After starting the season 4-1, and winners of four straight, the Cleveland Browns were handed a reality check by rival Pittsburgh. The Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin led from start to finish. The Browns have now lost seventeen straight games at Heinz Field. Baker Mayfield was pulled in the second half after going 10-18, for 119-yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. Mayfield, playing with a rib injury, was sacked four times, and was on the ground more often then not. Overall the Steelers dominated this match-up, and the score doesn’t do justice to the beat down they put on the Browns.
The Browns won the coin toss, and deferred to the second half. On Pittsburgh’s opening drive they marched down the field, but the offense stalled, and they were forced to kick a field goal. Down 3-0 early, Kevin Stefanski sent his offense out to the field. On first down they ran with Kareem Hunt on the right side, and he picked up two yards. On second down, Mayfield got pressure and was forced to scramble for five yards, bringing up third and three. Mayfield took the shotgun snap, threw a quick slant on the left side, and is picked off by Minkah Fitzpatrick, who takes it to the house for 6.
As Mayfield reads the defense, pre-snap, you can see Fitzpatrick creeping closer to the box. Once the ball was snapped, he just read Mayfield’s eyes and steps in front of Harrison Bryant, who had no chance, and took it in for six. Fitzpatrick, who was traded to the Steelers from the Miami Dolphins last year, may have had the easiest pick-six in his life.
With the Steelers up 10-0, the Browns offense once again took the field. However they went three and out, and kicked it back to Pittsburgh. The Browns would punt the ball two more times in the first half. However, the Steelers were also forced to punt two more times. Shockingly the Browns defense was keeping them in the game. However, because of all the short drives for the offense, the defense never really got any rest. Pittsburgh finally found the end zone again on an a seven-play drive, that was capped off with a James Conner touchdown.
The next possession, the Browns were stalled by a holding call. On third and twelve, Mayfield took a shotgun snap, was forced to scramble by the Steeler’s relentless defense. However, he threw the ball up for grabs, in the direction of Rashard Higgins, and was picked off once again by Cam Sutton. Luckily for the Browns, he didn’t have a chance to return this one very far.
When Rothelisberger and company took the field, they had a five play drive that was capped off with a Rothelisberger throwing a touchdown to a wide open James Washington, and just like that the Browns trailed 24-0. On the next Brown’s possession they orchestrated a nine play drive ending with a Mayfield touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins. Both teams had one possession before half-time, and both went three and out.
After Kevin Stefanski and the Browns recouped at half-time, it was more of the same from the Browns. After receiving the second half kick, Mayfield and the offense went three-and-out. On the next two possessions the Steelers were forced to punt once, and the Browns were gaining some momentum but were halted on fourth down by the dominant front seven for the Steelers.
The next possession, after the Browns turnover on downs, Big Ben took the Steelers on a nine play drive, ending with a Benny Snell scamper into the end zone from the one-yard line. This put the Steelers up 38-7 and a win was pretty much in the bag for Mike Tomlin and co.
Many people wanted to see Mayfield taken out of the game, and on the next possession, they got their wish. Case Keenum came in for Mayfield and played the rest of the game. He had two nice passes to Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper, but overall, he was in the game for mop up duty. When the final whistle blew the Browns had lost for the first time in four games. They also extended their losing streak at Heinz Field to seventeen.
What did we learn about the Browns on Sunday? Well we learned a lot of things, but the most prominent learned was that the Steelers and subsequent Baltimore Ravens are leaps and bounds better than the Browns. One day, hopefully we will see a Browns team that can compete with the giants in the AFC North. On top of that, we’ve also learned that replacing Nick Chubb is a much bigger challenge than most expected.
After last week’s game at home versus the Indianapolis, was when people realized, that while Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, and Dontrell Hilliard are capable backups they are nowhere near as good as Chubb. The Browns rushed for 124-yards against the Colts, which is good, but not as dominant as people expected. Finally, we saw how much of a hit the Browns backfield took without Chubb. This week they only had 75-yards rushing, forcing Stefanski to lean more heavily on the passing game. Mayfield should get some credit for playing through the painful rib injury, but in all honesty, he should not have played on Sunday.
The Browns are not out of it by any means. Next week they travel to in-state rival, the Bengals. After that one they recoup and head home to take on Jon Gruden’s Las Vegas Raiders. Those are two winnable games. Yesterday, the Browns and Browns fans were knocked down a couple notches, but in no way are they out of playoff contention, standing at 4-2.
Interesting Facts about the Browns-Steelers Rivalry
- The Browns and Steelers have met 127 times since 1950.
- Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 69-58.
- Cleveland dominated the rivalry early on. The Browns won the first meeting 30-17 on October 7, 1950
- After the Browns won the first game in the series 30-17, they would go on to win the next seven games of the series. That is correct, the Browns won the first eight games of the rivalry.
- The Steelers are 4-1 in overtime games against the Browns. Pittsburgh won 15-9 in 1978, they won 33-30 in 1979, in 2001 the Steelers won again 15-12, and finally the Steelers won 16-13 in 20002.
- The Browns only overtime win in the series came in 1978, as they defeated Pittsburgh 37-31.
- Both teams have combined for ten shutouts in the series. The Browns have shutout the Steelers four times, and Pittsburgh has shut out the Browns six times. (That could have easily happened yesterday).
- Individual stats from the series include Bernie Kosar leads Cleveland quarterbacks in most passing yards in a game with 414 in 1986. Marion Motley leads Cleveland running backs in most rushing yards in a game with 188-yards in 1950. And finally the one and only Josh Gordon leads Cleveland recivers in receiving yards in a game with 237 receiving yards in 2013
Yesterday was ugly for the Browns, it’s very hard to see anything good that came from the game yesterday. Myles Garrett extended his sack streak to five, as he sacked Rothelisberger in the second quarter. Browns players were not very happy during and after the game. Odell Beckham Jr., was seen throwing his helmet on the ground and yelling at the offense. Coming this afternoon will be all the post-game press conferences.
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