CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson had plenty of confidence in rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, so much so that he named the first-year signal-caller the regular-season starter after just three preseason games.
And in his first regular-season game in the National Football League, Kizer did not disappoint Jackson, putting the Browns in position for a comeback win before the Pittsburgh Steelers mounted a late drive and finished off a 21-18 victory over Cleveland at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
“I like DeShone,” Jackson said. “I like the feel of him on the sideline with me. I love our communication. He did some good things. There are some opportunities that he is going to be the first to tell you he wish he had back. That is going to happen to a young quarterback, but this guy gave us a chance.
“He put the team in position to give us an opportunity to make something special happen. We didn’t finish it the way we wanted to, but I like the first game with him. His first live, big game, I thought he handled himself extremely well.”
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, and took several other hits, including a pair that drew personal foul penalties against the Steelers.
“He made some plays,” Jackson said. “He did some good things on third down. That is the money down for a quarterback. He just didn’t make enough plays on third down. There were some other opportunities there. We just have to continue to grow.
“This is his first game. Guys, we weren’t going to go 16-0. This game is behind us. Next week, we have to get ready for this game and get better. We have watched teams in the regular season make a huge jump in Week 2 when you really can see who you are and what you are.
“I now know better exactly about who we are because we played a real game with DeShone playing all four quarters. I kind of know who we are, and we will grow from this.”
The Browns’ offense struggled to move the ball on their first two drives of the game, but on the third, everything clicked, and they drew even with the Steelers, 7-7, when Kizer rushed for a touchdown with 22 seconds to play in the first quarter.
On second and goal from the Pittsburgh one-yard line, Kizer took the snap, ran around left tackle and muscled his way into the end zone for his first career touchdown. Fellow rookie Zane Gonzalez added the extra point to knot the score.
“This is the Cleveland Browns football team, and everybody, every member has got to do their job as well as they can for us to have an opportunity to taste victory,” Jackson said. “This is about helping a young quarterback. We do have a young quarterback, so everybody has to make plays when you have an opportunity to make them.”
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