Steelers can’t win, but here’s how Cleveland Browns can lose

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 14: Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to throw the ball during the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 14: Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to throw the ball during the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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CLEVELAND, OH – NOVEMBER 14: Damarious Randall #23 of the Cleveland Browns hits Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after Johnson dropped a pass in the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. Randall was ejected from the game after the play. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

4.  Overaggressive penalties

Sometimes the defense thinks that is doing the right thing by sending an extra message during a sack or a tackle. It makes the defense feel better to assert itself and intimidate their opponents. This is a classic Oakland Raiders technique from back in the day. But that’s not what usually happens. Instead, the defense gets penalized for unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct and this simply extends the drive against them.

This isn’t the same as a stupid penalty that a player commits because his head is not in the game. A stupid penalty is something like lining up offsides or getting caught for pass interference right in front of the official

In the 2019 victory over the Steelers, the Browns players thought they were doing the right thing by being aggressive and showing some swag against the Steelers. We don’t know whether this was something the players took upon themselves, or whether the coaches encouraged it, but we do know that there were several penalties prior to the unfortunate brawl between Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph.

There was a near-decapitation by Damarious Randall that left wide receiver Diontae Johnson with blood trickling out of his ear as he left the field, while Randall playfully lobbied the officials to allow him to stay in the game. Didn’t work. As a consequence, the Browns were short one defensive back for the rest of the game.

There was also a three-body collision that resulted in JuJu Smith-Schuster receiving a concussion and a roughing the passer call against Chad Thomas. All this was prior to the piece de resistance involving Garrett and Rudolph that escalated into a brawl and resulted in multiple suspensions and cemented Freddie Kitchens’ future as the ex-coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Somehow the Browns players got the idea that they needed to show that they were the aggressors rather than the Steelers. Probably many of the players didn’t realize what trouble they were in until the game was over, when it slowly dawned on them that the season was over with no Myles Garrett. A dagger had been stuck into the heart of the team.

Could that happen again? Sure it could. Don’t even tell me about whose fault it was or who you think started it. All that matters is that the Browns had their laughs and felt their swagger during the game and they lost their most important player at the end of the game. We can hope that the Browns have done everything in their power to emphasize the importance of team discipline and the need to put aside personal agendas. Will it work?

These self-inflicted Browns penalties extend drives for the Steelers. Pittsburgh is counting on these penalties to win in 2021.

The Browns will win this game if they do not lose their cool and commit overaggressive penalties to help the weak Pittsburgh offense to make yardage. The Steelers need the extra help to win.