Baker Mayfield Sounds Off After Getting Buried For Nine Sacks In Dismal Loss To Steelers

This was a common occurrence in Heinz Field for Baker Mayfield. He was sacked nine times total -- four by All-Pro T.J. Watt. (Cleveland Browns)

This was a common occurrence in Heinz Field for Baker Mayfield. He was sacked nine times total -- four by All-Pro T.J. Watt. (Cleveland Browns)

Baker Mayfield sounds off after getting buried for nine sacks in dismal loss to Steelers

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland.

Pummeled for nine sacks and having five passes batted back at him, Baker Mayfield had had enough.

During his post-game Zoom interview following a physically hurtful 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Ben Roethlisberger’s Heinz Field farewell, the quarterback’s frustration boiled over. The toll of an injury-plagued season was obvious in his stern voice and angered look.

“It’s not always going to be pretty or smooth,” Mayfield said of a nightmare that turned into a fight for survival for him. “But I’m a fighter. If anyone questions how much I want it, just turn on this tape. It wasn’t pretty, but I kept going, kept swinging. It’s who I am and it’s who I’ll continue to be. That’s who I’ve always been, so …”

The Browns’ offensive gameplan harkened back to their darkest years under any number of previous coaches in their expansion era. Kevin Stefanski has suffered bigger losses in his 34 games as Browns coach. But this was a baffling display of ineptitude that seemed unlikely, if not impossible, after his coach-of-the-year rookie season.

From the start, the offense looked confused, out of synch and uninterested. The Browns threw when they should have run and when they tried to throw, Mayfield was either rejected at the line of scrimmage or buried into the hard, cold ground. 

At one point, Mayfield tossed 10 consecutive incompletions, which is more than any NFL quarterback this year. Mayfield’s night ended with his second interception, after completing only 16 of 38 passes for 185 yards. He had two touchdowns, but the second came in the final 1:10 with the outcome long decided.

When Mayfield expounded on the beating he took – primarily from left edge rusher T.J. Watt, who had four sacks – it sounded like he would opt out from playing in the season finale Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I’m an extremely competitive guy,” he said. “But I think now it’s time for me to start look at what’s in the best interest for me and my health. I’ve continued to lay it on the line and haven’t been healthy and tried to fight for our guys. Right now, I’m pretty damn beat up, to be honest with you. There’s no way around it. I gave it everything I had tonight.”

He said he will have a discussion with his family and agent about whether to opt out from Game 17. “I don’t have that answer for you right now,” he said.

Mayfield said he has made the decision to have surgery to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder that has plagued him since Week 2. The Browns have insisted all season that Mayfield was healthy enough to play and win.

“I am going to have the shoulder fixed and be able to come back next year at 100 percent. That’s been decided. When it’s happening, that has not been decided,” he said.

Much of the damage done to Mayfield by the Pittsburgh defense came from Watt, the All-Pro and NFL sack leader who was pitted against rookie right tackle James Hudson. Mayfield made a point of mentioning that the Browns’ coaches never adjusted properly to give Hudson help against Watt.

“When you got T.J. Watt over there and we’re not giving our rookie tackle a whole lot of help, that’s not going to be good,” he said.

“This is the NFL. You have to be able to adapt mid-game and we didn’t do a good enough job, as you can tell.”

When pressed on whether he has been put in the best position by the coaches all season, Mayfield said, “I’m not going to get into too many details about that. There’s a full season evaluation. We’ve obviously been pretty banged up. I believe in James. Pray to God you guys don’t spin this into something where I’m criticizing James Hudson. We’re talking about an all-pro he’s going against and he hasn’t had many starts. I’m proud of James. He kept swinging, kept fighting.

“Now, when it comes to what we’ve had to deal with all season, There’s been a lot of ups and downs. Do I believe I could play better? Absolutely. Do I believe there’s positions that we as an offense could have been put in that were better? Absolutely. There’s so many critiques throughout the year. If there wasn’t we wouldn’t be sitting here 7-9. So, it is what it is.”

For his part, Stefanski appeared more dazed by the beating than Mayfield. The coach had no explanation for running Nick Chubb only 12 times for 58 yards against the Steelers’ 32nd-ranked run defense and could not adequately explain why Hudson received so little help in fending off Watt.

Asked what exactly was the game plan on offense, Stefanski said, “Score some points. Whatever it was, it didn’t work. Wasn’t good enough. Run, pass. Got the quarterback sacked too many times, never got in rhythm.”

He said Chubb suffered a rib injury early in the game, and that cut his play time.

“It was a factor in some of those things. I don’t want to overstate it, either. We just couldn’t sustain anything,” Stefanski said. “We just felt we had some opportunities [to throw], and then got behind on down and distance.”

While Mayfield was being battered, Roethlisberger enjoyed his last game in Heinz Field by chucking the ball around half the night and then handing off to rookie back Najee Harris the other half. Harris rushed 28 times for 188 yards. His 37-yard touchdown at the end started the celebration to Ben’s last moments in Heinz Field after 18 years of winning seasons.

For the second year in a row after a Browns' game, Roethlisberger was in tears. This time they were tears of joy as he reveled in the post-game celebration with his family at his side.

The victory assured the Steelers (8-7-1) of not having a losing season in Roethlisberger’s entire career and kept alive their faint hopes for an AFC wild card. The loss assured the Browns (7-9) of a losing season after Super Bowl expectations went down the drain.

The dismal performance also raised questions about whether the Browns will cash it in with a final game remaining against division champion Cincinnati Sunday in FirstEnergy Stadium.

“I mean, today obviously was extremely frustrating knowing we were eliminated [from the postseason],” Mayfield said. “So guys are just going out there for pride and to win for each other. It’s frustrating when it doesn’t happen. We know our season’s over after next week.

“It’s still, this is our job. So guys have to handle it correctly. Guys have to show up to work, get their rehab, show up in meetings, pay attention, be locked in. Guys have to be pros. And if they don’t handle it correctly, I wouldn’t expect them to be around for very long because that’s part of being a pro and being there for your teammates.”

If this indeed was Mayfield’s last game this season, it sure sounded like he expected to be back next year after an offseason of getting healthy.