What an important game for several reasons. For one, it was against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. For another, it is a divisional game. Prior to kickoff, the Steelers were 0-0 in divisional play and 2-0 in conference games. The Browns sat at 1-1 in the division and 2-1 in conference games.
With these numbers, the damage to Cleveland would be greater than a Pittsburgh loss. The game was also considered the “Game of the Week” as far as the NFL viewed their weekly contests. CBS was ecstatic to have the telecast drop into their laps with the 4-1-0 Browns versus the 4-0-0 Steelers.
Before the game, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had beaten the Browns 22 times in his career.
In the end, it was a Pittsburgh beat-down winning easily 38-7. It was so bad that with eight minutes left in the game, CBS switched some markets from the telecast to the last three minutes of the New England - Denver game.
So, how did the Browns do? Which players performed well and who didn’t?
TE Austin Hooper - There were few bright spots on the offense. Hooper had several clutch catches and was a dependable blocker. On the first quarter pick six attempt to TE Harrison Bryant, Hooper was open in the left flats. Was Cleveland’s leading receiver with five catches for 52 yards. Had a monster 36-yard reception that kept a good Browns’ drive going which culminated with the game’s only touchdown.
LB B.J. Goodson - The veteran middle linebacker was one of the few who tackled well and made plays. 10 total tackles for the game and half a sack with one tackle for loss. Coverage on the tight end was excellent as his man Eric Ebron had just two catches for nine yards despite being a heavy target. Had some gap protection issues, though. Goodson’s half sack with S Sheldrick Redwine allowed the defense to get off the field in a key third down as Pittsburgh was driving trying to up the score to 17-0.
P Jamie Gillan - When you are called on to punt six times in a game, you know the offense just cannot move the ball. Gillan had a long of 59-yards with two downed inside the 20-yard line. His game average wasn’t that high at 40.3, but he was asked to kick several shorter punts in order to keep Pittsburgh pinned.
Third down conversations - In the first half, the Browns’ offense had seven third downs attempts. Their first conversation was with 4:05 left in the half and then Pittsburgh jumped offside on a hard count. Good drives were stalled all game by not being able to convert on this key down. The pick six was a third down as was the second interception (third-and-12) and one sack. In 11 third down opps, the Browns converted just three. Ouch.
Pocket collapses - In the first half alone, there were nine times the pocket collapsed and Baker Mayfield had to exit the pocket. Of those, seven were the standard four-man rush. One exit Mayfield threw his second interception. In the first half, Pittsburgh had three sacks, four QB hits, and three interceptions - of which only two counted. Nine different Pittsburgh defenders provided pressure. 11 pocket collapses for the game with four total sacks plus seven QB hits.
QB Baker Mayfield - Yes he was flushed from the pocket numerous times. Poor decision making on several overthrown, underthrown, off-target and into double-coverage situations which resulted in multiple first half picks. Another interception was not called because of a penalty. The running game was completely bust which meant Mayfield had to throw more which allowed the Steelers’ defensive line to tee off and ignore the run. Was finally replaced in the third quarter. Finished with 119 passing yards and connected on just 10 passes. Yes, a mere 10 pass completions.
S Andrew Sendejo - The free safety just can’t tackle and had a crucial illegal contact penalty that would have gotten the Browns’ defense off the field. With 6:17 left in the third quarter with Pittsburgh facing a third-and-one, Sendejo whiffed on the tackle of RB James Conner which allowed another first down. With 4:23 to go in the third stanza, the Steelers were on the Browns 23 yard line with a good drive but faced a third-and-four. A short pass to Conner in the left flats brought Sendejo up in an attempt to make the tackle just short of the first down requirement, yet slid off Conner who lunged forward to make the yards necessary. Five plays later Pittsburgh scored to up the ante to 31-7. For the game, Sendejo had four missed tackles and made four solo tackles.
DC Joe Woods - The Browns could not stop the middle-to-deep passes. Another crutch was containment, especially on the rightside, which was missing for most of the game. The middle of the defensive line was relocated constantly where Steelers’ RB James Conner ate up medium-sized chunks as needed. The pass rush was non-existent and despite blitzing almost every down, Pittsburgh was able to throw the ball at will. Two sacks, two tackles-for-loss and just three QB hits? The only stat worth mentioning was the five batted balls. His unit had trouble stopping third down conversions. Where was the pressure on Roethlisberger?
Offensive line - This unit was horrible all game long. Often, Pittsburgh only rushed four yet Mayfield and later Casey Keenum were seen leaving the pocket and chased. LT Jedrick Wills, Jr. could not stop Bud Dupree all game. When Steelers’ LB Devin Bush left the game with an injury, Robert Spillane filled in and terrorized Wills and LG Joel Bitonio like he was a Pro Bowler. Center J.C. Tretter could not slow down Stephon Tuitt who wore that familiar number 91. While the only running game success came through RT Jack Conklin and RG Chris Hubbard, Conklin had a key holding call that negated a good gain. On several downs, the Steelers looked like jail break. Two sacks in the first quarter alone with four total, six tackles for loss which included every fourth down attempt, four batted passes (from defensive linemen) and seven QB hits. Mayfield was pressured on 52% of his dropbacks, the highest mark of his career.
Fourth down conversions - WTF? All game, the Browns could not run against the Steelers’ front seven, yet for some reason Kevin Stefanski thought the running lanes would suddenly open and an alleyway would magically appear. The offensive line could not get any continuity, yet here was Cleveland’s offense on the field for three fourth down attempts. All of this nonsense happened in the second half. On the Browns’ second possession which began at their own 20 and down 24-7, three plays netted nine yards sitting on their own 29-yard line. Next, Kareem Hunt was nailed for minus one. Of course Pittsburgh would score again which put the game completely out of reach only halfway through Quarter 3. On the very next possession, Stefanski again went on a fourth-and-two to which Case Keenum threw a short pass behind Hunt while Pittsburgh took over at their own 45 in great field position. The very next possession. let’s just make a theme of this and go for it again at the Steelers’ 49 and lose two more yards. The O-Line couldn’t block today. Stop the bleeding. Punt the damn ball.
Milk Bones - they Josh Norman stiff-arm you, then talk about your excellent coverage skills in the presser
WR Rashard Higgins - After being AWOL for the first four games, Hollywood has had two touchdowns in the past two games.
CB Terrance Mitchell - There were some good plays, and many bad. Mitchell just could not match up with WR Chase Claypool who beat Mitchell often at opportune times. Had eight total tackles and is a sure tackler when involved in the play. His coverage skills were questioned and challenged all game long. Pittsburgh’s second TD came on a 28-yard strike to WR James Washington whom Mitchell just couldn’t stay with. The 36-yard pass completion to Claypool in the second quarter was Mitchell’s man.
Steelers opening drive - While the defense did clamp down on the Pittsburgh attack in the opening drive which resulted in a field goal, there were four missed tackles by Andrew Sendejo, Larry Ogunjobi, Kevin Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine which allowed the Steelers to keep their drive going.
LB Mack Wilson - Some dependable stops for Wilson, but his pass coverage is sketchy at best. Had four total tackles and active in the run stoppage game.
Do you think the Browns will finish the season as the third best team in the AFC North?
This poll is closed
I really think they can finish over either Pittsburgh or Baltimore