The Browns offense is so bad, so ineffective that fans and media are no longer wasting their breath on complaining about it. Instead, that frustration and analysis is being put on the defense and the ineffectiveness of the offense is being held against the defense. If the Browns give up a touchdown, there are people looking to lambast the defense for it. There has been significant criticism and over-analysis of the defense that a good defense is being picked apart from every angle, even when they turn in a good performance. The defense certainly was not perfect against the Pittsburgh Steelers and there were missed opportunities and missed plays, but in seeing some of the criticisms being made, one might think they were awful in this game.
Joe Haden got beat on a deep throw to Antonio Brown that he frankly should not have. Haden was in a situation where he was trying to do too much and rather than sticking to Brown and working to shut him down, he appeared to be trying to keep an eye on a route coming at him from across the field. As a result, he hesitated trying to make a play he should not have, giving up the space to Brown who went on to catch a touchdown. This was a busted coverage by Haden; a bad play and one to learn from.
Haden is a great corner and seems to be at his best when he is up against a top of the line wide receiver and is forced to put all of his attention on him. That is what happened in the matchup against A.J. Green. It appears as though Haden did not think Brown was quite on the level of Green, which is true, but he still demands Haden’s attention. Haden seemed to get the message after that play and almost came up with an interception later in the game as he ran Brown’s route for him and it took Brown turning into a defensive back and knocking the ball away to avoid a turnover.
Beyond the Haden gaffe, the defense was solid overall. Against the run, they held the Steelers to 85 yards as a team with a 2.5 yard average. Le’Veon Bell had some success but it was more of a case of persistence than dominance; 23 carries for 80 yards and a 13 yard long. They were able to step up and make a pair of stops to cause a turnover on downs against the Steelers in the second quarter.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 217 yards on 34 passes at 6.4 yards per attempt. Most would have taken that given the chance if it was presented to them before the game. In addition, the Steelers converted just 4 of 14 on third down. The Browns were more effective on third down, converting 6 of 17.
The Browns offense either directly caused or put the Steelers in position to score 17 points. The defense was able to come up with a stop in the red zone when handed terrible field position on a fumble. The Steelers did little when it came to actually putting drives together and having success on offense other than the deep play against Haden.
For the second week in a row, the defense looks bad on the scoreboard but last week the offense and special teams combined to kill the Browns defense and this week the offense did it. The Browns defense missed opportunities, especially when it came to making some tackles (Tashaun Gipson) and were not able to get a single sack on Roethlisberger with just two hits on him the entire game. They were also unable to force any turnovers. Nevertheless, the defense continues to do more than enough to win and the offense continues to put them in terrible position and make them look horrible. Hopefully, next season the defense can continue to play at this level and have an offense that can carry their own weight.