For awhile, we thought today’s Browns-Steelers game might have been the most lopsided 17-3 game in the history of the National Football League.
The Steelers had the ball for pretty much the entire game, and yet managed only a touchdown and three field goals, and the TD was the result of an untimed down prior to halftime.
Cleveland even crept to within eight points after a Josh McCown to Gary Barnidge touchdown throw early in the fourth quarter, but as Browns will be Browns, Cody Parkey missed the extra point, so it remained 17-9.
The defense forced a punt on Pittsburgh’s next possession, and after a special teams penalty (which is a weekly occurrence), McCown took a strip sack and the Steelers recovered in the end zone to put the game away.
Now, the final score showed the dominance the visitors showed virtually the entire contest.
Early in the season, someone said the NFL has become a 3rd and 2 league, and if you can convert on offense, you will win, and if you can stop your opponent, you will be successful.
Pittsburgh was 6 for 13 on third and fourth downs today, while the Browns were 4 of 15 on third down. And that might just describe the game, and actually most Cleveland games this season.
Positives. The defense held Ben Roethlisberger to just one touchdown on the day, despite the black and gold having the ball virtually all of the first three quarters of the game.
Terrelle Pryor once again was a force, catching five passes for 97 yards and returned to the game after a brutal shot to the ribs trying to catch a high throw from McCown.
Christian Kirksey had nine more tackles, and safety Ed Reynolds had the best hit of the day, driving Le’Veon Bell out of bounds after a short pass play.
That’s about it.
Negatives. Hue Jackson wanted to see Cody Kessler throw downfield more often, and the result may have been the rookie QB holding on to the ball forever.
Pittsburgh had eight sacks, many of those because Cleveland quarterbacks held on to the ball way too long.
It doesn’t help that the Browns refuse to make any changes on their offensive line, despite not being able to run the ball or protect the passer.
The Browns had just 33 yards on the ground, averaging just 2.5 per carry. Their leading rusher was McCown with 11 yards.
This brings up the old lament. Cleveland can’t win until they can run the ball, and can stop the run.
Watching the Steelers get the ball to Bell and Antonio Brown (44 combined plays), you wonder why Jackson doesn’t use Pryor more often. Get him the ball on bubble screen, slants, end arounds, etc.
He’s the team’s best offensive player. He should get the ball as much as possible. We understand teams are trying to take Pryor away, but that’s Jackson’s field of expertise.
We also get that Kessler isn’t a starting QB in the NFL for a good team, but we will again say there is no reason for McCown to get more time. Hopefully, Robert Griffin III can play next week, because frankly, we’d rather see him.
McCown got the Browns in the end zone, but he also made the key mistake, fumbling in the end zone, and had several other throws which either got a receiver drilled, or hit a defender that couldn’t hold on.
So, now it’s 0-11 and 14 straight defeats.
And although we understand the plan, it’s getting tougher and tougher to find something to pin hopes on for the future.