Entering the Week 11 opener on Thursday night as winners of four straight, the Steelers were primed to strengthen their grip on a potential wild card spot. That would prove not to be as easy as many would have expected against the struggling Browns.
Cleveland’s defense controlled things early, battering Steelers QB Mason Rudolph and shutting down the entire offense in the first half. The Steelers gained just 128 yards of offense in the first half and the closest they came to putting points on the board was a missed field goal.
The Browns on the other hand, looked as good as they have this year with their first-quarter drive that was highlighted by a 42-yard strike to WR Odell Beckham that was initially ruled a touchdown before being spotted at the one-yard line. QB Baker Mayfield called his own number on a quarterback sneak to give the Browns a lead. Mayfield connected on other big pass plays on the team’s next scoring drive, including a 25-yarder to WR Jarvis Landry before eventually connecting with Landry again for a one-yard touchdown.
There were multiple issues holding the Steelers back early in the game but losing their top two playmakers on offense early in the game didn’t help. RB James Conner, making his return to the field after missing multiple games with an AC joint injury, aggravated the same injury and left the game after just six touches. Soon after that, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster took two hard hits to the head from multiple defenders on the same play. After some time down on the field, Smith-Schuster was able to walk off the field and to the locker room. He was quickly ruled out with his third documented concussion. Smith-Schuster caught two passes for 21 yards before he left the game. In the second half, the Steelers also lost rookie WR Diontae Johnson for the remainder of the game after he took a nasty hit from S Damarious Randall, who was ejected. Johnson was spotted bleeding from the ear. Unfortunately, the injuries were not limited to the Steelers or to offensive players. Browns S Morgan Burnett left the game with what was called an Achilles injury and Steelers CB Artie Burns left with a knee injury.
The Steelers did take advantage of a long pass interference penalty that put them in the red zone. Rudolph found RB Jaylen Samuels for a three-yard touchdown to cut the Browns lead in half. The struggles of Rudolph kept the Steelers out of the red zone other than that though and a fourth-quarter interception led to another Browns touchdown on an amazing catch by rookie TE Stephen Carlson, recording his first career reception.
Turnovers were really the story of the game as Rudolph tossed four interceptions. The Browns entered the game with only nine turnovers on the season. Rudolph passed for 210 yards and the one score, while Samuels totaled 45 yards on 10 touches. WR James Washington again led the Steelers in receiving but that only took 49 yards on three catches.
Mayfield threw for 193 yards and the two scores and RB Nick Chubb rushed 27 times for 92 yards. RB Kareem Hunt was again involved in the passing game, catching six of eight targets for 46 yards. WR Odell Beckham had the early 42-yarder and finished with four catches for 60 yards to lead the Browns. Landry posted 43 yards and a score on four receptions.
As if the game that was filled with injuries, poor quarterback play, turnovers and questionable officiating wasn’t bad enough, the game essentially ended with a massive brawl. After Rudolph dumped off a pass, he was forcefully taken to the ground by superstar Myles Garrett. Rudolph clearly didn’t like the play and attempted to pull at Garrett’s helmet. Instead, Garrett removed Rudolph’s helmet and started swinging. As he was being tackled by Steelers linemen, Garrett connected, hitting Rudolph in the head with his own helmet. That brought both teams to the brawl, which included Steelers OL Maurkice Pouncey kicking at Garrett’s head as he was on the ground. Multiple players were ejected and it is nearly certain that Garrett and Pouncey are looking at suspensions. A terrible way to end an ugly game.
Thursday began with ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggesting he was skeptical free agent QB Colin Kaepernick would actually workout this weekend. Later, we learned the on-field drills will be led by former Browns HC Hue Jackson. Seriously. After initially agreeing to announce the teams that would be attending the last-minute workout, the NFL then changed their mind only to then release a statement stating that 11 teams had committed to showing up. The teams include Arizona, Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New England, New York Giants, New York Jets, Tampa Bay and Washington. The statement also suggested that even more teams were expected to attend. So far, this has been a PR disaster for the league.
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Jets RB Le’Veon Bell (ribs) was limited, though he is not in danger of missing the team’s game against the Raiders. … Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) has yet to practice and there is no real timetable for his return to the field. This will be another opportunity for a huge game for WR Stefon Diggs. … Lions rookie RB Ty Johnson (concussion) returned to a limited practice. … Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back) remained sidelined at practice. He seems likely to miss another start this week. … Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds (hamstring) missed another practice and is likely out for Week 11. … Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery (ankle) missed another practice and is now in danger of missing the team’s game against the Patriots. … Ravens rookie WR Marquise Brown (ankle) missed practice. He’s been banged up for much of the season. … While TE Jack Doyle (shoulder) was able to practice, WR T.Y. Hilton (calf) was not. Expect Hilton to sit out again this week. … Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (foot) did not practice, as expected. … 49ers WR Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and RB Matt Breida (ankle) missed another practice. … 49ers TE George Kittle (knee) also missed practice and is very unlikely to play in the best possible matchup against the Cardinals. … Cowboys WR Amari Cooper (knee/ankle) got in a limited practice. … Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring) was able to practice, on a limited basis. He has a chance to get back on the field in Week 11. … Bengals WR Alex Erickson (back) came back to a limited practice. … Bears TE Trey Burton (calf) missed practice once again.
While Colts WR Devin Funchess (collarbone) has been able to practice, he is not expected to play in Week 11. … Bears HC Matt Nagy announced that rookie RB David Montgomery “lightly” rolled his ankle at practice on Wednesday and missed practice Thursday. Not only will Montgomery now be iffy for the team’s Week 11 matchup, the Bears play on Sunday night, creating some difficult decisions for fantasy players. … The Broncos are expected to activate WR Tim Patrick (hand) from the injured reserve list before their Week 11 matchup. … Prior to their Thursday night game, the Steelers placed WR Ryan Switzer (back) on injured reserve. … Rams TE Gerald Everett (wrist) is expected to play this week, according to HC Sean McVay.
With RB Derrius Guice expected back in Week 11, the Redskins are likely to use a backfield rotation including Guice and veteran RB Adrian Peterson. With their upside already limited due to the overall poor offense, these two could easily cancel each other out, making neither a good fantasy option. … Redskins HC Bill Callahan shared that he wants to move rookie WR Terry McLaurin around the formation more going forward. This makes sense to help the rookie break out of his slump, though his decrease in production has coincided with Callahan being named the interim coach and rookie QB Dwayne Haskins claimed the starting job. … The NFL handed down a 10-game suspension to WR Antonio Callaway, who was then released by the Browns. There is a chance this signals the end of Callaway’s NFL career. We likely won’t find out until next season. … Free agent RB Jay Ajayi will work out for the Eagles today, his former team. Already having RBs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders in their backfield rotation, this feels like a due diligence move.