Points were at a premium for a second consecutive week at FirstEnergy Stadium, and the Browns couldn't pick up enough of them to secure their first AFC North win of the season.
The Browns took a slim lead into the fourth quarter Sunday but couldn't hold onto it, as the Steelers found the end zone and slammed the door shut on the Browns, who fell, 15-10.
The Browns move to 4-4 on the season. Pittsburgh sits at 4-3.
"Really, it is just a frustrating day, a disappointing day and that is true," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We are 4-4 and have a bunch of games left so we have to rally, get back in there tomorrow, make some corrections and then go find a way to get a win."
Baker Mayfield, in his first game back from a left shoulder injury, completed 20-of-31 passes for 255 yards. He got the ball in the hands of nine different receivers and even added a gutsy third-down scramble to extend a fourth quarter drive but it still wasn't enough, as the Steelers defense stuffed the Browns more often than not in the game's most critical moments.
"We just have to execute," Mayfield said. "Do the simple things right. Make the routine plays. There is something about that. We just need to make the routine plays, keep the chains moving and just push forward."
Nick Chubb, in his return from a two-game absence, rushed for 61 yards on 16 carries. D'Ernest Johnson added 29 yards of offense and a touchdown.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Steelers in week eight
The Browns, who entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing offense, was held below 100 yards for the second time in the past three games. It was the second game Cleveland played without Kareem Hunt, its spark plug running mate to Chubb who is out with a calf injury.
"Obviously, Nick was healthy today and ready to go," Stefanski said. "Nick is a great player. Kareem is a great player. Of course, we miss him – I think that is obvious – but we have enough to go get a win. We have enough to score more than 10 points."
Jarvis Landry led the Browns with five catches for 65 yards but his sole focus after the game centered on the plays he didn't make. Landry fumbled on Cleveland's penultimate offensive series and had the ball slip through his hands on a fourth down pass with less than 2 minutes to play.
"We had opportunities to make plays and extend drives, myself included," Landry said. "Those two times were two reasons why we didn't score."
Ben Roethlisberger paced a methodical Pittsburgh offense with 266 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown pass that gave the Steelers the lead for good with 11:04 to play.
Najee Harris powered the Steelers on the ground with 91 rushing yards. Diontae Johnson caught six passes for 98 yards, more than half of which coming on a back-breaking 50-yard catch that sealed the game.
"We are not good enough defensively right now," LB Anthony Walker said. "We have to be a lot better to be a championship team. The defense has to be a lot better, and it starts with my play."
The Steelers took the lead on their fourth try from the 2-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger found TE Pat Freiermuth, who was guarded tightly by Ronnie Harrison Jr. but was able to corral the pass and drag both of his feet in bounds to give Pittsburgh a five-point advantage.
On the verge of reclaiming the lead, the Browns committed the game's first turnover at a pivotal moment. Landry caught a slant near the 20-yard line but lost control of it as he went to the ground. Former Browns LB Joe Schobert forced it, and All-Pro DE T.J. Watt recovered it to give the Steelers the ball with 6:04 to play.
"It is something (Schobert) is known for doing," Landry said. "I really was not trying to fight for extra yards. I was trying to get down. He made a great play."
The Browns got one more shot and moved the ball inside the Steelers' 25-yard line but came up short one more time. Mayfield's fourth-and-long pass to Landry fell incomplete with 1:53 to play, and the Browns suffered their third loss in the past four games.
"We know our division is extremely talented," Mayfield said. "It is a very tough, physical division. We know that. Obviously, with the Bengals coming along, you can feel that. We have to take it one week at a time. We have to do our job. It is not about anybody else but us right now. That is just a fact. We have to handle it that way. We can't be worried about the big picture. We have to take it one week at a time and just chip away at this."
After a sluggish end to the first half, the Browns offense came out hot to start the second half. Chubb got them rolling with a 21-yard run, and Mayfield found Harrison Bryant on a 21-yard pass to get Cleveland in field goal range. The Browns capped this drive in the end zone, though, as Johnson rushed 10 yards for his second career touchdown to give his team a 10-3 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Steelers came right back with a scoring drive of their own, as Harris plunged into the end zone from 8 yards to draw Pittsburgh within a point with 3:39 to play in the third quarter. Pittsburgh, though, had no choice but to go for a two-point conversion because its kicker, Chris Boswell, was out with a concussion suffered near the end of the first half. The first attempt was successful but a holding penalty negated it. The second was blown up by Garrett, who applied immediate pressure and forced an incompletion.
The Browns and Steelers couldn't get much going offensively in the first half, which featured a field goal apiece from both sides.
Cleveland's best first-half possession was its first, as the Browns drove 63 yards on 13 plays. The Browns ran into a wall once they crossed the 10-yard line, though, and were forced to settle for a 30-yard Chase McLaughlin field goal.
The Steelers ran into a similar wall at the end of their scoring drive in the second quarter. Malik McDowell's second sack of the season put the momentum back on Cleveland's side, and the Steelers kicked a short field goal to even the score, 3-3, with 9:18 to play in the second quarter.
The Browns prevented the Steelers from taking a lead into halftime when they snuffed out a Steelers fake field goal attempt. Boswell's pass sailed out of the end zone, and Boswell suffered a concussion on the play.
The Browns are back in action next week when they travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals.
"We have to be real critical about it," Landry said. "Then we have to figure out a way to get past it. I think once Monday hits, we will get back into the building and put this one behind us. We have an off day on Tuesday, try to get guys healthy and see where we are at to attack the week."