End of game: For the second straight week the Cleveland Browns (4-7) had a chance to be a factor in the AFC playoff race and let the opportunity slip away.
The Browns were unable to rise to the occasion against another division rival and will now be playing for pride for the rest of the season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) took control offensively late in the second quarter and their defense forced three turnovers to dominate the Browns. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger picked up his 16th career win over Cleveland.
Final Analysis for the Cleveland Browns
Pass Offense: Jason Campbell was rocked on the second series of the third quarter and was forced out of the game for the second time. On the hit, Campbell fumbled and it led to a Steelers touchdown.
Brandon Weeden heard the boos from the Dawg Pound as he entered the game. Typical Weeden troubles once again arose with the embattled sophomore failing to lead receivers and taking too long to release the ball. It was capped off by a fourth-quarter fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown on the next series that iced any chance the Browns might have had in a longshot comeback.
Greg Little was his inconsistent self today. Little was targeted seven times, dropped a couple wide-open passes and finished with 17 yards on two receptions.
One bright spot on Sunday was Josh Gordon. The wideout hauled in his fifth 100-yard receiving game this season and ended the contest with 14 catches and a touchdown. He became the first Browns receiver in team history to record 200 receiving yards (237 total). The previous best came from Ozzie Newsome’s 191-yard performance in 1984.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz was dominated for most of the afternoon. He was pushed back into the quarterback or straight up beaten all day. The Browns offensive line gave up five sacks between Campbell and Weeden.
Run Offense: Credit the Browns for sticking with the run early in the third quarter. They were relatively successful on the day with 55 total yards on carries from Chris Ogbonnaya (who fumbled once), Willis McGahee and Fozzy Whittaker. However, as Pittsburgh pulled further away, the Browns were forced to go to the air.
Pass Defense: Ben Roethlisberger did what he does best all day, and that is extend plays. The Browns pressured the veteran consistently, but were unable to record a sack. Sloppy tackling and a tendency to give too much cushion were themes for the Cleveland secondary today.
Run Defense: Le’Veon Bell went into grinding mode to eat up clock with the Steelers leading for much of the second half. Bell had a respectable afternoon, totaling 80 yards. Much like the passing game, the defense had a tough time wrapping up and bringing down Bell on first contact.
Special Teams: Kicker Billy Cundiff missed on a 46-yard field-goal attempt that the wind took, slinging the ball wide left. Kick and punt coverage was solid for Cleveland and the return game was respectable, but not game-changing.
Coaching: Head coach Rob Chudzinksi went for it on fourth down and got the necessary yard from a Weeden quarterback sneak. Trailing 20-3 at the time in the third frame, Chud didn’t really have a choice.
You can’t blame the coaching staff too much for this loss as poor tackling and poor execution cost the defense. Meanwhile, Campbell’s injury threw the offense out of whack. Three fumbles (Ogbonnaya, Campbell, Weeden) were costly as two of them resulted in points for Pittsburgh.
|Cleveland Browns Grades|
|Positional Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
|Week 12 vs. Steelers|
First-Half Analysis for the Cleveland Browns
Pass Offense: After two straight checkdown attempts, Jason Campbell connected on a beautiful pass to Josh Gordon for 24 yards. It was enough to get into field-goal range. Gordon was money in the first half and finished with five receptions, 62 yards and 12.4 yards per catch.
Campbell did a nice job of spreading the ball around and it was good to see Jordan Cameron getting a pair of receptions. However, when Brandon Weeden subbed in for one play in the second quarter after Campbell was shaken up, Cameron dropped a good pass that would have gone for a first down. Campbell completed 11 of his 17 passes in the first half for 108 yards.
Run Offense: Chris Ogbonnaya, Fozzy Whittaker and Willis McGahee all got touches in the opening half. The Browns stuck to pounding the rock more than usual and amassed 31 total yards. Ogbonnaya stood out for the second straight week with excellent vision and hit the holes hard. He rushed for a long of 10, but that was overshadowed by a fumble with less than two minutes left in the half.
Pass Defense: Ben Roethlisberger is 15-1 in his career against Cleveland and got off to a quick start by utilizing the no-huddle offense. Big Ben didn’t attempt anything downfield and settled for checkdowns and screen passes, averaging 7.4 yards per throw. That was until Roethlisberger took his shot on Joe Haden late in the second quarter to Antonio Brown for a 41-yard touchdown.
Cornerback Buster Skrine was uncharacteristically sloppy on tackles and seemed to be second guessing himself on when to dive in on receivers. The Browns will need to tighten up their coverage if they expect to limit Pittsburgh’s success through the air.
Run Defense: Le’Veon Bell gashed Cleveland on the opening possession, finishing the half with 43 yards and a long of 13. Overall the Browns didn’t give up too much on the ground (43 yards), but the Steelers have been effective enough that Cleveland has to respect the play action. Credit Bell for making the Browns earn every single takedown on him.
Special Teams: Fozzy Whittaker was effective on kickoff returns, running back a long of 32. Billy Cundiff had the wind at his back for a 49-yard field goal, his 12th straight conversion.
Punter Spencer Lanning put some nice spin on the ball during a short kick at the start of the second quarter. A holding call against Pittsburgh on the play pinned the visitors at the 3-yard line.
Coaching: There was nothing particularly creative or special in the play-calling on offense, which was expected with the cold and blustery weather. Ray Horton’s defense gave multiple looks and personnel rotation, but poor tackling cost the team yardage throughout the first 30 minutes.
Andy McNamara is an international sports broadcaster and journalist.
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