What We Saw: Week 17

The QB List staff catches you up on everything you missed during the final week of the 2020 NFL season.

Steelers @ Browns


The Steelers came into this game resting some key starters, and the Browns came in needing a win to clinch their spot in the playoffs. Despite that, the game was competitive until the end. The Steelers defense played well and was able to generate pressure even without star pass-rusher T.J. WattMason Rudolph made his first start of the year after struggling as a rookie last season, and he looked shockingly competent.  The Cleveland defense intercepted Rudolph and set up the offense with a short field, and after the Browns turned that into a touchdown and a two-possession lead they looked poised to coast to a win. But since they’re the Browns, Cleveland looked close to letting this game slip away several times. Baker Mayfield used his legs to make big plays, including a long run to set up a touchdown and a run to secure the last first down of the game, which was just enough to hold up against a late surge by the Steelers offense that saw them fail to convert on the game-tying two-point attempt and then just barely miss out on recovering the onside kick. Cleveland won 24-22, and ended their long playoff drought by setting up a rematch with the Steelers next weekend.


Pittsburgh Steelers




Mason Rudolph: 22/39, 315 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 sack | 1 carry, 1 yard

Joshua Dobbs: 4/5, 2 yards | 2 carries, 20 yards


The Steelers opted to give Ben Roethlisberger the day off today, so Mason Rudolph got the start. Rudolph looked better than he did last season and he seemed much more comfortable running an offense. He led a drive to set up an attempt at a game-tying two-point conversion and showed some nice touch and a willingness to give his receivers opportunities to win jump balls without taking too many unnecessary risks. His best throw of the game was a deep ball to Diontae Johnson:



It still seems too early to tell if Rudolph will develop into Big Ben’s successor, but it was encouraging to see him look improved from his rookie season. Joshua Dobbs got some run as a wildcat quarterback, and while he did not break any huge plays it is not a bad idea for the Steelers to try to use him to jumpstart what has been a pretty disappointing running game.


Running Backs


James Conner: 9 carries, 37 yards | 8 targets, 5 receptions, 25 yards

Anthony McFarland: 5 carries, 17 yards | 1 target

Benny Snell: 3 carries, 10 yards


The Steelers rushing attack failed to get anything going today. James Conner handled the majority of the work but failed to crack double-digit carries. The eight targets were encouraging but were also likely a result of  Rudolph relying more on his checkdowns than Roethlisberger would. Part of the failure was on the offensive line not creating running lanes, but part of it is also just that none of these running backs look fast, or even quick enough to hit the holes when they did exist. 


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Chase Claypool: 11 targets, 5 receptions, 101 yards, 1 TD

Diontae Johnson: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 96 yards

JuJu Smith-Schuster: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 65 yards, 1 TD

Vance McDonald: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 33 yards


Chase Claypool was the go-to option for Rudolph today, and he turned all those targets into a pretty solid day. Claypool was given a few opportunities to go up for contested catches on jump balls and back-shoulder fades, and he turned one of those contested opportunities into a touchdown catch:



JuJu Smith-Schuster had a solid day as well, doing a lot of work on underneath routes including a short touchdown off of a slant route. Diontae Johnson had a quiet day by his standards, aside from the catch highlighted above, and Vance McDonald served as a nice safety valve.


Cleveland Browns




Baker Mayfield: 17/27, 196 yards, 1 TD, 4 sacks | 6 carries, 44 yards


Baker Mayfield did not have a great day throwing the ball, but he made up for it by running to convert some key first downs, including a run to pick up the game-sealing first down to send the Browns to the playoffs. Even though the Steelers were resting some defensive starters their defense is still one of the best in the league, and they were able to frequently pressure Mayfield. He did a good job of buying himself time to either throw the ball away or escape the pocket and run up the field himself. He will need to find more success passing the ball if the Browns are to upset the Steelers in the rematch next week, but this was a better performance than his statistics will show, and in the end what matters is he made the plays he had to to get the Browns back in the playoffs.


Running Backs


Nick Chubb: 14 carries, 108 yards, 1 TD | 1 target

Kareem Hunt: 10 carries, 37 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards


Nick Chubb got the scoring started today with a 47-yard touchdown run which he capped off by making Minkah Fitzpatrick look like a little kid when he tried to tackle him. Chubb was the best part of the Cleveland offense today and was consistently able to generate positive plays on the ground. He was decisive in finding running lanes, and once he got there he required multiple defenders to bring him down. Kareem Hunt was not as successful, as he struggled to find any room to run and failed to get involved in the passing game.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Jarvis Landry: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 51 yards | 1 carry, 3 yards, 1 TD

Rashard Higgins: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 55 yards

Donovan Peoples-Jones: 3 targets, 1 reception, 11 yards

Austin Hooper: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 37 yards

David Njoku: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 13 yards


Rashard Higgins had Cleveland’s longest play through the air, as he came down with this 42-yard reception:



Jarvis Landry was the best receiver for the Browns on Sunday, but he was not able to get loose down the field for any big plays. Something that is encouraging for the fantasy value of Brown’s receivers going into next season is that they continue to show a willingness to get their playmakers the ball in different situations if the passing game is not working, as Landry was able to punch in a short touchdown on a designed run. Austin Hooper was the go-to for Mayfield on some crucial third downs, and he caught Mayfield’s only touchdown pass. Donovan Peoples-Jones was involved early, but unfortunately suffered a concussion and did not return. 


— Dan Adams (@dadams0323 on Twitter)

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