Three quick reactions to Cleveland's 24-9 loss to the Steelers …
More adversity at QB
The Browns are dealing with another quarterback injury after rookie Cody Kessler went down with his second concussion of the season.
Kessler exited Sunday's game near the end of the third quarter. He was dragged down by two Steelers in the milliseconds after completing a 16-yard pass to rookie Corey Coleman. Veteran Josh McCown, the only other active quarterback, finished out the game, surviving a handful of hard hits along the way.
Kessler will enter the NFL's concussion protocol. He missed one week earlier this season with a concussion and has been forced out of two others.
"I am definitely going to talk to our medical staff, because again, this is about a young man's career and future," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "So we have to do the right thing."
McCown drew the Browns within a touchdown when he connected with Gary Barnidge on a 14-yarder early in the fourth quarter but couldn't build off the momentum the rest of the way. Facing a second-and-10 from Cleveland's 13-yard line, McCown was strip-sacked by Ryan Shazier, and Pittsburgh's Javon Hargrave picked it up and ran it in for the game-sealing touchdown.
Kessler (7-14, 128 yards, INT) and McCown (14-27, 118 yards, TD, fumble) were sacked a combined eight times.
Looking ahead, the Browns could be bolstered by Robert Griffin III, who is expected to return to practice in some fashion this week, after the Week 13 bye. Griffin has been on injured reserve since Week 2 with a shoulder injury. Rookies Kevin Hogan and Joe Callahan are also available for depth.
The Browns return to FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday against the Giants and have a bye week before their final, four-game stretch.
End-of-half sequence overshadows best defensive effort of season
The Browns defense was on the field way more than it should have been in the first half, but it was showing little signs of exhaustion.
In fact, Cleveland was at its best near the tail end of two long Pittsburgh drives earlier in the half, both of which cleared 9 minutes in length but ended with field goals. As the seconds wound down on the first half, Cleveland was on the cusp of yet another goal line stand, but back-to-back penalties on what were presumed to be the final plays of the half gave Pittsburgh back-to-back untimed downs -- and that's a bad recipe against an offense as potent as the Steelers.
Pittsburgh ultimately found the end zone on its second try, as Le'Veon Bell punched it in from 1 yard, giving the Steelers a two-touchdown lead instead of the 6-0 advantage they would have taken to the locker room. It was a big moment for the Steelers, who were rewarded for their risk-taking, and a blow to the Browns, who were flagged for holding and then pass interference on plays that would have ended the half.
"We have to find a way to keep them out of there," Jackson said. "That is what it comes down to."
Cleveland's defense repeated its bend-but-don't-break ways in the second half, allowing just a field goal on an 8-minute-plus Pittsburgh drive to end the third quarter. There just wasn't enough help from the offense to overcome a deficit Pittsburgh held for the vast majority of the game.
With winds whipping off Lake Erie at more than 30 miles per hour, the conditions weren't ideal for Pittsburgh to air it out the way it typically does. That meant a steady dose of Bell, who singlehandedly helped the Steelers control the clock and build their two-touchdown advantage in the first half.
On the Steelers' opening drive, which ended with a short field goal, Bell touched the ball 11 times, gaining 45 yards on the ground and 34 through the air. He finished with 135 yards in the first half and 201 for the game, as the Steelers got just a field goal from their offense in the final 30 minutes.
Bell had every one of Pittsburgh's 146 rushing yards in what Steelers coach Mike Tomlin described as a "timely" performance.
"He's a good back. We knew he was going to come in here and be a tough opponent," linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "Here and there we had some missed tackles he was able to break and extend the play. He just got the best of us."
The Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11.