A team that two weeks ago pointed to a game in Cincinnati as a chance to re-establish themselves, and to a game at home against Pittsburgh as a chance to stay relevant, saw themselves lose both by a combined 37 points.
The Steelers did their usual slapdown on the Browns, controlling the game throughout. In the last seven quarters, the Browns have been outscored by 50 points (68-18). They’ve given up 24 or more points in five of the last seven games, and three times surrendered 31 or more.
A team that seemed on the brink of making something good happen and had people talking as if they could win the division got a smack of reality as cold as the frigid wind off Lake Erie.
When the locker room opened, several players sat at the lockers staring blankly. The overwhelming silence in the room spoke loudly. Defensive lineman Phil Taylor declined to answer questions. Safety T. J. Ward used the same phrase after this loss that he used after losing in Cincinnati: The Browns aren’t ready. They simply are not ready.
“That was a big game,” said receiver Josh Gordon. “The city wanted to see us win. We all wanted to win. It meant a lot.”
And in the end it meant another loss to Ben Roethlisberger, who has won 16 of his 17 starts against the Browns.
The main issue against Pittsburgh was the main issue against Cincinnati: turnovers. In two weeks, the offense has turned the ball over eight times, the other team just twice.
“They just wanted it a little bit more than us,” Gordon said. “At the same time we kind of gave them the game in certain situations. It makes it extremely hard for the offense to get going and the defense to stay in there, to keep going on the field with the offense giving up the ball.”
“That’s why we’re losing,” Ward said. “It says it right there. You can’t win ballgames turning the ball over.”
For the first time, frustration seemed to seep into the defense, which has been put in bad situations two weeks in a row -- but also failed to respond to quick-change situations. After Jason Campbell’s fumble in the third quarter, it took Roethlisberger one play to score a touchdown from the Browns' 4-yard line.
“It is frustrating,” Ward said. “I’m not gonna lie. It is out of our power. We have to trust that they are doing everything in their power to win ballgames like we are. And I trust that and I know that.
“It’s just that things are not going the way that [any] of us want them to go right now.”
There’s a 4-7 record that indicates where the season is going. There’s struggle. There’s frustration. There’s turnovers. There’s a defense starting to wonder about the offense. There’s a completely different outlook after just two weeks. And there’s uncertainty at the quarterback spot, where a guy may start who was booed when he replaced the injured starter.
Aside from those concerns, the Browns' situation at this point of the season, after yet another loss to Pittsburgh, qualifies as simply "peachy."