PITTSBURGH — Hello from Acrisure Stadium, and let's face it, whether it's called Acrisure Stadium or Heinz Field, what it really is is a pain in the neck for the Browns to come over here and play.
Because, quite simply, they don't win, and they didn't win today. Final score 28-14 as the Pittsburgh Steelers end the season at 9-8 and the Browns end the season at — brace for it — 7-10. That's not easy to say and it's not good to look at, and it wasn't good to watch all season long.
The Browns could never get this season going. Maybe that started back in March when they made the big move and got Deshaun Watson, and realized there were going to be all kinds of problems and a big-time suspension coming down the pipe. But there were really two seasons, as we went along — there were the first 11 games with Jacoby Brissett, and the Browns went 4-7; and then there were the six games when Deshaun Watson was finally eligible to play, and they went 3-3.
But the Browns could never really establish any kind of defensive identity all season long, so no matter what was going on with the quarterback position (and I get it, there was a lot going on), the fact of the matter was the Browns coming into the season felt they were not only going to be a good defense, they really felt that would be an underestimation of them. They were going to be a great defense.
They were anything but a great defense.
Early in the season, when games were winnable, they became losses because the Browns' defense came up with some huge mistakes at huge points in ballgames that led to critical losses. Then, typified by this final game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when the Browns cut the margin down to six — with still ample amount of time left to go — it was the defense, once again, that couldn't get off the field.
Third-down-and-long, a 17-yard pass to George Pickens. Third-down-and-long, a pass for 26 yards down the middle to a rookie tight end in Connor Heyward. And then, pass interference in the end zone, and you know the story: The Steelers get a late touchdown and put the game out of reach.
When the game had to be won defensively with supposedly an elite defense, that defense did not reside in a Cleveland Browns uniform.
There are all kinds of problems. The secondary, once again, in this final game of the season, had a huge mistake right before halftime on a third-down-and-15. They give up a 31-yard, wide-open touchdown pass from Pickett to Pickens, and the pass should've been picked off if they had any kind of defensive coverage In the secondary.
Those are the kind of mistakes the Browns made, those are the kind of mistake that they have continued to make since they had their most glorious win a couple of years ago with nobody in this stadium in a playoff game when they defeated the Steelers. Really, at that point in time, it looked like the Browns had turned a corner and were on the rise to go up through the ranks.
But, for the last two years (and certainly with an asterisk this year because of what happened with the Deshaun Watson situation), the Browns continue to regress — a losing season last year at 8-9, and now 7-10 this season.
Where are they going from here? I know you can say, "Well, Deshaun Watson will play the entire season next year," and I'm good with that. But defensively, the Browns are going to have to be much better to win anywhere, but specifically in this division.
And let's face it: If you're going to win the division and you're going to be a great team, you have to start being able to come over here and win; you have to start being able to Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium and beat beat the Ravens on the road. If you can't do that, are you really going to be able to call yourself a division champion?
The final score today was 28-14. The final number that's even worse than that? 7-10 on the season for the Cleveland Browns. When you don't make the playoffs, the next day at the end of the regular season becomes really scary and really interesting.
That day is coming up tomorrow. Around the NFL, they call it "Black Monday." If you don't make the playoffs, normally changes are on the way.
So, we'll wait and see, and as they say in the television business, "Stay tuned." It could be interesting this week in Berea.
Listen to Jimmy's calls from today's game in the player below: