The Browns hosted their biggest rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers on Halloween Sunday. The previous week, the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks in overtime. Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh fan base, they will be without one of their top players in wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster whose season has come to a halt due to a shoulder injury that will require surgery. On the other side, Cleveland was thrilled to have back their starting running back Nick Chubb, who returned to the lineup after suffering a calf injury. The Browns started Baker Mayfield instead of their veteran quarterback Case Keenum, who led them to victory in their previous contest.
The Browns focused on throwing the football early on, as Baker Mayfield was targeting and connected with receivers in the middle of the field. Cleveland could only muster three points, as kicker Chase McLaughlin made a 30-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. After the Browns’ defense stalled the Steelers’ offense, their offense went to work with a screen pass to running back Demetric Felton, followed by a pass for a nice gain to wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Cleveland then utilized their running backs Nick Chubb and D’ernest Johnson on short-yardage plays. Cleveland would get stopped on a 3rd and 2nd play as the first quarter winded down. Pittsburgh is a team that prides itself on having a strong defense as they have some big-time playmakers.
Pittsburgh would drive down the field, though they would have to settle for a field goal. Kicker Chris Boswell nailed a 31- yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3. Fans must have been thinking that this game would be a gritty low scoring affair, as neither offense could adapt to what the defenses were doing. Both defenses continued to dominate as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Baker Mayfield had a tough time moving the football. After Myles Garrett laid out Big Ben on a third-down play, Pittsburgh was set up with a short field goal attempt. Pittsburgh decided to be tricky and go for a fake field goal, Chris Boswell rolled out to the right and threw a pass that resulted in an incomplete pass and thus a turnover on downs. It was a terrible play and to make the situation even worse, Chris Boswell took a massive hit and was hurt near the sidelines. Despite the Browns having some time left on the clock, they came up empty and at halftime the score remained tied at 3-3.
Early in the third quarter, Cleveland had the golden opportunity of turning the game around as they should have had an interception, a lack of communication from two Browns defenders caused the ball to drop. Two big plays for the Browns had energized the crowd, as Nick Chubb found space in between excellent blocking by the offensive line followed by a catch by tight end Harrison Bryant. A caught pass by tight end Austin Hooper had set up a 10-yard rushing touchdown by D’Ernest Johson who cut to his left, stopped and then motored straight into the end zone to take a 10-3 lead over the Steelers. D’Ernest has gained the trust of the coaching staff that they put him in a big situation in the game. Pittsburgh would respond by feeding the ball to rookie running back Najee Harris, who exploded out of the backfield, rushed up the middle, and leaped like superman into the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown run. Pittsburgh would go for the two-point conversion, as Ben Roethlisberger would scramble across the goal line. A holding penalty would negate the two points and Pittsburgh had another opportunity to go for two but was denied, thus making the score 10-9 Cleveland.
Cleveland’s defense would struggle as they could not solve the Steelers’ offense. It looked as if the Browns were going to deny the Steelers from scoring any points back in their end zone. Though on a fourth-down play, Ben Roethlisberger threw a missile to tight end Pat Freiermuth, in the back of the end zone, who had great concentration and hauled in an incredible catch while keeping his feet in bounds despite being draped by the defender. The Steelers attempted the two-point conversion but were stopped in their tracks.
The Browns got the ball back and were making progress before the third-down play they were successful in two out of eight attempts on third down. Baker Mayfield felt pressure and scrambled to his right and rushed for the first down before getting hit with a cheap shot by cornerback Joe Haden, Baker had landed on his injured left shoulder. It is absurd that there was no flag thrown for a late hit to the quarterback when it was a blatantly obvious call. Cleveland was grabbing the momentum and then wham! Jarvis Landry fumbled after catching a perfectly thrown ball by Mayfield. Two drop passes from Landry and Beckham Jr, and a false start proved to cost the game for the Browns.
Baker Mayfield did his part as he finished the game completing 20 out of 31 passing attempts and throwing for 225 yards. The quarterback cannot win the game on their own. It is worth noting that the Browns running game was held in check as they rushed for less than 100 yards. The main problem is their defense, as they allowed 370 total yards. The defense has been very inconsistent throughout the year and this will be their Achilles heel if they fail to reach the playoffs. The Browns record stands at four wins and four losses and will have yet another tough divisional opponent next weekend as they travel to Cincinnati to take on Joe Burrow and the Bengals.