The Steelers’ biggest game of the season to date is set to take place in just a short time from now. It’s the rematch from two and a half weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, their only loss in the past four games, a loss that put their playoff hopes in further jeopardy.
Much more, of course, took place in the final few seconds of that game, which the pre-game entrances have clearly shown will be an underlying theme. But the bigger story will be who’s not playing, and for the Steelers, that includes JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Mason Rudolph.
The former two are out with injuries, while the latter has been demoted, at least for now, in favor of rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, who makes his second career start. For the Browns, while Myles Garrett is of course suspended, they do get Olivier Vernon back.
Along with Smith-Schuster and Conner, the Steelers’ other inactives are Artie Burns (injury), Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Gentry, Tuzar Skipper, and Paxton Lynch.
The Steelers won the coin toss and deferred. The opening kickoff went for, what else, a touchback. On first down, it was Nick Chubb up the middle for three. Baker Mayfield was incomplete across the field for Jarvis Landry with Mike Hilton in coverage. On third and seven, this time he completed to Landry behind Hilton for a first down for about 19.
At the 47, Kareem Hunt was able to get seven on the ground. Now across midfield, Terrell Edmunds couldn’t finish the tackle before Chubb got a first down. A wide open reception for 20-plus yards to Carlson, the rookie tight end making his third catch. Down to the 22, Chubb was lucky to get anything with Bud Dupree hitting him in the backfield. Hilton hit Hunt in the backfield for a loss of a few on a screen pass…but it wasn’t spotted properly. Went instead for no gain. Karma struck with the left tackle flagged for a false start. Now third and 14, Mayfield flushed out of the pocket and nearly hit Landry at the right sideline for a first down, but he was ruled out of bounds. Freddie Kitchens challenged the ruling on the field.