Browns Wrap Up 7-10 Record And Fourth-Place Finish With 28-14 Loss In Pittsburgh

This goal-line stand, resulting in a Najee Harris fumble, was as good as it got for the Browns' defense and embattled coordinator Joe Woods. (Cleveland Browns)

This goal-line stand, resulting in a Najee Harris fumble, was as good as it got for the Browns' defense and embattled coordinator Joe Woods. (Cleveland Browns)

Browns wrap up 7-10 record and fourth-place finish with 28-14 loss in Pittsburgh

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.


Instant takeaways from Browns’ 28-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers …

1. That’s a wrap: Bury another terrible Browns season on the banks of the Three Rivers. They met their usual dismal fate in a season finale in Pittsburgh by losing, 28-14, wrapping up a 7-10 record and failing to knock the Steelers out of the AFC playoff field. The Browns are now 1-21 in regular-season games in Acrisure Stadium (nee Heinz Field). With a chance to perhaps save the job of their defensive coordinator, the Browns allowed rookie QB Kenny Pickett to convert three, long third-down plays en route to a 75-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. The Steelers, 9-8, averted a sub-.500 record for the 16th consecutive year under coach Mike Tomlin, but were knocked out of the AFC playoff field by virtue of Miami’s 11-6 win over the New York Jets. The Browns finished in fourth place in the AFC North. Deshaun Watson concluded his six-game starting stint with a 3-3 record, including 1-2 in division games. He was intercepted twice and sacked seven times by the Steelers. The consequences of this disappointing season should be known this week.

2. Zebra alert: The Browns stopped a 20-0 Pittsburgh scoring run with a little help from the men in striped shirts. Watson was dropped for an 8-yard sack by Cameron Heyward at the Steelers’ 19 to set up third-and-15, but Heyward was flagged for roughing, apparently for slamming Watson to the ground. It was a cheap call and Steelers fans let the officials hear about it. Given a reprieve, Watson got the touchdown two plays later, buying time in the pocket and tossing a 2-yard pass to Nick Chubb to close the Steelers’ lead to 20-14. In fairness, the officials made bad calls benefitting both teams throughout the contest.

3. Make it stop: The Steelers scored for a fourth time in a row on a Najee Harris 4-yard run with 3:12 to go in the third quarter to increase their lead to 20-7. It came after Watson’s second interception of the game when Damontae Kazee stepped in front of David Bell at the Browns’ 36-yard line. Watson’s first interception also was intended for Bell. Watson’s next series ended in a second-down sack by Larry Ogunjobi, on which the officials missed Ogunjobi blatantly pulling Watson down by the facemask, and a third-down sack by T.J. Watt.

4. Baby double-dip: The Steelers completed the double-dip with a 34-yard field goal on the first possession of the second half after Boswell made a 49-yard field goal on the Steelers’ last possession of the first half.

5. And just like that: Watson’s 10-yard touchdown to David Njoku off a play-fake was standing up as the only score of an ugly offensive first half. The half ended with the Steelers scoring 10 points in the final 1:47 for a 10-7 lead. 

6. Anatomy of a deficit: A phantom pass interference call on Greg Newsome on a Pickett overthrow on third-and-5 gave the Steelers the ball at the Browns’ 36. Then on third-and-15 from the 31, a blown coverage left George Pickens open on a seam route for  a 31-yard touchdown. Pickens never ventures in the middle of the field. Maybe that's why the Browns lost him. Watson then was intercepted on second down throwing for David Bell into triple coverage. Pickens again made the big play, a 24-yard reception, to put the Steelers into field goal range. Boswell’s 49-yard field goal made it 10-7.

7. Giveth and taketh: A huge goal-line stand by the Browns, resulting in a Najee Harris fumble on a vault to the goal line forced by Deion Jones and recovered by Anthony Wright at the Cleveland 5, was aided by an apparent error by the officials. CBS analyst Gene Steratore said that officials should have allowed a Harris touchdown on first down. They ruled Harris’ knee was down at the 1; Steratore disagreed. On the next Steelers’ offensive series, Denzel Ward punched the ball free after a catch by Diontae Johnson and Tony Fields recovered. But the call was reversed on replay. It was ruled an incompletion.

8. The Hudson chronicles: James Hudson’s rematch against T.J. Watt was off to a rough start. Hudson was flagged for a hands-to-face penalty v. Watt on the third play of the game. On the last play of the first quarter, Watt beat Hudson to share in a sack with Cameron Heyward. On another play in the second quarter, Watson averted a Watt sack after an ole block by Hudson.

9. Different approaches: The Browns attempted to pass on their first five plays, and had to punt. The Steelers ran on their first five plays, netting two first downs.

10. Down and out: In the first half, the Browns lost middle linebacker Reggie Ragland with a shoulder injury and Kareem Hunt with a head injury. Hunt returned in the second half. Also, Ward re-injured his shoulder on the reversed Johnson fumble and never returned.

11. 2023 opponents: The Browns get nine home games next year. Besides the division games, they will host Jacksonville, Tennessee, Arizona, San Francisco, the Jets and Chicago.  Their road schedule features games at Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle, and Denver. 

12. Pre-game notes: In his last act with the Browns, quarterback Jacoby Brissett served as the game day captainIf you hadn’t heard, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was left behind in Cleveland as a result of flame-torching the organization with comments to on Thursday. Alex Wright replaced him to start. Also, James Hudson replaced inactive Jack Conklin at right tackle. Other Browns inactives: quarterback Kellen Mond, receiver/returner Demetric Felton, cornerback Thomas Graham, defensive tackle Ben Stille and defensive end Isaiah Thomas. The Steelers’ news was that safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and linebacker Myles Jack were active after missing practice time this week with injuries.