Baker Mayfield took a barrage of hard hits Sunday in Pittsburgh but emerged Monday in better shape than the previous week.
Limited in practice throughout the week because of a chest injury, Mayfield was pressured early and often and hit repeatedly during a rough performance against the Steelers. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said he couldn't bear to see him hit one more time and replaced him with Case Keenum late in the third quarter.
Mayfield, though, felt better Monday than he did coming out of the Browns' Week 5 win over the Colts and is in position to practice more this week as Cleveland prepares for its trip to Cincinnati.
"Baker is sore but he is nowhere near as sore how it was last Monday, so that is a positive," Stefanski said. "I am confident in our medical staff and confident in Baker that he is going to progress each one of these days and then get better."
Mayfield did not use the injury as an excuse in the moments after Sunday's game, which began with a pick-six and didn't get much better. Mayfield completed 10-of-18 passes for 119 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a game that saw the Browns offense enter the red zone just once and convert 1-of-15 third and fourth downs. Mayfield was sacked a season-high four times and hit a total of seven.
Mayfield put the blame on himself Sunday, saying he needed to get the ball out quicker in some of those situations. Stefanski, upon reviewing the film, said a combination of issues caused the team's worst offensive performance of the season.
"I just think it is always a combination of things, it is never one answer on a lot of this," Stefanski said. "So for us, what we are doing today is saying, 'All right, here was the play call. Was that a great play call?' Sometimes yes, sometimes no. And then on the ones maybe when it was not a great play call, was there a play to be had? Was there somebody that should have gotten open? Could we have sustained our block one extra second? Those types of things. So, I think it is a combination of all things."
Stefanski said it was fair to ask if he second-guessed the decision to play Mayfield on Sunday but stressed the quarterback was medically cleared and "rehabbed and fought his butt off to get out there with his teammates on Sunday."
On the season, Mayfield has completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 1,095 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Both Mayfield and the rest of Cleveland's offense will look to bounce back the same way it did after a lopsided Week 1 loss to the Ravens when it travels to Cincinnati on Sunday.
"I would not say he is putting any extra pressure on himself," Stefanski said. "We are looking for winning performances from all of our guys. Baker has won some games here, protecting the ball, getting explosive when they are there, scrambling for first down. There are things that you can do to affect the game and get a W, just have to make sure that we double down on those."