The Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith knew what was coming. Maybe the Cleveland Browns should have, too. It was the same thing that always seems to happen when they visit Pittsburgh in the regular season — a loss. Although, this one painful was in multiple ways.
The Steelers star linebackers combined for a scoop-and-score midway through the fourth quarter to pull out an improbable 26-22 victory on Monday night.
The Steelers extended their regular-season home winning streak against their American Football Conference North rivals to 20 and counting in a victory overshadowed by a serious left knee injury to Cleveland star running back Nick Chubb.
The four-time Pro Bowler’s sixth NFL season ended two plays into the second quarter after his knee bent awkwardly when he was hit low by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. He went to the hospital as a precaution before returning to Cleveland.
“We feel for Nick as a person,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “He’s a great football player as we know and an even better person. We will support him every step of the way.”
Even with their leader sidelined, the Browns were protecting a three-point lead and facing second and nine at their own 20 with 7 minutes, 6 seconds remaining when Watt and Highsmith went to work. The two longtime teammates sensed a play-action pass was coming, so they widened their stance a little bit in an effort to get a better attack angle off the edge.
Photo: Philip G. Pavely-USA Today
Highsmith — who began the night with a 30-yard pick-six on the first offensive snap — blew past Browns left tackle Jedrick Wills and chopped the ball out of DeShaun Watson’s hands as the Cleveland quarterback ran to his right. The Browns’ fourth and final turnover ended up in the hands of Watt, who ran untouched across the goal line before high-stepping in celebration.
“Splash,” Watt said. “I think that’s what we talk about is creating splash as a defense.”
And the Browns went splat, an annual event in Pittsburgh for two decades, save for a breathtaking upset in the first round of the 2020 playoffs.
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