Browns vs. Steelers: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Cleveland
Pittsburgh scored first with a field goal but the Browns fired right back. Phil Dawson drilled a 51-yard FG after missing a 39-yard attempt earlier in the quarter.
Josh Gordon fumbled on the Browns' 24-yard line and the Steelers punched in a TD in the waning moments of the half. Ben Roethlisberger hit TE Leonard Pope from 1-yard out after a pass interference call on Eric Hagg put the ball near the goal line.
After the Browns began the half with a three and out, Pat Shurmur rolled the dice and dialed up a fake punt. The next play was a deep shot that was flagged for pass interference. Two plays later, Thad Lewis found Greg Little in the back of the end zone to knot things up at 10.
The Steelers struck right back, methodically driving down the field and finishing with a 9-yard TD connection between Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh's drive included 12 plays, amassed 80 yards and burned 6:24 off the clock in the process.
Cleveland had its chance to get back into the game late, though. Thad Lewis connected with Travis Benjamin, but the young WR fumbled after getting back up. Pittsburgh took over inside Browns territory and put Cleveland away.
Joe Haden was beat by Plaxico Burress in the end zone and the Steelers went up 24-10, a score that would hold after a last-ditch comeback attempt by the Browns failed.
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Thaddeus Lewis: B-
Thad Lewis surprised some people with a solid performance, despite not racking up stats on the scorecard. His crisp throws and quick decisions showed flashes of a possible skill set that could keep him on the active roster as a backup or more in the future.
There is still work to be done with Lewis, such as third-down accuracy and decision making when choosing to tuck the ball and run. However, he did perform well in his first career NFL start.
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Montario Hardesty: C
Hardesty broke a couple of nice runs but was shut down near the line of scrimmage for much of the game. His 2.6 yards per carry wasn’t much of an improvement over the numbers of injured rookie RB Trent Richardson.
Brandon Jackson: B
After being inactive for 13 of the previous 15 games, Jackson showed some flashes as a chance of pace to Hardesty. He finished with a team-high 54 yards on just eight carries. That included a 25-yard run in the third quarter on a quick cutback run got the Cleveland Browns moving.
Chris Ogbonnaya: C-
Ogbonnaya had his opportunities limited even with Trent Richardson missing the game. He had one nice run but was otherwise a non-factor.
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Josh Gordon: C+/Incomplete
The Cleveland Browns WR fumbled deep in Cleveland territory just before halftime. Gordon was held up and then stripped by the tenacious Pittsburgh D. He was also hurt on the play and did not return.
Greg Little: B+
Little made an excellent grab in the back of the end zone to put the Browns on the scoreboard and tie the game at 10. He also had a nice 23-yard catch and run that helped move the Browns into field-goal range.
Travis Benjamin: C-
Benjamin had a good game receiving, hauling in four of his six targets for 43 yards. However, his late-game fumble handed the ball over to the Steelers in Browns’ territory and led to the Steelers’ game-winning TD.
Josh Cooper: D
Cooper caught one pass for eight yards and dropped another short pass.
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Benjamin Watson: B+
Watson had another good game, hauling in seven of the eight targets that came his way. He led all receivers in both yards (64) and receptions (7). His trusty hands were very helpful for the first-time NFL starter Thad Lewis.
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Joe Thomas: B-
The veteran tackle was flagged for an untimely penalty that negated a positive gain for the Browns. He did do a good job, though, of playing to his reputation and giving Thad Lewis ample time in the pocket for much of the game.
John Greco: B-/Incomplete
Greco left with an injury during the second half of this one.
Ryan Miller: D-
The rookie was beat for two sacks in a row to end the game after coming in to fill in for the injured John Greco earlier in the fourth quarter.
Alex Mack: B-
Mack played solid enough but didn’t get a big push for much of the game against the Pittsburgh D. Running the football has continued to be a problem due to those issues in the middle of the line. Although those problems don’t begin and end with Mack.
Shawn Lauvao: C
Lauvao may be on his way out as a starter for the Browns next season. A bigger push and more consistent blocker is needed to help solidify the right side of the Browns offensive line and the blame could fall on him.
Mitchell Schwartz: C+
The rookie tackle did relatively well in his final start of his rookie season.
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Jabaal Sheard: A
Sheard wrapped up Ben Roethlisberger for an 8-yard sack after pressure from the interior of the Cleveland Browns defensive line flushed the QB from the pocket. He got to the QB again on the next drive for his second sack of the game. His sacks were the only two that the Browns registered all afternoon.
Phil Taylor: C+
Taylor had just two tackles but was physical and mean throughout the game. His questionable hit away from the ball will likely draw a fine from the league once it is reviewed.
Ahtyba Rubin: B+
Rubin was very active on the interior of the Browns defensive line and in pursuit. He finished with a team-tying six total tackles.
Frostee Rucker: C
Rucker had sort of a quiet game on the edge as he tends to do from time to time. He hasn’t been very consistent this season and this game was a perfect example of that.
Ishmaa’ily Kitchen: B
Pressured and hit Ben Roethlisberger which resulted in a short gain after the QB checked down to avoid the sack. Kitchen did an overall solid job in the snaps he was allotted this week.
Juqua Parker: B+
Parker continued to be a nuisance in the backfield by exhibiting a strong pass rush off the edge. He also recorded a tackle for a loss in the red zone that helped stall the Pittsburgh advance.
Billy Winn: C
Winn recorded two quick penalties in the second half. The second, an offsides flag, negated a third-down stop and allowed the Steelers another shot at picking up the first down.
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D’Qwell Jackson: B
Jackson recorded two pass breakups; one was nearly intercepted on a third-down pass and resulted in a Pittsburgh Steelers punt. He was also pretty active in run stopping, picking up five total tackles on the afternoon.
Kaluka Maiava: C
Maiava played sparingly as the youngsters of the Browns linebacker corps took over for much of the game.
L.J. Fort: C+
Fort made few plays but did manage to deflect a second down pass by Roethlisberger and also lay a nice hit on the QB shortly after that.
Craig Robertson: C+
Tackling consistently continues to be an issue for the young Robertson. He didn’t wrap up Jonathan Dwyer on an attempted tackle and it resulted in a 12-yard run that put the Steelers into Browns territory in the third quarter.
Tank Carder: B-
Carder saw the most significant playing time of his rookie season in this one. He recorded just one tackle but did save a TD in the fourth quarter after recovering in time to record a pass deflection in the end zone.
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Joe Haden: C+
Haden was beat for the game-sealing TD by Plaxico Burress and also flagged for a pass interference call earlier in the game. It was an up-and-down game for the standout CB, but he was on par for most of the game.
Buster Skrine: B-
Skrine didn’t give up the big play but didn’t make too many of his own. He was very average in this one and largely and surprisingly unchallenged by Ben Roethlisberger.
Trevin Wade: B-
Wade saw some significant action in nickel packages with Sheldon Brown out and Dimitri Patterson looking for a job. He recorded three tackles and didn’t make a big mistake in the opportunities he was given.
Eric Hagg: C-
Hagg was beat in zone coverage for a big gain by Antonio Brown early in the game but luckily it was negated by a penalty. He was also beat again later on.
A questionable pass interference call in end zone set up a Steelers TD and capped off an underwhelming performance for the young DB. Hagg was benched earlier in the season for some of the same problems but was thrust back in the lineup due to injuries.
Tashaun Gipson: B
Gipson finished with a team-high six tackles while playing most of the game for the Browns at safety.
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Phil Dawson: B+
Dawson missed his second field goal of the season but it didn't end up costing the Cleveland Browns. He also made up for it by drilling a 51-yard FG on his second attempt.
Reggie Hodges: A
Hodges pinned the Pittsburgh Steelers back inside their 10-yard line twice.
Josh Cribbs: B
Cribbs had a nice return called back and wasn't able to get much else going in what was likely his last game returning kicks for the Browns.
Ray Ventrone: A
Ventrone gets an A for an incredible 35-yard run. Sure, the Steelers weren't expecting it, but the run was impressive nonetheless. It was also tied for the longest run from scrimmage for the entire season, tying Travis Benjamin's end-around earlier in the year.
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Pat Shurmur: B+
Pat Shurmur and his coaching staff went out with a solid performance in what appears to be their last effort as the face of the Cleveland Browns franchise. Shurmur dialed up a good mix of runs and passes, including cutback runs and quick throws, in order to help first-time starting QB Thad Lewis.
Shurmur’s fake punt decision helped keep the team in the game after a three and out stalled the team’s opening second-half drive.
Dick Jauron: B+
Jauron's scheme held the Pittsburgh Steelers to just 212 yards of total offense but it wasn't enough to get the team a win. Pittsburgh held onto the football and the Browns forced no turnovers in comparison to the eight it forced during the team's Week 12 win over the Steelers.
Brad Childress: B
Offensive play calling was pretty spot on for the situation in this one. The execution, minus the fumbles, was also crisp and helped make the game plan look all the more effective. Some questionable running calls in long down and distance situations were the lone blemishes on a well-called game by Childress and Shurmur.
Chris Tabor: C-
Tabor's unit continues to be penalized for at least one penalty that negates a good special teams return.