The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers faced off in the final week of the NFL season. The Steelers entered the game locked into the number three spot in the AFC playoff race. Because of this, the team sat four of their stars on offense, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and Maurkice Pouncey. Coming off of their first win of the season, the Browns looked to put together their first string of back-to-back wins since the midway point of the 2014 season. The Browns fell short against the makeshift Steelers, but they showed heart, taking the game into overtime. This season has been dominated by low points for the Browns, but their resiliency in these past two weeks leaves the team heading into the offseason with some optimism.
Cleveland Browns Week 17 Takeaways
In the past ten seasons, the Cleveland Browns are 3-17 against the Pittsburg Steelers. The Browns have been completely dominated by the Steelers during the Big Ben era, and even though Landry Jones was under center Sunday, the outcome was no different from the past. With that being said, the game was actually a nail biter, which the Browns choked in the end. In a tie game, Cleveland had the ball on the 5-yard line, with under a minute to play, and fumbled the ball. Then in overtime, the Browns had first and goal at the 2-yard line, and had to settle for a field goal. Costly mistakes such as these have been the epitome of the Browns, but they pushed the Steelers to their limits. Even though it was a meaningless game, the prospect of beating the Steelers may have been worth losing the number one overall pick.
Robert Griffin Puts Together His Best Start of the Season
The Browns came out of the gates hot, jumping to a 14-0 lead on Robert Griffin‘s first passing touchdown of the season. During the Browns first two scoring drives, Griffin showed poise in the pocket, waited for plays to develop and for receivers to get open. But classic RGIII fashion, he followed the next two drives with an interception, and a lost fumble. The best passing play of the game came with just over a minute left, and the Browns trying to close out the game. Griffin found Terrelle Pryor for 47 yards, setting the Browns up with first and goal. Unfortunately, on the next play, Isaiah Crowell fumbled, turning the ball over in a tie game, with only 56 seconds at the 3-yard line.
Hue Jackson Continues to Make Questionable Decisions
All the Browns needed to do to close out the game was take a knee, and bring out Cody Parkey to win the Browns first game at Heinz Field since 2003. Instead, Jackson decided to run the ball, and Crowell coughed it up. Then, in overtime, with the ball at the two-yard line, Jackson tried to run a screen to Andrew Hawkins. The pass was nearly picked off, but instead wound up as a 14-yard loss. The Browns then failed to regain their lost yardage, and were forced to kick a field goal. Once the Steelers got the ball, Landry Jones led his offense on a nine-play, 75 yard drive into the end zone.
Hue Jackson was brought to Cleveland for being a quarterback guru, and a top-notch play caller in Cincinnati. During his time this year in Cleveland, Jackson has seemed to make several questionable play calls, especially late in games. The other decision that’s hard to understand is his lack of confidence in the run game. Isaiah Crowell ran for 152 yards on just 19 carries this week. His 19 carries were his most of the season, but in several other weeks, he abandoned the run game early, leaving the offense on dimensional. Jackson will have several months to reflect on his play calling this season, and hopefully be able to improve.
Looking Forward to the Future
The sole bright spot coming out of this game, and season, is that the Browns have secured the number one overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Many were pulling for the Browns to lose this game on purpose, giving them their pick of the litter among this year’s college prospects. Today it was announced that Hue Jackson and his staff will be coaching in the Senior Bowl this year. With five picks out of the first 65 overall, the Browns coaching staff will have plenty of time to scout this year’s top senior talent. Many believe junior Myles Garret out of Texas A&M to be the top overall prospect. The Browns are in desperate need of a pass rush, and it’s certainly hoped by fans that if he is chosen he can live up to the expectations.