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Browns D not interested in positives from a loss, focused on being even better to deliver wins

Despite holding the Steelers to 15 points, the Browns defense didn’t find many positives in Week 8

The Browns defense wasn't in the mood to look at any of the positives that came away on its side of the ball after Cleveland fell to Pittsburgh on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

That's because, in their opinion, there weren't many positives at all.

Even though the Browns held the Steelers to 15 points — Pittsburgh's second-lowest scoring total this season — in a 15-10 loss, the group still believes there were too many mistakes, too many missed opportunities and too much room for improvement to feel as though any significant step forward was taken against their AFC North rival. Despite the low total on the scoreboard, the group didn't record a takeaway and create enough plays in the second half to offer any sort of boost to the Browns, who are now 4-4.

"It's not fun," DE Myles Garrett said. "It was definitely a winnable game for us, but we didn't do it. We didn't execute like we needed to. We had a good game on defense, but not well enough. Nobody is happy with what we did on any of the phases. We need to go back to the drawing board and keep on working."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Steelers in week eight

The Steelers accounted for 370 total yards of offense. 266 of them came from the arm of Ben Roethlisberger, who went 22-of-34 with one touchdown, and 115 of them came on the ground.

The majority of the damage on both sides, however, was done in the second half, when the Steelers totaled 233 yards and scored two touchdowns.

That might've been enough to win had the Browns offense found the end zone more than just one time, but a good defense shouldn't always rely on its offense to win games. A great defensive game was spoiled on the first drive of the fourth quarter, when the Steelers used 13 plays to drive 88 yards and take the lead with a touchdown after an incredible bobbling catch from rookie TE Pat Freiermuth, who also managed to secure both feet in bounds despite tight coverage from safety Ronnie Harrison Jr.

The drive was the longest from both offenses and proved costly in a game where points were difficult to find.

"It's like, 'Who's going to make a mistake first?'" linebacker Malcolm Smith said. "It came down to the wire. It's one of those competitive games in a really good division. It's probably going to be like that for the rest of our division games."

Turnovers offer chances to compensate for unsuccessful drives, though, and the Browns failed to record one for the fourth game this season. 

No opportunity for a turnover was better than an errant Roethlisberger pass in the third quarter. The pass was intended for Diontae Johnson, but its low trajectory put the ball right in the path of Smith and safety Grant Delpit.

Both defenders could've picked the ball off. They collided instead, and the ball bounced off them and hit the grass for an incompletion. An interception would've likely yielded a solid return and given the Browns the ball deep in Steelers' territory.

Other takeaway opportunities were present, too. 

"We had one where (Steelers running back) Najee (Harris) was coming down on a tackle and was juggling the ball," Garrett said. "We didn't get the ball to completely come out, and he was able to get his hands back on it as he was falling down.

Takeaways were one of coach Kevin Stefanski's biggest points of emphasis in his postgame locker room speech after the game. He commended the group for holding the Steelers to a low number on the scoreboard, but he acknowledged that the performance still wasn't good enough.

"To hold the team to 15 points is a good outing," he told local reporters Monday, "but really, it's not good enough. That's what I told the players. None of us did enough. While we were good in moments, we've got to take the ball away. We've got to find a way on some of those drives to get off the field."

On a positive note, Stefanski said Monday safety John Johnson III, who didn't play the second half Sunday because of a neck injury, is "day-to-day." CB Denzel Ward didn't play Sunday but is hoping to have him back for Week 9 in Cincinnati.

"I'm hoping we will," Stefanski said, "but I'll have a better feel for that come Wednesday."

The record doesn't show it, but the defense has appeared to take a step forward in the last two weeks. Opponents have been held to 14 and 15 points in the last two games, but with just one turnover and one win from those results, it's hard for the defense to look at that stretch with much success.

A 1-2 record to wrap three straight home games doesn't improve that picture, either.

"Losing is the only thing that I'm disappointed about," LB Anthony Walker said. "If we would've won that game 10-9, I would be ecstatic in here right now. If we would've won that game 100-99, I would've been ecstatic right now. 

The Browns are looking for answers from either side of the football. They have time to find them with nine games left, but the quality just hasn't been good enough for anyone to feel good about the results.

Everyone is being hard on themselves about the state of the Browns — defense included.

"I just want to win, and I'm pretty sure everybody in that locker room feels the same way," Walker said. "We own that as a team that we lost that game."

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