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Browns D searching for consistency after Steelers puncture it with deep passes

The last thing Cleveland's defensive players wanted to do after Sunday's game was blame their performance on the unexpected appearance of Ben Roethlisberger.

Instead, in the wake of Sunday's 30-9 loss to the Steelers, the Browns looked internally at all they could have done better against a relentless Pittsburgh passing attack that punctured them for numerous big plays.

"We had some tough drives," linebacker Paul Kruger said. "Some of the deep passes, some of the penalties hurt us. We had a lot of things that made it tough to be effective. Anytime that's going to consistently happen throughout the game, you've got no shot."

Roethlisberger, who entered on Pittsburgh's third offensive series after Landry Jones went down with an injured ankle, connected with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant 24 times for 317 of the Steelers' 402 passing yards and all three touchdowns. Four of Bryant's six catches went for 28 yards or longer, including a 32-yard touchdown catch that directly succeeded a 20-yard Brown catch near the end of the second quarter. Brown's second touchdown catch went for 56 yards.

Pittsburgh also accumulated 136 yards on four pass interference calls. Two for a combined 77 yards came on back-to-back plays in the third quarter.

"We have a few plays we wish we could have back," safety Jordan Poyer said. "Credit to their receivers. They've got some good athletes over there."

Poyer, who missed the previous two games with a shoulder injury, started in place of Donte Whitner, who was out with a concussion for the second straight game. Pierre Desir, Johnson Bademosi and rookie Charles Gaines -- who made his Browns debut Sunday -- rotated in place of Haden, who was also without a concussion.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said the play of the Browns secondary was "not anywhere near our standards."

"Looking at it at times and looking at the replay, it's frustrating when we're not executing the right technique and guys fall back on old habits and open up the gate," Pettine said. "We need to be better at the line of scrimmage. If you win at the line of scrimmage and take advantage of the one rule that's in favor of the defense, then you have a chance to win down the field. When we're giving free access from a press alignment, those are the things that are going to happen."

What made Sunday's defensive performance particularly frustrating was how well the Browns fared against a Steelers running attack that piled up 195 yards the previous week against the Raiders. On Sunday, Pittsburgh finished with 60 yards on 21 carries. Thirty-seven of the 60 yards came on the Steelers' final two possessions.

That kind of inconsistency on defense will be among the top priorities to address during the Browns' upcoming bye week.

"We're just too inconsistent," Kruger said. "I thought we played the run extremely well in this game and then we allow other things to cause a struggle in different areas of the game. There will be some weeks where we shut down everything else and then they're running the ball. We just need to be more consistent as a well-rounded group."

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