Buckle up in a four-point harness. Because when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the takes will be nuclear over the next 48 hours. Understandably so after a pitiful 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon. A game where Pittsburgh had the advantage of not facing starting QB Deshaun Watson, who was finally finding his groove with the team. Out for the season with a fractured shoulder, the Browns turned to rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. With the Browns missing their top quarterback, star RB Nick Chubb (injured in Week Two against the Steelers) and both starting tackles, the Steelers seemed to be in strong position to win this game.
Instead, their offense had one of its worst showings of the year, everyone sans RB Jaylen Warren stuck in the mud. And the outcome was a game-winning field goal by Cleveland kicker Dustin Hopkins, a 13-10 Browns victory that pushed them into second place in the AFC North.
Taking to Twitter after the game, Ryan Clark sounded off on a bitter Steelers defeat.
“Disgraceful for the Steelers to lose to this Cleveland Browns’ team with DTR at QB,” his tweet began.
You can see the rest of it below. Not finishing fourth quarters that have been otherwise common in Pittsburgh while Clark said the Steelers didn’t make “any changes” and allowed the Browns to close out the game.
It’s hard to argue with his points. While Thompson-Robinson did little throughout the game, he made enough plays in the final 90 seconds to set the Browns up in field goal range. Hardly even attempting a pass farther than 10 yard downfield, the Steelers still played soft coverage on their final possession, allowing DTR to hit underneath targets in WRs Elijah Moore and Amari Cooper and TE David Njoku, setting up Hopkins’ kick.
Again, Pittsburgh was dominated in the box score. The Browns had more first downs, more total yards, and more plays from scrimmage than the Steelers. In all 10 of Pittsburgh’s games this season, they Steelers have been outgained and ran fewer plays. In nine of them, they’ve had fewer first downs than their opponent, last week’s win over Green Bay the only exception.
Pittsburgh’s 6-3 record looked strong enough. But the concern has always been sustainability. Now, those cracks are appearing. An inability to score and do much of anything offensively is hampering this team in all facets. It hurts field position, puts more strain on a defense that’s wounded and far from elite, and requires games to be won on a final drive with a big conversion or defensive stand. In all, this is the least-inspiring 6-4 team the NFL has seen.
Following this loss, it makes next Sunday’s game against Cincinnati essentially a must-win. Lose to the Bengals and their backup QB Jake Browning and Pittsburgh will be sitting at 6-5, 2-2 in the AFC North, and looking up at the Baltimore Ravens and the Browns. And falling to back-to-back backups will put to bed any idea the Steelers can compete with playoff squads. After today, that hope is already diminishing.