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Hue Jackson sees Browns defense playing 'inspired football'

CLEVELAND — The Browns defense picked up where it left off.

After surrendering just one touchdown in the preseason, Cleveland went toe-to-toe with the Steelers in a loss Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.

While the display had some flaws, the re-energized group help the high-powered Pittsburgh offense to 290 yards (including just 35 rushing) and a 5-of-13 showing on third-down conversions.

"As I've said – I have been saying this since the summer – I think our defense is a good defense," said head coach Hue Jackson, who hired veteran coordinator Gregg Williams in January to help mold a young but promising unit.

"Gregg does a great job with the defensive staff. I think we're playing inspired football over there and the guys were working hard. This is a team game. They are doing their job. Offense has to continue to do theirs and special teams has to do theirs. That is how you build a football team."

Just like the preseason, the Browns defense stole the show on this afternoon. They forced six punts, recorded one takeaway and shut down Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell (10 carries, 32 yards), who almost combined for 200 yards the last time these two teams met in Cleveland.

"We flew around. We were hitting people, all of us getting to the ball," cornerback Jamar Taylor said. "We made them go back a few times, but we have to create more turnovers for our offense. We have to play better as a whole."

"We played with a lot of energy. We were flying around like we did in the preseason," second-year safety Derrick Kindred added. "We have to come in with that regular season mentality and fight harder."

While Cleveland held Pittsburgh to its lowest output since November, there's plenty to clean up before traveling to Baltimore next weekend. All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 182 yards and the pass rush struggled to fluster quarterback Ben Roethlisberger without rookie defensive end and No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, who will miss time because of an ankle sprain.

"We're always striving for zero (points) obviously, with our defense and our mentality," said linebacker Joe Schobert, who made a game-high nine tackles.

"They're one of the best offenses in the league. They have a lot of weapons. For the most part of the game, we did a good job limiting them. Obviously, they made some big plays and they were able to get some points, and we weren't able to do it."

The unit, however, helped Cleveland stay close in a game ultimately decided in the final minutes.

"We were with them the whole time. There is no doubt in my mind that we can go out there and win that ballgame," linebacker Christian Kirksey said.

"We have to eliminate some of the big plays on special teams like the blocked punt. If we get rid of that play, it is a super close game. No excuses for us. We just have to get better."

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