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Behind backup QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Browns get better of rival Steelers

Myles Garrett and the Browns defense held Kenny Pickett and Pittsburgh to 249 total yards, making it the 10th time this season the Steelers were outgained by their opponent.Nick Cammett/Getty

CLEVELAND — As Dorian Thompson-Robinson sat in the back of a golf cart swiping through text messages overwhelming his phone, wide receiver Elijah Moore slid into an empty seat behind Cleveland’s rookie quarterback.

“I’m going to sit next to the man,” Moore said.

Thompson-Robinson laughed. A most unexpected star.

Delivering on a promise to improve in his second NFL start, Thompson-Robinson completed four straight passes on a clutch drive to set up Dustin Hopkins’s 34-yard field goal with 2 seconds left that gave Cleveland a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Thompson-Robinson’s late performance rallied the Browns (7-3) just days after the team was rocked by losing franchise QB Deshaun Watson for the season with a shoulder injury.


With the crowd chanting “D-T-R!” and Watson watching from Cleveland’s sideline in sweats, Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round pick from UCLA, calmly completed four passes for 39 yards before Hopkins put away the Steelers (6-4).

When his kick sailed through the uprights, Thompson-Robinson squatted and was overwhelmed by emotion, needing to wipe away tears of joy.

“Yeah, man, I’m super happy,” said Thompson-Robinson, who screamed himself hoarse by barking out plays in the huddle. “I’m glad that I can get this one for my teammates.”

It was a stunning turnaround for Thompson-Robinson, who until those final moments had done little to think he was capable of a comeback.

His stats weren’t great — 24 of 43 for 165 yards with a pick — and he had a few passes dropped, but most importantly, Thompson-Robinson only had one turnover after throwing three interceptions in his debut on Oct. 1.

“He came through,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “He made some big plays throughout that drive, made big plays throughout the game. I know it wasn’t perfect at all times, but he came through when it mattered.”


The Browns have beaten the Ravens and Steelers in consecutive weeks for the first time in 15 tries. And Thompson-Robinson’s performance, though at times ragged, has given Cleveland hope this season can still be special without Watson, who will undergo surgery this week.

For the first time this season, the Steelers lost a close one. Pittsburgh was outgained for the 10th straight week and QB Kenny Pickett (106 yards) couldn’t do much against Cleveland’s top-ranked defense, which forced nine punts.

“We’ll learn from this,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’ll be back.”

Steelers running back Jaylen Warren was one of the few bright spots with a 74-yard TD run and career-high 129 yards.

Pittsburgh turned to its always reliable defense in the second half and did a nice job shutting down Thompson-Robinson until the final moments.

Cleveland took over at its 35 with 1:18 left and the rookie QB completed passes of 15, 5, 8, and 11 yards to move the Browns to Pittsburgh’s 34. The Steelers were called for a neutral zone infraction, moving the ball closer for Hopkins’s winner.

But Thompson-Robinson had done the heavy lifting.

“He’s a warrior,” said Browns tight end David Njoku, who had several drops. “It’s not easy being in his shoes, especially being a rookie. He got the job done.”

The second half turned into a battle of the defenses and field possession. The Steelers inexplicably took Warren off the field for one series before he had two nice runs to set up Chris Boswell’s 28-yard field goal that tied it at 10 with 7:40 left.


After gaining just 64 yards in the first half, the Steelers picked up 74 on their second snap of the third quarter. Warren took a quick pitch, made a cut on the right side, stepped through cornerback Greg Newsome II’s tackle attempt, and outran all of Cleveland’s defenders for Pittsburgh’s longest play this season and longest run since 2014.

Myles Garrett set the tone for Cleveland’s defense, sacking Pickett on Pittsburgh’s first play and dropping him in the end zone for an apparent safety. However, the officials ruled the Steelers QB’s forward progress was at the 1, and Stefanski was too late in challenging the call.

Stefanski was quicker with his flag a few minutes later, getting Jerome Ford’s short run from the 1 changed from a goal-line stop to a touchdown.