PITTSBURGH — Earlier than going through the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward stated the crew wasn’t centered particularly on focusing on quarterback Baker Mayfield‘s bruised ribs.
However he did say the plan was to inflict “good punishment.”
And that is precisely what the Steelers did, sacking Mayfield 4 occasions and intercepting him twice in a 38-7 win that gave Pittsburgh simply the second 5-0 begin in franchise historical past and first since 1978. It was additionally the Steelers’ first win towards a crew with a profitable document this season.
“That was varsity ball in the present day,” coach Mike Tomlin stated. “They stepped up and stepped up large all throughout the board.”
It wasn’t all excellent news, although, as inside linebacker and defensive playcaller Devin Bush went out with a knee harm within the second quarter. A supply informed ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the harm is an ACL tear and Bush will need season-ending surgery.
The 2019 first-round decide performed each defensive snap till the harm. He was changed by Robert Spillane, who had only one defensive snap earlier than this season.
Even with out Bush, the Steelers dominated the Browns (4-2).
“As a D-line and as a protection, you need to make certain he is serious about the push,” Heyward stated of Mayfield on Wednesday.
There’s little doubt that is precisely what Mayfield was serious about all through the sport till he was pulled late within the third quarter for Case Keenum. Mayfield was pressured on 52% of his dropbacks, the very best mark of his profession.
“Baker is a heckuva a man that desires to go on the market and struggle for this crew,” Heyward stated after the sport. “However as a D-line, as a protection, we need to have an effect on the quarterback, punish the quarterback. Good punishment, I did not imply something, to play any unlawful soccer. It is my job to get after the quarterback.”
The Steelers discovered early success with their blitz, getting a sack and a Minkah Fitzpatrick pick-six on their first two. Fitzpatrick’s interception and rating, his first of both this season, gave the Steelers a 10-0 lead just some minutes into the primary quarter.
The pick-six additionally got here on third down, a bother space for the Steelers’ protection within the earlier week’s win towards the Eagles. That wasn’t the case Sunday, because the Steelers allowed the Browns to transform simply 1 of 12 third downs and none of their three fourth-down makes an attempt.
“We had a greater plan,” Tomlin stated of the third-down success. “It begins with us as coaches after which the blokes carried out higher, they usually completed it off. However we have been each JV final week, gamers and coaches, and we acquired higher this week.”
Tomlin added of Fitzpatrick’s interception: “It despatched a message to them that third down wasn’t going to be simple sledding in the present day, and we wanted it, clearly.”
On the following drive, the Steelers compelled one other three-and-out, this time with a Bud Dupree sack of Mayfield on third-and-6.
“Baker is an efficient quarterback,” Dupree stated. “On the finish of the day, he is a kind of top-notch guys. Respect is due. We do not actually take into consideration hurting a participant. We simply exit and we hit him a few occasions. We all know his ribs harm … however we do not deliberately go in and attempt to harm someone.”
The Steelers have recorded three or extra sacks in six consecutive video games, going again to the 2019 season finale towards the Ravens. The streak ties the longest in franchise historical past with the 1994, 2001 and 2004 seasons. The Steelers are additionally solely the second crew in league historical past, becoming a member of the 1985 New York Giants, with no less than three sacks and an interception in every of their first 5 video games of the season.
Earlier than he was changed by Keenum, Mayfield accomplished 10 of 18 makes an attempt for 119 yards with one landing and two interceptions for a passer score of 54.9.
The Browns entered the sport with one of many league’s finest dashing assaults, but it surely was shut down by the Steelers, who managed to steadiness bringing strain on Mayfield with slowing Kareem Hunt higher than they did every week in the past, once they confronted operating again Miles Sanders and the Eagles.
Hunt averaged 3.1 yards per carry, selecting up 40 yards on 13 carries.
As a substitute it was the Steelers who dominated within the dashing sport, benefiting from Cleveland’s subpar safeties. James Conner racked up 101 yards on 20 carries and scored the crew’s first offensive landing for a 17-0 lead within the second quarter. Receiver Chase Claypool and operating again Benny Snell Jr. additionally managed to attain dashing touchdowns.
The Steelers’ floor sport completed with 129 yards on 37 carries and three touchdowns, whereas the protection held the Browns’ dashing assault to only 75 yards on 22 carries.
“We did not need to throw many within the second half when you will have a lead like that,” Ben Roethlisberger stated. “It felt like an previous Invoice Cowher offense.”
After posting an anemic offensive efficiency with out Roethlisberger final season, the Steelers have scored no less than 26 factors in every of their first 5 video games for the primary time in franchise historical past. Final season, the crew scored 26 or extra factors in simply 4 video games.
With a 38-7 lead because of Snell’s fourth-quarter landing, Roethlisberger went to the bench for the ultimate eight minutes of the sport, permitting Mason Rudolph to play one drive.
“It is a good soccer crew coming in right here,” Roethlisberger stated. “Our first AFC North sport. We needed to form of play good soccer. And we needed to do it on all phases, and I do not know the final time I got here out of the sport with eight minutes to go, in order that’s an excellent feeling.”