You know that time in your life as a kid where you finally had a chance to sit at the big kids’ table or the adults’ table but realized you weren’t ready? That was the Cleveland Browns against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The game was an utter embarrassment to watch as the Browns were beaten on both sides of the ball, and have reverted back to that “decent but not great” team they’d been for some time.
Cleveland couldn’t help the injuries they suffered, but that’s only an excuse for so long.
The Steelers started the game off on offense and almost went three-and-out, but James Washington caught a great pass over the head of Terrance Mitchell and kept the drive moving. After an incomplete pass, the ball was handed off to James Conner for a first down into Cleveland territory. A few more runs followed by two incomplete passes and the Browns defense held strong in the red zone and allowed only a field goal.
If only it was like that for the entire game… if only.
The Browns started the drive with a run up the middle by Kareem Hunt, followed by a six-yard scramble by Baker Mayfield to set up 3rd-and-short. On a quick pass intended for Harrison Bryant, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted the pass and ran it back 28 yards for a pick-six.
(This is only the beginning of the dumpster fire, so get ready.)
On the following possession on 3rd-and-7, Mayfield stepped up to make a throw and instead was sacked by Bud Dupree to force fourth down. The Steelers offense still looked rusty on their next drive and went three-and-out after Ben Roethlisberger was sacked by Sheldrick Redwine and B. J. Goodson. The third drive by the Browns started with a nice play-action pass to Bryant, followed up with a couple runs by Hunt, but then Mayfield wasa sacked again by Dupree to bring up a 3rd-and-10, ending with a high throw intended for Odell Beckham, Jr. out of bounds. The Steelers failed to gain a first down and the quarter ended with the Browns moving into Steelers territory.
The second quarter began on the Steelers 37-yard line, and after an incomplete pass on third down, the offense had no faith in their kicker. After a false start on fourth down, the Browns punted the ball away and pinned the Steelers at the 12-yard line. In typical Steelers fashion, they marched down the field on the backs of Conner and rookie receiver Chase Claypool with a ridiculous catch to the two-yard line. The drive finished with a two-yard run to go up 17-0.
The Browns offense continued to have a few good plays, only to be negated by a massively bad play; in this case, the drive was ended by a Mayfield interception intended for Rashard Higgins but intercepted by Cameron Sutton at midfield. A sputtering offense mixed with a sputtering defense is definitely not how you win games, and within two plays, the Steelers scored another touchdown to a wide-open James Washington, putting Pittsburgh up 24-0 with six minutes in the second quarter. Like I mentioned before, a dumpster fire.
The next Browns drive was actually not a bad one, as a few runs by Hunt were complemented by a nice 36-yard pass to Austin Hooper to move into Steelers territory again, capitalizing on an illegal contact call against Joe Haden with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Higgins to prevent a shutout.
The dumpster fire rages on, however.
The Browns started with the football to begin the third quarter, but nothing much happened. After a second-down sack by Dupree and T.J. Watt, alongside a negative run, the Browns punted from inside their own end zone and the Steelers started with excellent field position. Luckily, the Steelers didn’t get any points off of the short field and the Browns began their next drive from their own 20-yard line.
Like clockwork, the Browns offense couldn’t move the football, and after a failed conversion by Hunt on fourth-and-one, the Steelers took over on the Browns 35-yard line. A few rushes by Conner and backup Benny Snell moved the Steelers to the goal line, capped off by a handoff to Claypool for a short touchdown run to put the score up 31-7 going into the fourth quarter.
Mayfield went to the bench, not only for poor play, but his rib injury became too much for him to tolerate. Case Keenum came in to finish the game, but had about as much success as you would expect from a backup. The Steelers marched down the field, and after a good catch and run by Claypool to put the offense in goal-to-go, Snell rushed in for a touchdown to utterly embarrass this Browns defense. The Cleveland offense attempted another drive, but failed on another fourth-down attempt and the Steelers took over again. Pittsburgh drained as much clock as possible before giving the ball back to Cleveland, who then failed to score any more points on the day.
The Browns couldn’t handle a great team and that’s okay. They still have 10 games left on the season, and we know the team has the talent and ability. They ultimately need to be able to take advantage of that against these great teams to have a chance to continue their success.
It’s a tough loss, for sure. But now, in the wise words of Bill Belichick, “We’re onto Cincinnati.”
(Featured Image Credit: Steelers.com)