The Cleveland Browns had another ugly performance as they fell to 7-9 in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17. Here are the instant reactions.
On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns found out they weren’t going to make the playoffs but they still had something to play for in the final two weeks of the season — a winning record.
While that might not seem to matter now, it should have. The fact is, Cleveland hasn’t had back-to-back winning seasons since 1989, so it would have been huge for them to do so this year.
That won’t happen though as they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, falling to 7-9 on the season. While it stings to watch Ben Roethlisberger record a win over the Browns in what might be his final game at Heinz Field, the team’s play on the field was even worse to see.
As has been the case for much of the season, Cleveland came out flat and looked confused on offense. They showed no true game plan as they refused to run the ball against the worst rushing defense in the NFL.
The result was another disheartening loss. Here, we look at a few takeaways from the defeat.
Cleveland Browns lack of discipline on display
One thing that has been a major issue for the Browns all season is their discipline — or lack thereof. That was on full display when they appeared to make a big third-down stop in the second quarter as a gang of Browns tackled Chase Claypool after a short gain.
At first, it appeared a flag was thrown as he was hit — but then the Monday Night Football crew realized it was a shoe we saw fly across the screen. Cleveland defensive end Jadeveon Clowney inexplicably took the shoe off Claypool’s foot and chucked it across the field.
He was hit with a 15-yard penalty which gave the Steelers a free set of downs, and they ended up scoring their first touchdown to go up 7-0.
That was just one of many penalties called on the Browns — a problem they have had all season. In this one, they had 10 accepted penalties for 77 yards. It’s hard to win when your offense is struggling and even more difficult when you continue to inflict harm on yourself.
Baker Mayfield continues his decline
This game was hard to watch. Then again, much of the season has been hard to watch when it comes to the play of Baker Mayfield.
The Browns fourth-year starter took a major step in the wrong direction in 2021 and that continued in this one. For much of the year, we have heard that injuries are affecting Mayfield but that wasn’t an excuse for the hesitation, lack of pocket awareness, or poor decision making on Monday.
Entering the half, Mayfield had just four completed passes in 15 attempts while also having four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. He did make a couple of nice throws including a 39-yarder to Donovan Peoples-Jones and a touchdown to David Njoku but for the most part, he was sloppy and looked lost.
Mayfield finished with 185 yards on 16-of-38 passing (although much of those yards came in garbage time) with two touchdowns and two picks — while also being sacked nine times. Yes, nine times.
Cleveland Browns play-calling getting hard to defend
Playing against the 32nd-ranked run defense, it seemed as though the Browns should have been able to run the ball all night. But they didn’t — and not because the Steelers stopped it. Instead, it was Cleveland stopping themselves as Kevin Stefanski again refused to pound the ball in the run game even though the pass wasn’t working.
Cleveland was averaging more than four yards per rush but still ran it just 18 times despite the fact that the Steelers were never up by more than 13-points in this game.
Next week, the Browns will play against the Cincinnati Bengals who just won the AFC North this weekend. It’s likely the Bengals will be resting their starters, which could mean Cleveland has a chance to end the season on a high note.
Having said that, they have a lot to clean up to even be able to beat reserves right now.