CLEVELAND — Of all the ways to lose, its hard to get worse than this.
The Browns fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 15-10 Sunday despite leading for almost the entire game. Pat Freiermuth's touchdown early in the fourth quarter turned out to be the game-winner, while Cleveland failed to score late after as close as 24 yards from the end zone.
Baker Mayfield returned from injury and completed a solid 65% of his passes, but Jarvis Landry had two brutal drops and a fumble in the fourth quarter while Odell Beckham Jr. had only one catch for six yards. Nick Chubb also struggled to gain traction, with D'Ernest Johnson scoring the Browns' only TD.
The Cleveland defense did well early and held the Steelers to only three first half points, and late in the second kicker Chris Boswell was knocked out of the game with a concussion. But despite not being able to attempt field goals or extra points, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to carve up the Browns' depleted secondary with 266 yards and a touchdown that came on an incredible fourth-down grab by Freiermuth.
Cleveland then drove deep into Steelers territory on back-to-back possessions, but the first ended on Landry's turnover and the second on the receiver's fourth-down drop. Pittsburgh was able to ice the game away thanks to a 50-yard pitch-and-catch from Roethlisberger to Diontae Johnson.
The Browns have lost three of their last four games to fall to 4-4, last place in the AFC North (although that's still only 1 1/2 games behind first-place Baltimore). They'll head south next Sunday for the "Battle of Ohio" against the Cincinnati Bengals, who despite being 5-3 are reeling after a shocking defeat at the hands of the 1-5 New York Jets.
What follows is a comprehensive, drive-by-drive recap of today's action, with the most recent plays and updates closest to the top. Stay tuned for analysis all afternoon long on both 3News and WKYC.com.
1:53: On fourth down from the Steelers 26, Baker Mayfield finds Jarvis Landry, but he drops it for the second time on the drive. Pittsburgh takes over and will try to run out the clock.
4:22: Greg Newsome II forces a Steelers three-and-out with an incredible tackle of Diontae Johnson. Pressley Harvin II's punt travels only 38 yards, giving the Browns the ball at their own 39.
6:04: The Browns' offense appears to be humming along, but then disaster strikes when Jarvis Landry fumbles. T.J. Watt recovers the loose ball, and the Steelers will start at their own 20-yard line.
11:04 - Steelers 15, Browns 10: The Browns' defense wilts throughout a long Steelers drive, and on fourth down from the 2, Pat Freiermuth makes an incredible catch for a touchdown. The two-point try is no good, but Pittsburgh has its first lead.
1:42: Pressley Harvin III's kickoff goes out of bounds and gives the Browns the ball at their own 40, but they can't take advantage and go three-and-out. Jamie Gillan's punt pins the Steelers at their own 17.
3:39 - Browns 10, Steelers 9: The Steelers get a long drive of their own and Najee Harris dives in for an 8-yard touchdown, but with Chris Boswell officially out, Pittsburgh will go for two. Ben Roethlisberger runs it it, but a holding penalty takes it off the board, and the quarterback's throw is incomplete after he's hit on the next try from the 12.
Also on the injury front, safety John Johnson III is out for the Browns after suffering a neck injury.
9:36 - Browns 10 Steelers 3: A big run by Nick Chubb followed by passes to Jarvis Landry and Harrison Bryant get the Browns' offense rolling. 86 yards later, they reach the end zone on a 10-yard run by D'Ernest Johnson.
13:55: Ben Roethlisberger's third-down pass is nearly intercepted and the Steelers go three-and-out. After an illegal block in the back penalty on the punt return, the Browns will start at their own 14-yard line.
For Pittsburgh, Chris Boswell is currently being evaluated for a concussion, and there's a good chance he won't be able to return to this game. Pressley Harvin III will take over kickoff duties, but is not experienced with kicking field goals and is also the team's normal holder. It remains to be seen how this will affect the Steelers' decision making.
0:00: With kicker Chris Boswell hurt, the Steelers elect to kneel on the ball, and we head into halftime tied at 3.
0:21: The Browns get a quick first down, but then go backwards after T.J. Watt sacks Baker Mayfield. Ray-Ray McCloud returns Jamie Gillan's punt 19 yards to the Pittsburgh 35, and the Steelers will have a chance to add some points before the half.
1:38: The Steelers drive all the way to the Cleveland 10, but a Myles Garrett sack on Ben Roethlisberger helps force an apparent field goal attempt. Instead, Mike Tomlin calls a fake, but kicker Chris Boswell's pass is incomplete, and he is shaken up after being hit hard on the play. At any rate, the Browns take over.
6:07: A D'Ernest Johnson drop on third down leads to another three-and-out. Jamie Gillan punts again and Ray-Ray McCloud fumbles the return, but Pittsburgh recovers and will start at its own 37-yard line.
7:16: Now it's the Steelers' turn to go three-and-out, but Pressley Harvin III delivers a 56-yard punt of his own. Demetric Felton returns it to the Browns' 22.
Also an unfortunate update: Jack Conklin will not return to this game.
8:30: The Browns follow up the Pittsburgh points by going three-and-out, but Jamie Gillan punts it 52 yards to put the Steelers at their own 23.
Also for Cleveland, Jack Conklin has left the game with an arm injury. He had missed the last two contests with ankle issues.
9:18 - Steelers 3, Browns 3: The Steelers take advantage of the turnover on downs and drive into Cleveland territory, but Malik McDowell sacks Ben Roethlisberger to set up a 31-yard field goal by Chris Boswell.
14:54: Another fourth down, another missed opportunity for the Browns, as Devin Bush and T.J. Watt throw Nick Chubb back for a 1-yard loss. The Steelers have the ball at their own 40.
4:19: The Steelers cross midfield but are pushed back into their own territory by a penalty, and on third-and-14 Ben Roethlisberger's pass is batted away by Anthony Walker Jr. Pressley Harvin III punts the ball to the Cleveland 15.
8:12 - Browns 3, Steelers 0: Baker Mayfield leads the Browns to a first-and-goal, but Austin Hooper drops a pass before Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt team up for a sack. Cleveland settles for a 30-yard Chase McLaughlin field goal.
Noon: Besides Mayfield, Chubb, and Conklin, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will play after being listed as questionable during the week. Unfortunately, cornerback Denzel Ward (hamstring) and receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin) will not play.
The following players are also inactive:
- DE Takkarist McKinley (groin)
- CB A.J. Green (groin)
- S Richard LeCounte III (discipline)
- DT Tommy Togiai
- OG Hjalte Froholdt
11:30 a.m.: On this Halloween, several Browns players showed up to FirstEnergy Stadium in costume, with Myles Garrett portraying the Grim Reaper of Quarterbacks.
Fans in the Muni Lot were also dressed up.