CLEVELAND -- Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to tight end Jesse James on Sunday at Cleveland's FirstEnergy Field to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 21-18 victory over the Browns in the season-opening game for both teams.
The Steelers tried to set the tone quickly. They deferred after winning the coin toss, drove the Browns backward on three plays and then blocked a punt by Britton Colquitt. Linebacker Tyler Matakevich knifed through the middle of the line to swat the ball and Anthony Chickillo fell on it in the end zone for the touchdown.
The Browns settled down after another shaky possession in which rookie DeShone Kizer was sacked twice before tying the score on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Kizer. The key play in the 68-yard drive was a 21-yard pass interference penalty on Steelers safety Sean Davis at the Pittsburgh 4-yard line. Kizer scored two plays later.
The first half was a clash of defenses for the most part, but then with 45 seconds left in the first quarter, the Steelers took a 14-7 lead on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to James.
The Steelers had 62 yards of offense until the scoring drive that started at the Steelers 9. Antonio Brown had 80 yards on three receptions on the drive -- one of them 50 yards on a pass deflected by linebacker Joe Schobert over the middle.
The Browns cut the deficit to 14-10 on a 24-yard field goal by rookie Zane Gonzalez with 9:27 left in the third quarter.
The Steelers expanded their advantage to 21-10 on the following possession when Roethlisberger hooked up with James for a 2-yard pass out of an empty backfield. Roethlisberger got excellent protection on the play and found James in front of Schobert.
The Steelers made life miserable for the Browns quarterback -- this time Kizer. They sacked the rookie seven times and then snuffed out a drive late in the third quarter when linebacker T.J. Watt intercepted a pass on the Pittsburgh 17.
A 3-yard touchdown pass from Kizer to Corey Coleman and a two-point conversion by running back Isaiah Crowell cut the Steelers lead to 21-18 with 3:36 to play, but the Browns did not get the ball back.
NOTES: CB Joe Haden, who was cut by the Browns on Aug. 30, started for the Steelers. He just missed picking off a pass in the second quarter. ... Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell, in his first game after missing the preseason in a contract dispute, carried 10 times for 32 yards. ... Cleveland T Joe Thomas, who has never missed a snap with the Browns, started his 161st straight game on Sunday. ... QB Cody Kessler, who was 0-8 as a starter last season with the Browns, was inactive. QB Kevin Hogan, with no NFL starts, backed up rookie DeShone Kizer.