PITTSBURGH — Monday has turned into Tuesday here at Heinz Field, and we've got some takeaways to distribute after the Browns' 26-14 loss to the Steelers.
1. Browns D limited the big plays, but Steelers chipped away with numerous chances
The Browns made the Steelers earn every yard Monday. The problem on this particular night was Pittsburgh had far too many chances.
The Steelers dominated time of possession through the first three quarters and still finished with a 5-minute edge despite the Browns controlling the ball for more than 9 minutes in the fourth quarter. They finished with a whopping 79 plays — the most by a Browns opponent this season — despite gaining just 299 yards — 37 of which coming on Najee Harris' game-sealing touchdown run with less than a minute to play. The Steelers' average of 3.8 yards per play was the second-lowest allowed by the Browns all season.
Cleveland was particularly stingy against the pass, as Ben Roethlisberger, playing in perhaps his final game at Heinz Field, needed 46 attempts to finish with 123 yards — the third-fewest surrendered all season. No Steelers pass went for longer than 18 yards.
Still, the quantity was an issue, especially with the Browns, already without their two starting safeties, losing three players — CB Denzel Ward (groin), CB Greedy Williams (shoulder) and LB Sione Takitaki (shoulder) — along the way. The Steelers scored on three straight possessions in the fourth quarter to put away the game.
The mix of a struggling offense, untimely penalties and the handful of third and fourth downs Pittsburgh converted (6-of-20) made for a long, long night.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Steelers in Week 17
2. Mayfield confirms he'll have surgery
Baker Mayfield confirmed after Monday's game he'll undergo surgery on his non-throwing shoulder at some point in the offseason.
Mayfield initially injured his shoulder in Week 2 and then suffered further pain from it after a hard hit Week 6 against the Cardinals. He missed just one game — Week 7 vs. Denver — while playing through the pain and discomfort of the injury.
Mayfield said he would talk with his agent and family about the "when" with the surgery and left open the possibility of missing Sunday's season finale against the Bengals.
Monday was a particularly punishing night for Mayfield, who has also endured other injuries throughout the season. He was sacked a season-high nine times and had numerous passes batted down at the line of scrimmage against an unforgiving Pittsburgh defensive front.
"I've continued to lay it on the line, and I haven't been healthy and try to fight for our guys," Mayfield said. "Right now, I'm pretty (dang) beat up, to be honest with you. There's no way around it. I gave it everything I had tonight."
3. Untimely penalty puts defense in tough spot
The Browns had the Steelers stuffed on a big third down early in the second quarter of what was, at the time, a scoreless game.
DE Jadeveon Clowney came up from behind to drop WR Chase Claypool for a 3-yard gain on third-and-10 to force what would have been a fourth-and-7 from the Browns' 33-yard line. Clowney, though, drew a late penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when he flung Claypool's shoe, which had come dislodged after the tackle.
The Steelers gained 15 more yards from the penalty and were set up with first-and-10 from the 18. They scored their first touchdown of the night a few plays later and took a lead they wouldn't give back.
LB Anthony Walker said Clowney apologized to his teammates about the lapse in judgment.
It was an unfortunate moment on another productive night for Clowney, who sacked Roethlisberger twice to put him at seven for the season. It's the most sacks Clowney, who missed the past two games (COVID-19), has had in a season since 2018, when he had nine.