Jones leads backup brigade as Steelers top Browns 27-24
PITTSBURGH (AP) Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown stood on the sideline in sweatsuits already thinking about the playoffs.
No matter, their understudies kept up a late-season tradition unlike any other.
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers always beat the Cleveland Browns.
Backup quarterback Landry Jones hit Cobi Hamilton in the left corner of the end zone with 2:57 left in overtime as Pittsburgh rallied by the Browns 27-24 on Sunday.
After Cleveland took a three-point lead on its first possession of the extra period, Jones deftly led the Steelers 75 yards in nine plays, the last a pretty lob that Hamilton ran under to give Pittsburgh (11-5) its seventh straight victory overall and 13th consecutive at home against the Browns.
''For a game like this, to show that we can get open and we can make plays too it kind of shows for the fans, for the coaches and across the league,'' said Hamilton, a former practice squad player who finished with three receptions for 54 yards and his second career score.
Jones, who will become a free agent in the offseason, took time to get going but came on late to help dig Pittsburgh out of an early two-touchdown deficit to earn his first victory in a game he played from start to finish.
''It was hard the way that we won,'' Jones said. ''But in the end, for a quarterback to do it in overtime, to do it on the last drive and to throw a pass like that - those are the things you dream about. I think for me that was just a big deal in my career.''
Jones finished 24 of 37 for 277 yards with three touchdowns and an interception despite getting sacked four times.
''He's just a good quarterback,'' Hamilton said. ''It's not really reps. He knows how to throw the ball. It's nothing special we did. It's kind of what we do every day in practice.''
Fitting, since for long stretches in the first half it seemed as if the AFC North champions - already assured of the third seed when the postseason begins at home against Miami next weekend - played as if nothing was on the line.
The defense allowed the Browns (1-15) to move up the field with relative ease and the offense did practically nothing until rookie safety Sean Davis recovered Robert Griffin's fumble late in the first half that gave Pittsburgh the jolt it needed to get back in the game.
Still, it appeared the Steelers were in trouble when Jones threw into double coverage in the third quarter and Cleveland cornerback Brien Boddy-Calhoun zigzagged 67 yards the other way.
Boddy-Calhoun tried to stretch for the goal line to restore Cleveland's two-touchdown lead only to have Pittsburgh wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey swat the ball out of Boddy-Calhoun's hands.
Jones fell on it for a touchback and the Steelers responded by going right down the field to tie the game on the second of DeAngelo Williams' two touchdowns.
''I was going for the tackle,'' Heyward-Bey said. ''But defenders never hold the ball well or that often so when I saw the ball slip out I just kind of threw a little punch at it.''
Heyward-Bey later added a 46-yard reception to set up a touchdown and the Steelers benefited from another mistake-prone performance by Cleveland.
Pittsburgh was outgained 437-312 and allowed 231 yards on the ground, but forced a fumble with a minute to go in regulation to preserve a tie and then sent the Browns backward after Cleveland had first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 2 on the opening possession of overtime, forcing the Browns to settle for a field goal.
''It's good to know that your backups or somebody behind you is willing to come in and do something like you or even better,'' linebacker Lawrence Timmons said.
''As a team that's going to make you strong, especially as you go down the stretch. Playoffs, injuries happen, just to know you have that guy in the back, that's going to make you better.''
The Steelers were rolling at 4-1 when they went to Miami on Oct. 16. The Dolphins promptly ran them over in a 30-15 thumping that saw Roethlisberger leave with a left knee injury, the first loss in a four-game spiral that seemed to put Pittsburgh's promising season in serious jeopardy.
Pittsburgh insists it's not the team it was nearly three months ago.
Still, the Steelers are plenty wary after serving as the coming out party for Miami running back Jay Ajayi, who ran for 204 yards and two scores.
''They ran for 200 yards, enough said there,'' Timmons said. ''We can't allow that at all. That's not what we stand for.''
The Steelers already banged up defensive line took another hit. Ricardo Mathews left with an ankle injury and did not return. Rookie Javon Hargrave went into the concussion protocol in the second half. He was cleared and returned for one more series, but spent the rest of the game on the bench. Hargrave missed a game last month because of a concussion.
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