Season-shaping plays: Justin Brown's lost fumble


This is the second in a series that looks at 17 plays that shaped the Pittsburgh Steelers' season -- one from every game.

For this series we will go in chronological order.

No. 1: Le'Veon Bell's 38-yard touchdown run in a 30-27 win over the Cleveland Browns.

No, 2: Wide receiver Justin Brown's lost fumble after a 6-yard reception.

The setting: The Steelers got off to a good start after renewing their rivalry against the Ravens in Baltimore in a Thursday night game. They drove 58 yards after the opening kickoff, taking advantage of a roughing the passer penalty on Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw and later converting on third-and-14 to move deep into Baltimore territory.

The play: The Steelers went four wide, flexing out tight end Heath Miller from the Ravens' 22-yard line, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a short pass to a wide-open Brown in the middle of the field. A couple of Ravens tacklers met Brown at the 16-yard line and inside linebacker Daryl Smith punched the ball out with his right hand while wrapping up Brown. The Ravens recovered the fumble at their own 15-yard line and the Steelers' turnover set the tone for the game. Quarterback Joe Flacco led the Ravens on a 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive after the turnover, giving Baltimore control of a game they went onto win 26-6 at M&T Bank Stadium.

What it meant for the bigger picture: The lost fumble wasn't the beginning of the end for Brown, who opened the season as the No. 3 wide receiver after spending the 2013 season on the Steelers' practice squad. But it signaled that the Steelers needed more behind eventual All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown. Rookie Martavis Bryant eventually filled the void, catching eight touchdown passes in the regular season despite playing in only 10 games. Brown caught 12 passes for 94 yards but only dressed just two times after the Steelers' sixth game of the season. The Steelers released Brown on Dec. 30 to make room on the 53-man roster for running back Ben Tate. Brown remains unsigned.