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Browns putting 'all of our energies' into make-or-break Pittsburgh game

The Browns are channeling their frustrations into energy to prepare for a must-win game in Week 17 to keep their playoff hopes alive

Multiple Browns players and coaches have voiced the same emotion in the days after the Browns' 24-22 loss to the Packers on Saturday at Lambeau Field. 

Frustration. 

Myles Garrett, Baker Mayfield and other players didn't hide it after the game, and head coach Kevin Stefanski reiterated it several times throughout his Monday press conference. The Browns have struggled to shake the feeling after coming so close to a crucial win — they were at the Packers' 50-yard line with 50 seconds left and only down two points before a Mayfield interception, his fourth of the game, ended the Browns' final drive.

"Like we talked about after the game and how we feel watching it on tape, (we're) certainly frustrated," Stefanski said. "We felt like we had a real good opportunity to come out of there with a win versus a good team, and we didn't come through."

Garrett, when asked about the emotion, needed a few seconds to collect his thoughts Saturday before delivering his answer.

"It's frustrating for everybody watching," he said. "If you're a Browns fan, you're frustrated. If you're a Browns player, you're frustrated. If you have anything to do with us, you know that. We've had chances. We just haven't converted and capitalized."

Stefanski isn't asking any of his players to shake the frustration before they return Tuesday to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus for their first practice of Week 17. The frustration – and energy that comes with it — will be needed to generate the sense of urgency the Browns must have next Monday for a must-win road game against the Steelers.

A path to the playoffs is still alive for the Browns, even at 7-8 and fourth in the AFC North. They must win their final two games against the Steelers (7-7-1) and Bengals (9-6), and they need the first-seeded Chiefs to beat the Bengals next Sunday and the Ravens (8-7) to lose either of their last two games against the Rams and Steelers. Another loss this season will close the Browns' door to the playoffs.

"Our whole focus is on Pittsburgh," Stefanski said. "We've got a long week going into this one. We'll get some guys back off the COVID list, and then put a plan together to go find a way to win in Pittsburgh."

Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Packers on Christmas Day by the Browns photo team

Stefanski is right about how the Browns have a longer-than-normal week to prepare. That'll be fully welcomed after the team dealt with two straight weeks of roster uncertainty stemming from numerous positive COVID-19 cases, which has put the Browns short-handed at several key positions in the last two games.

Those problems will hopefully be in the past after the Browns activated eight players Monday from the reserve/COVID-19 list. DE Jadeveon Clowney, S Ronnie Harrison Jr., RB Kareem Hunt, T Jedrick Wills Jr., CB Troy Hill DT Malik McDowell, LB Mack Wilson and G Drew Forbes are all back on the active roster. The Browns are hopeful to activate the other seven players currently on the list, which includes starting C JC Tretter and CB Greg Newsome II, before traveling to Pittsburgh as well.

Cleveland will have eight days to rest and practice for the Steelers, as opposed to the four days it had in Week 16. The team will also be able to practice more times this week than either of their previous two weeks. 

Time is finally on the Browns' side from a preparation standpoint, and they'll embrace it all.

"We – coaches, players and staff – have to put all of our energies into this game this week," Stefanski said.

The offense, in particular, will spend ample time looking to avoid a repeat of anything close to its four-interception performance. The game was far from the standards set from Mayfield himself, and while Stefanski acknowledged that Mayfield wasn't the lone player at fault in all the turnovers, he expects him to still play better in the last two regular season games.

"With the quarterbacks, it's no fun to watch the interception reel, talk through them and learn from them," Stefanski said. "I think Baker told you the other night, he did not play up to his standard, and we expect him to play at a high level. I think confidence-wise with the quarterback position, you get too much credit, and you get too much blame. That's just how it is. He will bounce back, and I think he will be better for it."

Everyone on the Browns, though, must be better for them to reach the playoffs. The frustrations have reached a peak after two weeks full of tough news off the field and tough results on gameday, but everyone on the team realizes that none of the Browns' goals have been ruled out.

The playoffs are still attainable, and they're going to fight to the finish.

"It's easy to say the 'would have, could have, should have' type of things," Stefanski said. "For us, again, all of our focus has to just go right back into this week, this game, versus this opponent."

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