PITTSBURGH (92.3 The Fan) – The 2008 Detroit Lions might not have popped champagne, but they now have company.
The Cleveland Browns completed an imperfect season with a 28-24 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh to finish 0-16 in 2017.
The Browns had a chance to pull off a win with less than 2 minutes to play but Corey Coleman, who was wide open, was unable to haul in a pass on the far sideline at the 11 from DeShone Kizer on a fourth-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 31 with 1:54 remaining turning the ball over to the Steelers, who ran out the clock.
It was a fitting ending to the ‘Season of Misery.’
Here’s a look at the good and bad from the season finale and loss No. 16.
– Mike Tomlin did Jackson a solid for a second straight year by benching his stars – quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, running back Le’Veon Bell, center Maurkice Pouncy, guard David DeCastro and defensive end Cameron Heyward. Receiver Antonio Brown was already ruled out as he continues to recover from a calf injury suffered earlier this month.
– Jabrill Peppers came up with his first interception of the season to end the Steelers’ second offensive series as he slid in front of a Landry Jones pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster at the Cleveland 37. It was the first defensive turnover forced by the Browns since Nov. 19 at Detroit (Jamie Collins interception/injury). Peppers also recorded his first sack of the season in the second quarter.
– Another mental mistake almost cost the Browns again but the defense was able to hold on fourth-and-goal when James Burgess and Danny Shelton dropped Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix for a 1-yard loss at the 2. Before that stop there was plenty of bad on the series defensively. Linebacker Christian Kirksey was called offsides on a would-be 27-yard field goal attempt by Chris Boswell giving the Steelers a fresh set of downs. Pittsburgh moved into scoring range thanks to a Landry Jones to JuJu Smith-Schuster 34-yard completion to the Cleveland 37 before running back Steven Ridley went off left tackle to the 16 for 21 more yards.
– DeShone Kizer completed the longest pass of his young career, unloading a 54-yard deep ball to Josh Gordon, which was ruled a TD but replay showed Gordon stepped out inside the 3. The play was also the longest passing play of the season topping Kevin Hogan’s 49-yard completion to tight end Seth DeValve Sept. 17 at Baltimore. Duke Johnson Jr. got the Browns on the board 2 plays later with his fourth TD run of the season from 2 yards out to pull within 14-7 with 11:46 left in the first half.
– Kizer reset his career-long pass mark on the next possession when he found receiver Rashard Higgins 10 yards down the field over the middle and Higgins did the rest racing to the endzone for a 56-yard score with 7:13 left in the first half to pull the Browns within 21-14.
– Defensive tackle Caleb Brantley caught a Jones “fumble,” forced by Myles Garrett (sack No. 7 on the season) in midair to give the defense their second forced turnover of the afternoon late in the first half.
– The Browns came out firing in the second half as Kizer marched the offense 7 plays and 68 yards to tie the game at 21 thanks to a 5-yard TD toss to Higgins. The score was set up thanks to a 34-yard completion to tight end David Njoku. The 2 TD afternoon by Higgins was the first by a Brown since Andrew Hawkins caught a pair of scores on Oct. 30, 2016.
– Kicker Zane Gonzalez drilled a 51-yard field goal with 2:04 left in the third quarter to get the Browns within 28-24. Considering the frozen field, 10-ish degree temperature and the venue – Heinz Field – that was a great kick by the rookie. Kicking a football in cold weather is like kicking a brick – easier said than done, and painful too.
– Pittsburgh walked right down the field on the opening drive marching 72 yards in 8 plays. Tomlin dipped into his bag of tricks that saw receiver Darrius Heyward Bay run for a 29-yard touchdown off of a reverse. Linebacker Joe Schobert and Danny Shelton collided in an attempt to bring Heyward Bay down near the right side of the line of scrimmage springing him for the score.
– The first offensive series for the Browns was pretty offensive. Kizer was sacked twice – on first and third down – for a combined loss of 20 yards. Mix in a 2-yard Isaiah Crowell run and a delay of game on fourth down that caused Britton Colquitt to punt from the back line of the end zone on fourth-and-30 and it was not the way a team desperate to avoid a winless season should start a game.
– Britton Colquitt had a punt from the end zone deflected by Steelers linebacker Tyler Matakevich resulting in a 27-yard kick that gave Pittsburgh the ball at the 28. Three plays later Jones found Smith-Schuster for a 20-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Steelers advantage with 13:26 left in the first half.
– Smith-Schuster added a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to his career afternoon to break the 21-all deadlock. The Steelers’ receiver finished with 143 yards and a TD on 9 catches in the win.
– A pair of fourth quarter turnovers halted the comeback bid. Early in the fourth down 4, Kizer threw screen to Duke Johnson, who rumbled 32 yards to the Pittsburgh 31 but Steelers cornerback William Gay stripped him and safety Mike Mitchell fell on the loose ball at the 31. It was just Johnson’s second fumble of the season. On the next series, Kizer was picked off by Steelers safety Sean Davis at the Cleveland 48 on a ball intended for tight end David Njoku. It was Kizer’s NFL-leading 22nd interception of the season. The turnovers didn’t cost Cleveland points, but they did cost precious time and field position.
– Coleman’s drop. Enough said there.
– The franchise has now lost 34 of their last 36 games and Hue Jackson is an NFL record-worst 1-31 through 2 seasons as head coach.