Another week, another loss for the Cleveland Browns, who fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-14. Who stood out as the best and worst performers during Week 17?
The Cleveland Browns found themselves playing on Monday Night Football against their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Week 17. When this matchup was originally set in the preseason, it was likely seen as a game that would help determine the AFC North division title race and playoff seeding.
Instead, it was a matchup of a team already eliminated from the playoffs with another that needs help to get in.
The Browns may have already been eliminated, but in a rivalry game, you still fully expect them to perform at their best, especially in what is expected to be Ben Roethlisberger’s last home game as a Pittsburgh Steeler. However, the team appeared to come out flat, allowing their elimination from playoff contention to carry over to the field on Monday night.
While the majority of the team played poorly, there were a few players that stood out despite the circumstances. Who were those studs, and who earned the status of a dud this week?
Cleveland Browns dud: Offensive Line
The offensive line for Cleveland was abysmal on Monday night, playing by far their worst game of the season and the Kevin Stefanski era. They allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to get into the backfield early and often, giving up nine sacks on the night. While most of the pressure came from the right side, where rookie James Hudson has been forced into action due to injuries, the rest of the line did no better, allowing pressure time and again.
For a unit that is always praised as one of the best in the entire league, a performance like the one shown on national television is not a good sight but does show one part of why this team’s not going to the playoffs in 2021. While many other things have gone wrong all year, the offensive lines inconsistency in pass protection is a huge reason for worry. It will be up to general manager Andrew Berry to get some answers this offseason.
Cleveland Browns stud: Donovan Peoples-Jones, Wide Receiver
It’s been a rough season for Donovan Peoples-Jones, who has been thrust into a much larger role than he or the coaching staff could have predicted when the 2021 season began. After the team finally gave up on the Odell Beckham Jr. experiment (which seems to be doing just fine in Los Angeles, for what it’s worth), DPJ was thrust to being the main target on the outside.
With Jarvis Landry’s main area of expertise being both within the numbers and within five yards of the line of scrimmage, the former sixth-round pick has been put in tough situations all year.
Despite all his issues this year, DPJ continues to show up and fight each and every week for his teammates, and did so again on Monday night, finishing with three catches for 76 yards. It may have only been a handful of catches, but each of them was huge, including a 39-yard catch that helped set up the Browns’ first touchdown in the third quarter.
The future is bright for DPJ, and you should only expect to see more positivity and growth from him as he grows and continues to perfect his craft.