Battered Mayfield, listless Browns lose to Steelers, 26-14

Jan 3, 2022, 8:57 AM | Updated: 10:59 pm
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) sacks Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker...

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) sacks Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the second half an NFL football game, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Cleveland Browns knew they had been eliminated from playoff contention entering a Monday night showdown against their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

But a battered Baker Mayfield wanted to lead his team to a winning record.

Now, that it’s not possible, following a 26-14 defeat against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mayfield may be ready for a rest.

“There was an opportunity to win, and I’m an extremely competitive guy,” Mayfield said. “Now, it’s time for me to look at what’s in the best interest of me and my health. I haven’t been healthy and I tried to fight for my guys. Right now, I’m pretty damned beat up to be honest with you. I gave it everything I had tonight.”

Mayfield was sacked nine times by the Steeler defense. That included four from T.J. Watt, who has a league-high 21 sacks, one short of the NFL record set by Hall of Famer Michael Strahan in 2001.

“Obviously, there’s constant communication to make sure that he’s healthy enough to play,” Browns’ coach Kevin Stefanski said. “If you get sacked that many times, I’m sure it doesn’t feel great, but he was healthy enough to play. That many sacks is on me.”

The Browns’ embattled quarterback completed just 16 of 38 passes for 185 yards one week after throwing four interceptions during a two-point loss at Green Bay. Despite another rough outing, the Browns (7-9) still trailed by five points, 19-14, with 1:10 to play following a 1-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Bryant.

But an onside kick recovered by Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and a Najee Harris 37-yard touchdown run in the final minute put the game out of reach and sent Cleveland to a third consecutive defeat. The Browns, who have lost four of their last five, missed the playoffs for the 18th time in the last 19 years.

“It’s not going to always be pretty or smooth,” Mayfield said. “But I’m a fighter. If anyone questions how much I want it, turn on this tape. That’s who I am, and that’s who I’ve always been.”

The Browns’ polarizing quarterback has dealt with a shoulder injury since Week 2. Mayfield said he will undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his left shoulder, but the timetable has not been determined. He said there will be a discussion with his agent and family about whether he plays next week in the Browns’ regular-season finale at home against Cincinnati.

“I’m going to get my shoulder fixed,” Mayfield said. “I want to be able to come back next year at 100%. That’s been decided. When it’s happening has not been decided. I don’t have an answer regarding next week.”

Mayfield shouldered most of the offensive load in the first half, as the Browns ran the ball nine times despite owning the No. 3-ranked rushing attack in the league. Mayfield completed just four first-half passes, which included a stretch of 10 consecutive incompletions at one point. He also missed an open receiver and instead threw a second-quarter interception to Ahkello Witherspoon, a costly turnover, which led to a Pittsburgh field goal.

Nick Chubb, who has 1,201 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing three games, only had four carries for 35 yards in the first half. Stefanski said Chubb battled a rib injury early in the game.

“He was able to play through it, but he needed some rest,” Stefanski said.

Kareem Hunt missed his third straight game with an ankle injury and D’Ernest Johnson was a non-factor with just 13 yards. Chubb finished with 12 carries for 58 yards, as the Steelers, which have the worst rush defense in the league, neutralized the Browns’ ground game for the second straight meeting. Chubb, who had 61 yards in the first meeting with Pittsburgh, was coming off a 126-yard effort against Green Bay.

Cleveland rushed for 219 yards last week against the Packers, despite Mayfield’s four interceptions. The Steelers entered allowing an average of 175 yards on the ground in their previous eight games, including 198 yards rushing or more four times during that span, yet the Browns couldn’t manage a touchdown until the final minute of the third quarter.

“We felt like we had some opportunities,” Stefanski said. “Then, we kind of got behind down and distance a few times. We just could not sustain drives and stay on the field.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for a second term, speaks during a campaign rall...
Associated Press

Brazil’s Bolsonaro enlists Neymar on campaign stop

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro enlisted the help of soccer star Neymar on a campaign stop Wednesday, just four days before the country’s general elections. Bolsonaro visited a non-profit youth institute set up by Neymar in the city of Praia Grande and took a call from the Paris Saint-Germain player, who thanked […]
16 hours ago
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers, right, celebrates with defensive back Garrett Williams after defea...
Associated Press

Third-and-How? ACC top teams up their third-down success

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Few things cause more anxiety in football than third down. Convert, and your offense gains momentum. Fail, and it’s a stressful wait until you get the ball again. So far, the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including its four undefeateds in No. 5 Clemson, No. 10 North Carolina State, […]
16 hours ago
Honey bees are swept from an upright at the beginning of the NFL football game between the Tampa Ba...
Associated Press

Displaced Bucs avoid Ian, begin preparation to face Chiefs

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who moved their football operations to South Florida to avoid Hurricane Ian, remain hopeful of being able to return home to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. The team practiced at the Miami Dolphins’ training facility on Wednesday, describing the experience as different, but insisting the disruption to their […]
16 hours ago
Oneil Cruz de los Piratas de Pittsburgh batea un doble ante los Rojos de Cincinnati, el miércoles ...
Associated Press

Newman’s single in 10th gives Pirates win and sweep of Reds

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kevin Newman hit a winning single in the 10th inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates rebounded from a blown three-run lead in the ninth to beat Cincinnati 4-3 on Wednesday and send the Reds to their 96th loss, their most since 2015. Kyle Farmer hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Chase […]
16 hours ago
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman tosses beer to fans on the 18th green during the final round of the LIV Go...
Associated Press

LIV Golf refutes report of deal to buy TV time on FS1

Saudi-funded LIV Golf refuted a report Tuesday that it was close to a U.S. television deal in which it would buy time to be shown on FS1. Golfweek cited multiple sources it did not identify in saying the agreement is still being finalized. It would go against what Greg Norman, the CEO and commissioner of […]
2 days ago
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy throws against Maryland in the second half of an NCAA college fo...
Associated Press

College Football Picks: Michigan, Washington hit the road

For a few ranked teams, the first month of the season was all about home sweet home. No. 4 Michigan (4-0), No. 9 Oklahoma State (3-0) and No. 15 Washington (4-0) will play their first road games of the season this weekend. The Cowboys have a big one in the Big 12 against No. 16 […]
2 days ago
Battered Mayfield, listless Browns lose to Steelers, 26-14