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Cleveland Browns exorcise Pittsburgh Steelers, fourth-quarter demons to move into AFC North lead

CLEVELAND — The Browns faced down a lot of demons in Thursday night’s 29-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

They faced a long-time nemesis in the Steelers. They faced a two-score fourth-quarter lead. They even faced another onside kick.

This time, unlike each of the past two games, they didn’t lose a two-score lead in the fourth quarter. They didn’t let an onside kick get recovered.

And, unlike so many times since their return to the league in 1999, they didn’t lose to the Steelers. Instead, the Browns bounced back from Sunday’s crushing loss to the New York Jets to beat Pittsburgh and earn no worse than a share of first place in the AFC North through three weeks.

Cleveland saw it go ahead by nine early in the fourth quarter at 29-14. It saw Pittsburgh pull within 23-17 with 1:57 remaining.

Then Anthony Schwartz made sure the onside kick was batted out of bounds. That’s even though the Steelers assisted in being offsides on the play, giving the ball back to the Browns.

WATCH: Steelers’ George Pickens had a catch of the year vs. the Browns

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Nick Chubb gets going in first quarter

Nick Chubb didn’t waste much time showing off his superhuman skills. On his second carry, he ripped off a 13-yard run that he closed out with a leap over a diving Steeler defender.

Chubb then set up the Browns’ first score with a 36-yard run that could’ve ended in the end zone. However, his teammate, Donovan Peoples-Jones, seemed to drag him down at the Steeler 12.

Two plays later, Jacoby Brissett hit Amari Cooper for an 11-yard touchdown strike between Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds to put Cleveland in front 7-0 with 2:57 remaining.

George Pickens’ highlight-reel catch helps Steelers tie the game

The Steelers’ deep passing game had been basically non-existent coming into the game. However, it was Mitch Trubisky’s second deep throw of the night − and a highlight-reel catch by George Pickens − that got them back to even.

Pickens was being tightly guarded by fellow rookie Martin Emerson Jr. when he pulled in a one-handed catch as he was falling down at the Browns 18. The 36-yard gain came two plays before Najee Harris’ game-tying 5-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to make it 7-7.

David Njoku finally gets fully involved in the pass game

There had been questions about how much the Browns have utilized tight end David Njoku in the passing game through the first two games. That was not the case against Pittsburgh.

Njoku saved the Browns’ second scoring drive of the first half when he had a 13-yard grab on third-and-4 from the Cleveland 27. A play earlier, a long completion to Cooper was negated by an illegal-touching penalty because he had run out of bounds and then was the first to touch it.

Njoku had two more catches on the drive for a total of 16 yards. That included the 7-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone that gave the Browns a 13-7 lead with 8:58 remaining.

The first three plays of the next series were also catches by Njoku for 35 yards. He would be targeted seven times, catching all seven, for 69 first-half yards.

Njoku finished with nine catches for 89 yards.

David Njoku makes a first-half touchdown catch over Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds.

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West end of stadium a tough one for kickers

The west end of the stadium proved to be an adventure for kickers on both teams in the first half. Both missed kicks due to a stiff wind at that end.

Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell missed a 49-yard field goal on his team’s second possession wide right. Cade York, meanwhile, hit the upright on his second point-after kick of the night to keep the Browns’ lead at 13-7.

Steelers lean on Browns defense on second scoring drive

Pittsburgh went to old-school Steeler offense to take a 14-13 lead in the second quarter. The 10-play, 75-yard drive featured eight running plays, including a recovered fumble at the end of one, that netted 51 yards.

The Steelers capped the drive with a 1-yard Trubisky run. Boswell’s extra point gave Pittsburgh its only lead of the night.

Injuries rattle Browns defense in third quarter

The Browns suffered a significant injury in the third quarter when linebacker and co-captain Anthony Walker Jr. suffered a left knee injury and was carted off the field. It appeared he was stepped on by Steelers right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor stepped on his lower leg.

Adding insult to injury, Okorafor was called for ineligible man downfield on the play.

Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah also suffered a quad injury and defensive tackle Taven Bryan suffered a hamstring injury during the same series. Both did not return.

Cade York gets redemption for missed kicks with go-ahead field goal

York had a pair of misses between late in Sunday’s loss to the Jets and on the Browns’ second touchdown Thursday. With 2:34 left in the third quarter, he was able to make amends in a way.

York made his sixth field goal of the season when he put through a 34-yard field goal to give Cleveland a 16-14 lead.

Nick Chubb gives Cleveland Browns a two-score lead

Nick Chubb was criticized by some for scoring to give the Browns a two-score lead in Sunday’s game with 1:55 remaining. Thursday night, Chubb once again gave Cleveland a two-score lead, and there was no disputing why he would do what he did this time.

With 9:29 left in the game, the Browns faced fourth-and-goal from the Pittsburgh 1. Chubb took the ball and leaped into the air and twisted into the end zone for a touchdown for a 23-14 lead.

Jacob Phillips with a pair of nice defensive plays for Browns

Linebacker Jacob Phillips made a pair of late plays on defense to help the Browns. On third-and-3 for Pittsburgh at its own 13, he recorded a sack of Trubisky to force a punt with just under five minutes left.

On the next drive, Phillips broke up a pass intended for Pat Freiermuth on third down. The Steelers would settle for a 34-yard Boswell field goal to pull within 23-17 with 1:48 remaining.

Follow Chris Easterling on Twitter @ceasterlingABJ.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Browns beat Pittsburgh Steelers, move into AFC North lead

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