This time, there are no excuses. No complains. The Browns ran in to a stronger football team and they came up short on their own accord.
This was as pure of a loss as I have ever seen.
Unlike in weeks past, the Browns have no one to blame but themselves. There were no questionable field goals or muffed punts. No inexperienced quarterbacks or experimental receivers. The Browns’ best 53 played their best game against Pittsburgh, and the better team won.
Offensively, the Browns were unable to develop any rhythm in the passing game. Dropped balls and inaccurate passes seemed to be the call of the day, and such mistakes will not get the job done against the tough Pittsbugh football team. The score did not allow Cleveland to successfully run the ball late, but they may have found something with Cribbs in the wildcat. He averaged well over 7 yards per attempt from the formation.
Defensively, Cleveland could not find a way to get to Ben Roethlisberger. The pass rush was non-existent at times, and any time you give that kind of a quarterback that much time, bad things will happen.
Ten From The Gentledawg
10. Brandon McDonald is the weakest link in this secondary.
I have suspected this for some time and today’s performance confirmed my suspicions: Brandon McDonald is a very beatable cornerback. He did not have a good game today. McDonald seems to have lost confidence as he gave too much cushion on several of his assignments. He did not hold containment on a few outside runs and he was consistently beaten in zone coverage. Although the Browns played a very talented group of receivers today, I would have liked to see better play from McDonald.
9. League-wide officiating is at an all-time low.
Like virtually every NFL game played this year, a few questionable calls directly impacted the final score of the game. With athletes becoming faster and stronger, the margin of victory in this league has become slim. It’s up to the referees, umpires, and line judges to make sure they make the right call and I’m not sure that was done today. Over the past three weeks, we’ve seen: a missed field goal decide the outcome of a game, a phantom roughing the passer call, and a blown call on 4th and inches.
8. Derek Anderson's lack of pocket presence is concerning.
As a quarterback, Derek Anderson has the intelligence to run the offense and the arm strength to make all the throws. The one thing Anderson lacks which prevents him from becoming an elite quarterback is pocket mobility. To put it bluntly, Anderson is about as graceful as an ostrich. When plays break down and he is forced to improvise, Derek Anderson appears lost. I’m not asking him to be Michael Vick back there, but Anderson should have the vision and awareness to manipulate the pocket and keep plays alive with his legs.
7. Eric Mangini has brought about change in Cleveland.
There have been few positives to take from the beginning of the 2009 season. One thing the Cleveland Browns can pride themselves on is their disciplined play and outstanding game management. Questionable plays are being challenged. Timeouts are saved for crucial situations. Personnel has been shuffled in and out without any delay. These things may seem insignificant, but they are the foundation for a consistent and competitive football team.
6. Brian Daboll is settling in as the Browns' offensive coordinator.
There were several elements of this week’s game plan which indicate Brian Daboll is becoming more comfortable in his role as offensive coordinator. Daboll did a great job of getting the most out of his personnel. With Rex Hadnot and Floyd Womack both healthy and active, Daboll was able to move Hank Fraley and Eric Steinbach around to create favorable running and passing situations. Defending against Pittsburgh’s complex zone blitzing scheme is no easy task, and I thought Brian Daboll at least had the right schemes in place to help do so.
5. Tight end depth is a major issue for this team.
In addition to a nagging finger injury, Robert Royal came up lame with a leg injury during the third quarter of today’s game. Steve Heiden did not play due to bad knees and Greg Estandia has been a non-factor. For the Cleveland Browns to develop rhythm and consistency in the passing game, they will need to figure out a way to gain some sort of production from this position. With Tuesday’s trade deadline rapidly approaching, Kokinis may see it fit to improve the team by adding a tight end to the roster.
4. The Browns missed Kamerion Wimbley on defense.
Kamerion WImbley has been one of the reasons Cleveland has been the driving force behind what little pressure the Browns have generated thus far, and his presence was greatly missed against the Steelers. Jason Trusnik did not impress in his debut performance on defense. He was unable to win any of the one-on-one battles with offensive lineman – an absolute must for generating pressure. Wimbley is a key piece to Rob Ryan’s defense and the Browns will need him at his best to compete.
3.The Josh Cribbs contract situation baffles me.
It is rare to find a talent like Josh Cribbs. It’s even rarer to see that talent want to stay in Cleveland. Cribbs continues to prove he is worth every penny of any restructured deal he reaches with Browns management. According to Yahoo Sports, Cribbs’ base salary for the 2009 season is $645,000. If the Browns can afford to pay backup lineman Billy Yates $1,186,720, they should find a way to restructure a new deal for arguably their best skill position player on offense.
2. Mohamed Massaquoi is the new Braylon Edwards.
Take away the selfish disposition and the Hollywood aspirations, and Mohamed Massaquoi is a carbon copy of Braylon Edwards. On the field, Massaquoi is the inconsistent big-play receiver who struggles to make simple receptions. Over the past two games, Massaquoi has unofficially dropped six catchable passes. My biggest concern with Massaquoi is his effort level when plays break down. He seems to make halfhearted attempts to come back to the ball and his route running appears lackadaisical at times. He is still a rookie, but these problems must be addressed as soon as possible.
1. The Cleveland Browns are close to playing for next year.
Another L in the loss column means the Browns are one step closer to playing for next year. If this play continues then it may be time to take an extended look at some of the young talent on this roster. Young players like Coye Francies and David Veikune may deserve playing time if only to give them playing experience for the future. Eric Mangini will continue to play veterans, but if this goes on any longer, it may be time to start looking at 2010.