What We Saw: Week 8

It's backup QB SZN

Steelers @ Browns

Final Score: Steelers 15, Browns 10

Writer: Ryan Radel (@RadelFF on Twitter)

 

Happy Halloween! I’m not sure what’s spookier, the costumes I saw tonight while dishing out candy, or knowing that this game was an exhilarating 3-3 at halftime. The Browns and the Steelers have one of the longest-standing rivalries in the NFL, and the games between these two, while not always close, are usually very physical. Today was no exception. Even with an underwhelming score of 3-3 going into the half, this game was still fun to watch. There weren’t as many highlight plays on offense as we would like to see when a game has a 43-point over/under, but the few that did happen were electric. Steelers’ Tight End Pat Freiermuth stole the show with a bananas touchdown grab in the back of the end zone as the Steelers ultimately won this low-scoring affair.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Quarterback

 

Ben Roethlisberger 22/34, 266 yards, TD, 2 sacks, 1 fumble | 1 carry, 0 yards

 

Ben Roethlisberger defaults to being a game manager at this point in his career as it suits the roster the Steelers currently have. With his football IQ, doing so comes easy. While he did get brought down twice for sacks, he otherwise looked very comfortable all game and took what the defense gave him. Fantasy-wise it was a fairly lackluster day with only one touchdown, but on the field, Ben looked great. He even called his own number on a touchdown run up the middle that was called back due to offensive holding. It was surprising to see how youthful he looked out there. In the end, his ability to control the ball won Pittsburgh the game.

 

Running Back

 

Najee Harris: 26 carries, 91 yards, TD | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 29 yards

Anthony McFarland Jr.: 1 carry, 1 yard

Benny Snell Jr.: 1 target, 1 reception, 7 yards

Kalen Ballage: 1 carry, -3 yards

 

While three other running backs had touches on the day, Najee Harris was and will remain the clear bell-cow back in Pittsburgh. I was very impressed with Najee’s patience, as the Browns’ formidable defensive line does not give up holes right away, but Najee waited for the lane and hit the hole hard. It’s rare to see a running back get as many carries as Najee does while also being able to catch effectively. The Steelers will continue to rely on Najee to churn yards as Ben takes occasional strikes downfield. Even in this low scoring game, Najee neared 30 touches and rewarded his fantasy managers with a score:

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Chase Claypool: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 45 yards | 2 carries, 16 yards

Diontae Johnson: 13 targets, 6 receptions, 98 yards

Pat Freiermuth: 7 targets, 4 receptions, 44 yards, TD

Zach Gentry: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 39 yards

James Washington: 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards

Ray-Ray McCloud: 1 carry, 10 yards, Fumble

 

The usual suspects were at work among the Pittsburgh receivers. Chase Claypool was busy in the red zone with multiple plays drawn up for him, including a run where he was tackled just a few yards short of a score. Diontae Johnson continues to be a target hog; he was held to six receptions on a whopping 13 targets but still turned those six receptions into 98 yards. One of those receptions iced the game for the Steelers when DJ caught a first down pass and took it over 30 yards, allowing his team to run the rest of the clock out without worry. The Browns corners played excellent defense on DJ but he was still able to get loose for some important catches. With Eric Ebron hurt, Pat Freiermuth saw extra targets and turned one of them into a score.  The Browns secondary had him smothered but he showed great concentration on this incredible touchdown snag:

 

 

Cleveland Browns

 

Quarterback

 

Baker Mayfield: 20/31, 225 yards, 4 sacks | 1 carry, 5 yards

 

On the scoreboard, it shows 11 incompletions for Baker Mayfield, but at least half of those were outright drops by his receivers today. He did miss on a few passes and seemed to be throwing high all day, but several balls went careening off of the hands of his receivers – more than once were in big-play situations where the Browns needed a catch to keep their drive alive. When the Browns were in a situation to score, it never seemed to materialize.  Baker still is not himself, but he’s trying to play through the injury as best he can. He needs some help from his receivers. Baker still seems to be holding onto the ball too long, as evident by the four sacks, but it enables him to extend plays and make stuff like this happen:

 

 

Running Back

 

Nick Chubb: 16 carries, 61 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards

D’Ernest Johnson: 4 carries, 22 yards, TD | 3 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards

Demetric Felton: 1 carry, 3 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards

 

The running back room in Cleveland is sorely missing Kareem Hunt. The Steelers’ defense is a key to their success and it’s tough to have a good day on the ground against them, but you want to see more out of this rushing attack. Nick Chubb had a few nice runs but was otherwise pedestrian all game, with minimal carries in the entire third quarter. It seemed like Stefanski couldn’t make up his mind on whether or not he wanted to commit to Chubb which made it difficult for Chubb to get into a rhythm – which is when he does his best work. This is a unit that typically puts up 150+ yards from scrimmage, while today they managed barely over 100. An otherwise disappointing showing from this group was redeemed by D’Ernest Johnson, who was able to convert this 10-yard run for a score in the third quarter:

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Jarvis Landry: 10 targets, 5 receptions, 65 yards, Fumble (Lost) | 1 carry, 5 yards

Austin Hooper: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 26 yards

Odell Beckham Jr.: 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards

David Njoku: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 39 yards

Harrison Bryant: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 33 yards

Rashard Higgins: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 27 yards

 

This was, by far, Jarvis Landry‘s worst game as a Cleveland Brown. I am not sure if it was injury, great defense, or bad throws, but he was simply off when the Browns needed him the most. While he caught 50% of his targets, at least two of them were outright drops by Jarvis and both were in important moments. If you know Jarvis Landry, you know that is not his usual body of work. Odell Beckham Jr. continues to be a total afterthought. The box score shows a single target, and while I do blame Baker and Stefanski for not finding ways to get him the ball, I also don’t see Odell winning on any of his routes. The separation simply isn’t there and I am curious to see what OBJ’s future in Cleveland looks like. With the offensive line healthy, the tight end group had their usual distribution of targets with all of Hooper, Njoku, and Bryant contributing throughout the game. Austin Hooper had a pretty bad drop early in the game that could’ve potentially been a big play. I’m not sure if it was the play calling, rivalry jitters, bad throws, good defense, or some combination of the above, but this receiving group had some major issues today. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out in Cleveland. This group needs some help.

 

 

— Ryan Radel (@RadelFF on Twitter) 

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