Sione Takitaki’s interception with just over three minutes to play in the Cleveland Browns’ 48-37 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers all but sealed the victory Sunday night during NFL wild card weekend.
It also earned the former BYU linebacker a well-earned shoutout from the icon of Cleveland sports, LeBron James.
Takitaki had a memorable night for the Browns in their first playoff win in 26 years, as he finished with three tackles, a pass deflection and the late interception.
With 3:25 to play and the Steelers facing a first-and-10 from their own 40 down 45-29, Takitaki stepped in front of a Ben Roethlisberger pass and intercepted it at the Pittsburgh 48, then returned it 23 yards to the 25. That set up Cleveland’s final score, a 37-yard field goal, following Roethlisberger’s fourth interception of the game.
It was the second interception of the year for Takitaki, a second-year pro.
Takitaki wasn’t the only Utah tie who intercepted Roethlisberger. In the second quarter, former Salem Hills standout Porter Gustin laid out for an interception. With Pittsburgh trailing 28-0 and facing a third-and-2 in Cleveland territory, fellow Browns defensive lineman Vincent Taylor got a hand on a Roethlisberger pass, and the defensive end Gustin dove to make the interception.
Gustin also had a pass deflection in what, like Takitaki, was his first playoff appearance.
Through one round of the 2020 NFL playoffs, there are 22 players with Utah ties on NFL rosters for teams still playing for a right to reach the Super Bowl. There were 34 heading into this year’s postseason.
Seven of the eight teams who will play in next weekend’s divisional round have a Utah tie on their roster, whether it’s on the active roster, practice squad or a reserve list.
The University of Utah leads the way with eight former Utes on NFL teams still alive in the playoffs. BYU follows with five, while Utah State has four and Weber State two.
Six Utah high schools are still represented, with one player each from Orem, American Fork, Bingham, Salem Hills, Judge Memorial and Lone Peak.
Here’s a look at how other Utah ties on active rosters performed on Sunday:
Ravens 20, Titans 13
- Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah: Did not play (elevated from practice squad for wild card weekend).
- No Utah ties on active roster.
Saints 21, Bears 9
- Kaden Elliss, LB, Judge Memorial High: Played as a reserve.
- Chase Hansen, LB, Utah and Lone Peak High: 1 special teams tackle (elevated from practice squad for wild card weekend).
- Taysom Hill, QB, BYU: 4 carries, 15 yards; 2 receptions, 5 yards; 1 fumble lost.
- Marcus Williams, FS, Utah: Started at free safety, 3 solo tackles.
- Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah: Not active for game.
- Patrick Scales, LS, Utah State and Weber High: 1 special teams tackle while playing as team’s long snapper.
Browns 48, Steelers 37
- Brian Allen, CB, Utah: Not active for game.
- Porter Gustin, DE, Salem Hills High: See above.
- Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU: See above.
- No Utah ties on roster.