PITTSBURGH (AP/WJW) — 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.
QB Kenny 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.
“It’s tough to win seven games and finish the season like that,” said Watson, who went 3-3 as a starter after serving an 11-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. “We’ve got to reflect on the season, watch the tape. There might be changes.”
While Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is expected to return, he might have to shake up his staff. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ job could be in jeopardy as the unit was inconsistent overall and awful against the run, even with Myles Garrett — whose 16 sacks tied his own club record — having another spectacular season.
Watson connected on 19 of 29 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and the two interceptions. 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.
“That locker room fought like crazy,” Stefanski said. “We got guys that wanted to put everything into this one.”
Maybe, but it didn’t look like it at times.
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.
For both teams, there’s nothing left but to think about next year.