Skip to main content

Inside the Game

Presented by

Browns offense 'didn't get into a rhythm,' execute the way it needed to avoid 3rd straight loss

Incompletions, interceptions and lack of overall rhythm on offense has dealt the Browns a 7-9 record as they head into the final week of the regular season

PITTSBURGH — Kevin Stefanski didn't see any silver linings about how the Browns operated offensively Monday at Heinz Field.

The Browns never sustained a rhythm in any facet of their attack in their 26-14 loss to the Steelers, which dropped their record to 7-9. Completions were difficult to consistently find all game, the run game never found a high gear and the blocking up front — particularly on pass plays — struggled to hold steady.

Cleveland mustered one of its poorest offensive displays of the season as a result. Stefanski said it wasn't for a lack of effort, but the overall execution was never at the level the Browns needed to avoid its second loss of the season to Pittsburgh.

"It didn't work," Stefanski said when discussing the offensive game plan. "It wasn't good enough; run, pass. Just wasn't good enough. Got the quarterback sacked too many times, didn't convert on third down, didn't get into a rhythm."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Steelers in Week 17

The Browns generated 232 total offensive yards, their lowest output in a game this season and lowest since they totaled 223 yards in Week 8 in 2020. Baker Mayfield went 16-for-38 with 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and was sacked a season-high nine times. RB Nick Chubb rushed for 58 yards.

Stefanski admitted the Browns' plans were tough to fully follow after Chubb, a 2022 Pro Bowler, suffered a rib injury early in the game, which limited the amount of times Stefanski was willing to give him the ball. 

The passing game, however, struggled to pick up the extra load. The Steelers defense was constantly bringing pressure to Mayfield in the pocket, and the results still weren't favorable when he could deliver a pass — the Steelers deflected 11 of his pass attempts, and five of them were made from their defensive line.

"(The Steelers') front is pretty good," Mayfield said. "It has been for years."

Mayfield admitted his teammates were frustrated entering Monday after the Browns were eliminated Sunday from playoff contention. With no shot left for the postseason, Cleveland played for pride with the hopes of avoiding a season sweep to Pittsburgh and spoiling what could have been Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger's final home game in his 18th and possible final season in Pittsburgh.

None of those variables, though, are the same as playing for the playoffs. The Browns missed that opportunity in part from poor offensive performances in crucial games all season, and those miscues were evident again in Pittsburgh. 

Mayfield started the game with just one completion in his first 11 pass attempts and never fully recovered to bring consistency to the offense. A 3-yard pass touchdown late in the third quarter to TE David Njoku and 1-yard passing touchdown to TE Harrison Bryant with just over a minute left pumped life into the unit.

But all of the production occurred too late into the game. Mayfield was intercepted for the second time on the Browns' final offensive play of the game, which allowed Roethlisberger to take a knee for his possible final play in Pittsburgh and end the game. 

"Today, obviously, was extremely frustrating just because we're going out there knowing that we're eliminated from the playoffs," Mayfield said. "Guys are just going out there for pride and heart and playing for each other. There's no other reason why we would go out there and do it besides to get a win for each other, so it's frustrating when it doesn't happen."

Mayfield, who has played through a shoulder injury since Week 2, said after the game that he plans to undergo surgery for the injury and do everything possible to return for the 2022-23 season at 100 percent. The fourth-year quarterback, however, has not made a decision yet on when he'll receive the procedure.

"I've made the decision and have had discussions that I am going to have surgery," he said. When it's happening, that has not been decided."

In addition to Mayfield healing up, the Browns will have several areas to address within their offense once they complete their season next week at FirstEnergy Stadium against the Bengals. Cleveland will look to end the year on a positive note rather than a four-game losing streak, which has been built after the Browns failed to elevate the offense to the same playoff-worthy level they benefited from at the end of 2020.

It's nothing Stefanski or anyone on the offense has been proud of, and Monday's performance certainly didn't change those feelings.

"The whole thing was trying to go out there and compete," Stefanski said. "We had to go out there and play well and try to find a way to win, and we didn't get it."

Related Content