Off The Bench, Chykie Brown Saves The Day


The end to the latest chapter of the classic Ravens-Steelers rivalry felt a lot like Super Bowl XLVII, even to Head Coach John Harbaugh.

"We called some of the same calls we called in the Super Bowl, as a matter of fact," Harbaugh said.

With Jimmy Smith on the sideline following a nasty collision with Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, reserve cornerback Chykie Brown was called on to cover Pittsburgh receiver Emmanuel Sanders on the final, game-deciding two-point conversion.

In the Super Bowl, it was Smith who made a name for himself by locking down the 49ers' Michael Crabtree on a critical fourth-down incompletion on the goal line. This time, it was Browns' turn.

"When they put the game on your shoulder, it's special," Brown said.

"I'm always the guy that's a play away from being in for the [starter]. I'm always ready and I always tell Coach [Harbaugh], 'Any time you need me and my number is called, I'm ready.' And it showed tonight."

The Steelers needed to score on a two-point conversion from 2 yards out to tie the game. Brown lined up in press coverage against Sanders, who had six catches for 43 yards, including a touchdown, already in the game.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked Sanders' way three times, including right before the snap. That made Brown feel like they were targeting him. And based off his film study, he figured it might be a back-shoulder throw.

"I knew they were coming after the guy that was fresh off the bench," Brown said. "This was the last play that was going to win the game, and I knew they were coming my way. I knew that I was on an island with him. He's a really good receiver, but I had to make the play to win the game."

Roethlisberger got the snap and immediately tossed it to Sanders. There was no progression or hesitation. They were going at Brown. It was a back-shoulder throw, which is probably the hardest to defend for an NFL cornerback.

Brown took away the inside slant with his positioning and scampered outside to recover. He had no chance of making a play on the quick throw so he just got his hands up to try to make it a hard reception. The pass went through Sanders' arms and to the turf. Game (essentially) over.

"I wasn't going to let [Sanders] be successful. I was going to take away his inside, play really hard on the inside and make him throw it up top," Brown said. "Just me being between him and the ball, it made it a tough catch for him."

Brown felt like he had to atone for a mistake earlier in the game. After cornerback Corey Graham was shaken up defending a deep pass, Brown came into the game. Roethlisberger immediately looked receiver Antonio Brown's way and Brown tried to be physical at the line. He whiffed, however, leaving Brown wide-open for an easy 19-yard completion. Graham came back in on the very next play.

"I made a mistake. I was fresh in the game, I tried to go be physical with him," Brown said. "I got a chance to make up for it; that's the best thing about the game. It's not how you start but how you finish."

Brown has been a reserve throughout his three years in the league. The former fifth-round pick out of Texas has gained more and more confidence from the coaches, but doesn't see a ton of action in a talent-laden cornerback corps.

On Thursday night, Brown saw three snaps. He's had 32 all season and made nine tackles.

"Great job by Chykie," Harbaugh said. "Chykie's been playing very well technique-wise, and practice for about the last two months has really been good. So, you expect him to play well when he gets out there."

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