CLEVELAND -- With Sunday’s 21-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Cleveland Browns suffered their 13th straight loss in a regular-season opener and the 32nd setback to their chief AFC North Division rival since returning to the National Football League in 1999.
However, the Browns (0-1) walked out of FirstEnergy Stadium optimistic about the direction of the team after showing progress in many phases of the game after finishing the 2016 season with a 1-15 record.
“Absolutely, as a team, I think that our mission is to have a really good defense and an offense that complements that with a run game that obviously comes first,” Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer said. “I think we say that out there, that our offensive line is out there working their butt off and they are doing a really good job with that.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Browns battle Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017 regular-season opener
Kizer completed 20 of his 30 throws for 222 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a rushing score to his credit. Additionally, on five carries. Kizer finished with one rushing touchdown and 17 yards, which were second only to 33 yards from running back Isaiah Crowell.
Kizer was sacked seven times in his NFL regular-season debut.
“Now, it is on me, and it is on this offense, to make sure that we do a little bit better of a job complementing our defense,” Kizer said. “In order to do so, it is limiting turnovers. Obviously, we had one out there that changes the game when we are driving.
“On top of that, it is on me to make sure that I am complementing that offensive line, to make sure that I am not taking the sacks that I am taking. I do not know if there is one sack that I could not have avoided if that is probably throwing the ball away in the red zone or escaping the pocket and getting out of there.”
The Browns owned the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry in the early days, but since returning to the NFL in 1999, they have known almost nothing but misery when it comes to competing against the Steelers.
Including a 36-33 loss at Pittsburgh in the AFC Wildcard Playoffs on January 5, 2003, the Browns are 6-32 against the Steelers since returning to the NFL, and have won just four times out of a possible 29 games over the last 14-plus years.
And none of that sits well with Kizer, no matter how well the team played against the Steelers before losing in the end.
“The competitor in me probably will never think that way,” Kizer said. “I know that we have got to show who we are and the progress that we are making. That is being able to go against what is known as one of the better teams in our conference consistently that way.
“Now, we need to go out there and make sure that the lulls that we talked about earlier are eliminated and that we are driving that ball down as much as we can. Every time that we go out there, we are expecting to score points.”