PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' season has come to an end following a disappointing 48-37 Wild Card round loss to the Cleveland Browns.
A game that started with a high snap over the head of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and into the hands of a Browns defender for six points didn't turn around. The Steelers fell to a 28-0 deficit in the first quarter before finding themselves trailing 35-10 at halftime - eventually trying to climb themselves out of an early hole.
The solo playoff performance was hard-fought, showing signs of a comeback through most of the second half. The Steelers climbed themselves back to a 12-point margin before Baker Mayfield found Nick Chubb for a 40-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the charge for the Steelers but ultimately struggled in his solo playoff performance. The 38-year-old completed47 passes for 501 yards but threw four interceptions.
Running back James Conner boosted his offseason stock in what might be his final game as a Steeler. The 2021 unrestricted free agent totaled 37 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 30 as a receiver.
JuJu Smith-Schuster led all receivers, catching 12 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, followed by Diontae Johnson (117), James Washington (72), Eric Ebron (62) and Chase Claypool (59).
The story was not one of success for the Steelers, though. The Browns offense tallied 393 yards and scored 48 points all without their head coach and offensive play-caller.
After testing positive for COVID-19 during the week, Kevin Stefanski was unable to join his team in Pittsburgh for their playoff opener. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer took over as active coach, while Alex Van Pelt called the offensive plays.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield finished with 263 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry being his favorite target with five receptions, 92 yards and a score.
Nick Chubb (76) and Kareem Hunt (48) combined for 124 yards and three touchdowns.
The Browns will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Steelers head to the offseason. They now prepare to negotiate more than a handful of contracts, including Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, a possible T.J. Watt extension, and 22 others.