The Cleveland Browns hosted a substandard version of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but another feckless effort1 for starting quarterback Cody Kessler and another rough performance from backup quarterback Josh McCown doomed them out of the gate.
The Steelers entered Sunday’s game having collected a mere 13 sacks during this season. They upped their total to 21 by the time the final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon. To save you the math, that’s eight sacks given up to the worst pass-rushing squad in the league. I am not at a point where I’m ready to throw the baby out with the bath water and fire Hue Jackson, but he really needs to get a handle on this death spiral.
Regardless of whether we are putting the blame on Cody Kessler and Josh McCown for holding the ball too long (which is a problem for them) or the offensive line for playing poorly (which has also been the case in almost every game this season), there needs to be some progress shown from week to week.
It’s hard to find one thing the Browns are doing better eleven weeks into the season compared to the first week. Jackson was tasked with creating some form of stability for this team, but the only thing they do consistently is perform inconsistently.
The Browns’ defense generated zero sacks and zero tackles for loss against the Steelers. Let that horrible statistic sink in. The Browns did not stop the Steelers from reaching the line of scrimmage one single time on Sunday. That level of futility demands your respect and admiration.
The run defense was gouged time and time again by Le’Veon Bell, who ended the day with 201 total yards from scrimmage to go with a touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger had all day to sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary.
I will give some sincere props to Danny Shelton for being the only guy on the defense to show some attitude. He nudged Roethlisberger back to the ground after one of the few quarterback hits registered by the defense.
QB Hits: 4
Tackles for loss: 0
Passes Defensed: 6
Week 9 PRESSURE Grade: 1 (out of 5)
GETTING OFF THE FIELD
Once again Jamie Collins, you are the best thing going for the Browns’ defense. For the life of me I can’t understand why Bill Belichick was in such a hurry to send this guy packing. Collins registered one of the few quarterback hits on Ben Roethlisberger and managed to poke the ball away from Le’Veon Bell creating the only potential turnover the young Browns would see. The ball bounced safely out of bounds and possession was retained by the Steelers, but if that happens anywhere else on the field, the Browns are in business.
Once again the time of possession was lopsided toward the opponent and would have been worse if not for a late drive by Josh McCown. The Browns struggled once again to give their offense decent field position to start their drives.
Third and Fourth Down Conversion Percentage: 46 percent
Potential Takeaways: 1
Opponent Time of Possession: 33:58 (out of 60:00)
Week 9 GETTING OFF THE FIELD Grade: 2
Yes, the buzz on Twitter after this game is that the Browns only handed off to the running backs ten times. That does seem like an incredibly low number of run plays, but the Browns also had a very low number of plays for the entire game. Browns quarterbacks only threw five more times than Ben Roethlisberger in spite of playing from behind the entire game. The problem wasn’t that the Browns didn’t run enough, the problem is that when they did run the ball the offensive line was abused by the Steelers’ front seven. In his measly eight carries, Isaiah Crowell was hit in the backfield multiple times before he could even attempt to break the line of scrimmage. I have to admit, I was all for abandoning the run when it happened. The Steelers were quite obviously playing to take away the run, but the Browns’ quarterbacks were so inept that they couldn’t force the Steelers to focus on the passing game.
Corey Coleman had a disappointing game catching only four of the twelve passes that came his way and dropping a couple that were easy catches. Terrelle Pryor and Duke Johnson were the stars of the offense with each player ripping off two plays of twenty or more yards, but the delivery to them was too inconsistent to cause any real damage.
Cody Kessler had one long throw to Terrelle Pryor in the third quarter where Pryor was downed at the one yard line, and that drive didn’t end in a touchdown. A two yard loss on a rush from Crowell and a five yard loss on a sack of Kessler put the Browns in an obvious field goal situation. That can’t happen.
Plays of 20-plus Yards: 5
Red Zone Conversion Percentage: 33
Yards/Run Play: 2.5
Yards/Pass Plays: 3.6
Week 9 PLAYMAKERS Grade: 1
It was a different game, but the story was the same. Wait I take that back, the story was even worse than usual. This defense had the lowest number of sacks in the entire NFL coming into this game. They had 13 sacks and somehow managed to put up eight against the Browns.
Did anyone else play Red Rover as a child? You would have two teams with everyone holding hands in a line. One team would shout, “Red rover, red rover, let Pat come over,” and Pat would have to leave his chain, run full speed into the arms of the other kids, and try to break through. Now imagine that you are a team of full grown adults playing against children and they manage to break through your chain every single time. That’s what happened to the Browns on Sunday. They were broken down and dominated by the NFL equivalent of children.
Is this rock bottom for the Browns’ pass protection? Please say that there’s no way to get buried any further. They’re already dead.
Opponent Sacks: 8
Opponent QB Hits: 14
Opponent Tackles for Loss: 13
Week 9 PROTECTION Grade: 1
I really thought this game would be closer than it was based on how the Steelers have performed this season. They had a number of key players out with injury, just like the Browns. Cameron Heyward, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Shamarko Thomas, and DeAngelo Williams all sat out, but the guys who replaced them performed just as well. I thought the rivalry might fire up our boys, but that was not the case.
There are certainly some keepers on the defense in spite of their massive troubles; Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, and Chris Kirksey are all guys who seem to show up often enough that they deserve the opposing offenses’ attention. Maybe it’s just because of how wildly he celebrates after every play that he makes, but I think Briean Boddy-Calhoun has shown to be a good find as an undrafted free agent playing in the nickel cornerback role. However, there are a lot of places where young guys need to step up and under-performing vets need to be shipped out. Joe Haden was never the elite cornerback he was perceived to be, but he looks almost unplayable now. Jamar Taylor had a strong start to the season, but has completely faded since playing his former team in the third week. Ed Reynolds played 100 percent of the snaps at free safety and has no business playing anywhere but special teams. Xavier Cooper, Stephen Paea, and Jamie Meder have provided next to nothing on the defensive line. There are quite a few holes to fill.
I think we all realize that the skill position players on the offensive side of the ball are pretty darn good, but they won’t help much if the quarterback can’t get the ball into their hands. Once again, the Browns appear to have locked up one of the top picks in the upcoming NFL draft with no quarterback worth taking in that spot.
Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.