullback Derek Watt with 4:39 to play.
While the Steelers entered the finale still in the mix, Cleveland was looking toward 2023 following an uneven season in which the turmoil surrounding Watson’s status overshadowed the on-field product for long stretches.
The Browns will miss out on the playoffs for a second straight year, although coach Kevin Stefanski’s job appears safe. The same cannot be said of members of Stefanski’s staff. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ status could be in jeopardy as the unit was wildly inconsistent and awful against the run, even with Myles Garrett — whose 16 sacks tied his own club record — having another spectacular season.
Browns: LB Reggie Ragland left in the first half with a shoulder injury. ... CB Denzel Ward did not play in the second half due to a shoulder injury. Ward was questionable during the week. ... T Jedrick Wills went to the sideline in the final minute with a leg injury.
Steelers: WR Gunnar Olszewski injured his left leg on a jet sweep in the third quarter. ... C Mason Cole was evaluated for a left ankle injury in the third quarter but did not miss a series. ... TE Pat Freiermuth left with a left leg injury in the fourth quarter.
Former Browns quarterback and Ohio native Bernie Kosar said he was fired from the team’s radio broadcast team on Sunday. Kosar admitted earlier this week to placing a bet on the Browns to win the game. Ohio made sports betting legal on Jan. 1.
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