The Cleveland Browns’ disappointing season hit a new low on Monday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers, losing by a score of 26-14. It almost makes you feel a bit foolish for being so frustrated that the Bengals defeated the Chiefs on Sunday, because we had built up the blind hope that had that outcome been different, Cleveland could’ve controlled their own destiny to winning the division.
Instead, we saw Baker Mayfield with a stat line of 1-of-10 for 20 yards for much of the first half, and he finished the game being sacked 9 times. Once again, Cleveland failed to have any in-game adjustments, allowing James Hudson to be abused at right tackle over and over. Austin Hooper couldn’t seem to catch a pass to save his life. And while the defense kept the Browns in the game, ultimately, they allowed Najee Harris to run 28 times for 188 yards, and Ben Roethlisberger got the honor of being able to take a victory formation knee for his final snap at Heinz Field as if the red carpet was rolled out for him.
Let’s get to the recap of the game. Mid-way through the first quarter, Nick Chubb ripped off a 32-yard run to get into Pittsburgh territory:
A false start by Hooper on 3rd-and-2 pushed the ball back to the 37 yard line, and Mayfield’s passes on third and fourth down fell incomplete for a turnover on downs. When Pittsburgh got the ball, they also turned it over on downs from the 36 yard line when Ben Roethlisberger’s pass for tight end Pat Freiermuth was incomplete. Cleveland could not sustain a drive to end the first quarter, as T.J. Watt tipped a pass on second down and then sacked Mayfield on third down.
The Browns’ defense cost themselves in the second quarter. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney tackled wide receiver Chase Claypool shy of a first down on third down, which would’ve set up 4th-and-7 from the 33 yard line. Pittsburgh probably would’ve tried a field goal, but Clowney had grabbed Claypool’s shoe off on the tackle and then chucked it, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. A few plays later, Roethlisberger hit wide receiver Dionte Johnson on a quick hitter for a 5-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead.
Mid-way through the second quarter, Mayfield rolled to his left and was intercepted trying to zip a ball in to wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, despite the fact that tight end David Njoku was open underneath him:
That helped lead to a 22-yard field goal by K Chris Boswell, extending the Steelers’ lead to 10-0 with three minutes to go in the first half. The Browns’ two-minute drive seemed to have something going when Mayfield connected with Peoples-Jones for 22 yards. But on 3rd-and-2 from the 39 yard line, Watt sacked Mayfield again, leading to another punt. Cornerback A.J. Green intercepted Roethlisberger to end the first half.
Cleveland got the ball to begin the second half, but went three-and-out. The Steelers tacked on a 30-yard field goal with Boswell mid-way through the third quarter to increase their lead to 13-0. After another dismal offensive series, the defense came up with their biggest play of the game when Clowney sacked Roethlisberger on third down back at the 4 yard line. The Browns nearly blocked the punt, but still took over near midfield. On first down, Mayfield hit Peoples-Jones over the middle for a 39-yard catch-and-run down to the 9 yard line. Three plays later, the fade to Njoku went for a touchdown to make it a 13-7 game with 0:56 remaining in the third quarter.
The defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense got a chance at one play before the end of the quarter. It was a sack on Mayfield for a loss of five yards. But a 21-yard connection to Hooper had the Browns at midfield to begin the fourth quarter. Just when there was a bit of hope, the offensive line was flagged for holding, leading to another Cleveland punt. Boswell later added a 50-yard field goal, giving the Steelers a two-possession lead again at 16-7 with 9:51 remaining.
Cleveland’s next drive? Chubb hit for a loss of 2 yards, Mayfield sacked for a loss of 5 yards, holding on the offensive line, and a false start, all of which set up 3rd-and-30. Lovely. The Browns had no choice but to punt, and Pittsburgh tacked on a 48-yard field goal with 5:52 remaining to go up 19-7. The Browns did muster a 17-play, 76-yard drive, but it took up 4:38 of clock and had only 1:14 remaining in the game. The touchdown was a 1-yard pass from Mayfield to tight end Harrison Bryant.
An onside kick was pretty much the Browns’ only remaining hope, but they could not recover it. They did have two timeouts, but after getting to a 3rd-and-2, Harris broke free for a 37-yard touchdown with a minute to go.
Mayfield’s pass for Hooper was dropped and intercepted, allowing Roethlisberger to take one final knee in front of his home crowd. Yuck.
For those wondering why I wasn’t able to get this post-game thread up last night, I had booked a flight awhile back, and didn’t realize at the time that the Browns were playing on Monday Night Football. I was in air during part of the first half, and then laying over at the MGM Grand Sportsbook for the rest of the game. That’s the first time I’ve experienced a sportsbook live during a Browns game, but I wish it was a game that had more meaning, and that we had won.
- QB Baker Mayfield: 16-of-38 for 185 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT.
- RB Nick Chubb: 12 carries, 58 yards.
- DE Jadeveon Clowney: 2 sacks.