The most remarkable part of Sunday’s 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh was rookie DeShone Kizer’s ability to remain upright and exchange pleasantries with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after the game.
The severe beating the Cleveland quarterback absorbed, most of which was attributable to inexperience in his National Football League debut, should be filed and used as an object lesson.
All he has to do is look at the tape of the game and watch how quickly Roethlisberger got the football out of his hands. Numerous quick-developing pass plays negated whatever pass rush the Browns mustered.
By the time they arrived at Big Ben, the ball was gone. Conversely, by the time the Steelers’ pass rush arrived, Kizer was either still looking to throw or tardily scrambling, most of the time unsuccessfully. His pocket awareness deserted him.
Much of the blame was unfairly put on the offensive line, which offered decent protection had the ball been delivered on time. They can hold the pass rush for just so long.
Count to four from the snap on passing plays. If the quarterback still has the ball at four, odds are a negative play will follow. Ball gone inside four and the odds on a positive play rise significantly.
On many of those sacks, the Cleveland line held long enough where Kizer had the opportunity to make a play and failed. He apparently has been coached that scrambling is to be utilized only as a last resort.
Actually, most of the blame for Kizer’s problems lies with the receiving corps, who failed to help their quarterback by getting open. That’s the reason the rookie holds on to the ball as long as he does. It’s not that he can’t find them. It’s that he can’t find them open.
As has been mentioned here many times, offense is all about rhythm. Mess with that rhythm, which the Pittsburgh defense did with regularity, and chances of executing successfully diminish. Disrupt and destroy.
By watching how Roethlisberger operates, Kizer will see how the veteran moves around in the pocket to buy himself time. He did that a few times Sunday with wide receiver Antonio Brown, who broke open late after the initial rhythm of the play had been destroyed.
It is obvious Kizer has the physical tools. Learning the nuances of playing the position is the next step in the development process.
He kept making the same mistake Sunday when dropping back to throw. He decided too late the best course of action and by then, he sometimes ducked right into a sack.
So let’s place this blame where it really belongs in an effort to resolve the problem. It’s the coaching staff’s job to put players in a position to succeed. Based on Sunday’s performance, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is succeeding a lot more than coach Hue Jackson, who controls the offense.
Jackson’s task is much more challenging because the talent level with which he works, especially at wide receiver and quarterback, is young and inexperienced. Once he fixes that, assuming he can fix it, the rhythm of the offense should return.
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There is no question Joe Haden’s best days as a professional football cornerback are behind him. And when the Browns released him for monetary reasons just before the start of the regular season, he was still the best corner on the roster.
That was more than proven with Brown’s 11-catch, 182-yard afternoon against a Cleveland secondary that had no clue as to how to stop him. Roethlisberger targeted the peerless wideout 12 times. The only incompletion was negated by a 41-yard pass interference penalty on Jamar Taylor.
I can guarantee you if Haden had not been cashiered by the Browns and had played opposite Brown Sunday, there is no way Steelers wide receiver would have put up gaudy numbers like that. That was undoubtedly one of the reasons Brown lobbied hard for the Steelers to pick him up.
The two faced each other eight times in the past in this rivalry. Haden missed three games with injuries. In the eight games they clashed, Brown caught 33 passes for 717 yards and four touchdowns. In the three Haden missed, Brown had 31 catches for 413 yards and three touchdowns.
Watching Brown work from the sideline had to make Haden feel some empathy for his former secondary mates in Cleveland. Now they knew what he had gone through all those years. Brown’s three best days against Cleveland were with Haden injured and unable to play.
Nothing Williams tried against Brown Sunday worked. If the football is anywhere near Brown’s hands, he will catch it, He proved that with a 50-yard reception late in the second quarter after linebacker Joe Schobert deflected the ball in flight. It led to a Steelers touchdown.
And in the fourth quarter, when the Browns were desperate for a stop after climbing to within three points late in the quarter, Brown outfought Cleveland defenders Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Derrick Kindred and Schobert for the ball for a 38-yard gain that nailed down the victory.
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Schobert had an interesting afternoon in his debut as the Browns’ middle linebacker. He racked up nine tackles (four solo) and spent a lot of time covering Pittsburgh tight end Jesse James, who caught six passes for just 41 yards.
Two throws, a four-yarder and two-yarder, wound up in the end zone with Schobert in coverage on each. He was duped on the shorter one. James lined up in the slot on the left side and blocked Schobert toward the outside at the snap. He then quickly released, cut right, popped open and Roethlisberger hit him on a short slant.
It is unusual for the middle linebacker to be tasked with covering the tight end, a job usually handled by either the strong safety or one of the outside linebackers. Perhaps responsibilities change when the opposition is in close proximity of the goal line.
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Kenny Britt is in his ninth season as a professional wide receiver. The first seven of those seasons were spent in mediocrity, failing spectacularly to live up to his first-round selection by the Tennessee Titans back in 2009.
Britt, who turns 29 a week from Wednesday, has nice size at 6-3 and 215 pounds. But that’s all. Unfortunately, the rest of that package is lacking all the ingredients to be a positive force with the Browns.
No need to go over his below-average numbers. We’ve done that here before. You are witnessing in the exhibitions and now the first game of the regular season why the St. Louis Rams allowed him to part. Clutch and Kenny Britt is an oxymoron.
All you need to know is it appears as though the Browns have made the same mistake by signing him as a free agent as they did a couple of years ago when they signed Dwayne Bowe in similar fashion.
The perfect pass he dropped near midfield against the Steelers Sunday is unforgivable. He is supposed to be the leader in the wide receivers room. He is anything but.
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What helped the Cleveland offense as much as anything Sunday was the undisciplined way the Steelers played defense. They compiled 13 penalties for 144 yards, often sustaining Browns drives that otherwise were breaking down. The Browns achieved five of their 20 first downs by penalty.
Multiple personal fouls at inappropriate times kept the Pittsburgh offense tethered to the bench. The Steelers basically hurt themselves as much as, if not more than, they hurt the Browns, who were flagged just four times for 61 yards, 41 of which were marched off for the aforementioned pass interference penalty.
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If the opener is any indication, the Browns’ problems with stopping the run are over. The Steelers ran the ball 17 times and picked up just 35 yards. Running back Le’Veon Bell, looking as though he had missed all training camp in a salary dispute and signed a contract mere days before the game, ran for 32 of those yards.
Isaiah Crowell of the Browns experienced similar problems with only 33 of the Browns’ 57 yards on the ground on 17 carries. He had trouble identifying holes and by the time he did, they closed quickly. It’s all about the rhythm.
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Defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who was expected to miss at least the first two or three games of the season with a knee injury, entered the game in the latter stages in a goal-line situation and was in on two tackles.
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Finally . . . The Cleveland defense limited the Steelers to only 18 plays and 42 total yards on their first four possessions, forcing four punts and taking only 6:59 off the clock. . . . With the victory, Roethlisberger became the winningest quarterback to play in Cleveland, not for Cleveland since 1999. Big Ben has 11 victories, one more than Derek Anderson. . . . Best player on the field for the Steelers was rookie outside linebacker T. J. Watt, who sacked Kizer twice, intercepted one of his passes and had a pair of quarterback hits and two tackles for loss among his seven tackles. . . . Duke Johnson Jr touch watch: On 50 snaps, he had only two touches, both pass receptions, for 20 yards. (sarcasm alert) Jackson must be saving him for the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday (end sarcasm alert).