Disappointing quarterback play and offensive woes lead to the Browns losing 26-22 in Pittsburgh

The Browns looked lost on offense against the Steelers and failed to match another stellar defensive performance.
PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 18: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns scrambles against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at Acrisure Stadium on September 18, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns suffered a frustrating 26-22 defeat to their bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, during Week 2 on Monday Night Football. Despite their statement Week 1 win, the loss in Pittsburgh (a place the Browns haven’t won during the regular season in 20 years) was not the most devasting part of the game for Cleveland. Instead, it was losing star running-back Nick Chubb to a gruesome knee injury on a low hit directly to the knee from safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Following the game, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski officially ruled out Chubb for the year.

“This season’s going to be dedicated to Nick Chubb,” said Greg Newsome II postgame. “Every practice, every game, we’re going to play for him.”

“It fucking hurts,” said Myles Garrett. “It’s our brother. That’s my brother; we’ve been together for a long time.

“I mean, it’s a blow for the whole team, and we don’t want his injury to be in vain. We have to push on. You know, that’s what he would want us to do. If he had any choice in the matter, that’s what he would do.

“So just have to continue to fight and use it as motivation.”

The defense was once again their driving force on the field all night for the Browns. Cleveland accumulated nine quarterback hits, two sacks, six tackles for loss and six passes defended. A key highlight was another All-Pro caliber performance led by safety Grant Delpit, who finished with six tackles, one pass defended and one interception. The defense performed exceptionally well by only allowing one touchdown, yet the Browns still lost the game.

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – SEPTEMBER 18: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns is sacked by Elijah Riley #37 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Acrisure Stadium on September 18, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the offensive performance for the Browns was a catastrophe, specifically the offensive line and quarterback play. Pittsburgh’s physical, hard-nosed defensive line dominated Cleveland’s offensive line. They finished the night allowing 11 quarterback hits, six sacks and nine tackles for loss. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was under constant pressure throughout the night, but it isn’t an excuse for his poor performance. Watson was limited to 22-40 on passing attempts, 257 total yards, 5.9 yards per attempt, one touchdown, one interception and two fumbles.

“We’re not going to put it on everyone else, you put it on me,” said Watson. “I can take the full blame. I can take the criticism, and I’m going to do that.

“I told everyone on the offense, the whole team, I’m going to do better for this team, for this organization, so we can win games like that. I’m fine with taking the criticism, and I will be better.”

The self-awareness is great but through two games, Watson has shown his ability to extend plays under pressure, but nothing spectacular happened. In Houston, he was known for being able to step up in the pocket or roll out to his right and perfectly place a deep ball downfield, but it hasn’t materialized in Cleveland.

This past off-season, the Browns brought in deep threat Marquise Goodwin to take the top off opposing defenses and Watson has failed to make a single connection with Goodwin on four targets. There have been flashes of Watson’s ability to drop the ball perfectly into tight coverage, as he had a few to star wideout Amari Cooper. Unfortunately for Watson, flashes of your potential do not win you football games, and he knows that.

The season’s outcome for the Browns will rely on the quarterback play. Without Chubb, the offense will likely lean on the passing game. With $230 million fully guaranteed to quarterback Deshaun Watson, the team’s fate depends on his performance since the defense can only do so much. The pressure is all on Watson to play like the elite quarterback he once was. Looking ahead, the Browns will host the Tennessee Titans this Sunday and it could be an excellent chance for the offense to have a bounce-back performance and notch their second win on the year.

Kristopher’s Right Down Euclid’s go-to intern as he begins his sports media career by studying at the University of Mount Union this fall. He’s been a lifelong fan of the Browns, Cavaliers, and Guardians and has dreamed of becoming a sports journalist since he was ten. Some of his recent stops include work with Phenom Media, and he runs @clecentral_ on Instagram.

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