Steelers vs. Browns: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Cleveland
Handing out grades after a 27-11 loss like the Cleveland Browns had on Sunday is kind of like being a kindergarten teacher. You know the student can learn to fix what they have done, you wanted them to get it right the first time but in the end tough love is what is needed.
Get ready for tough love.
I did not think that a loss could get much more disappointing than last week’s debacle in Cincinnati, but I was wrong. The Browns were slapped around in their own house and looked like the doormat that they have been for the past 14 years in the AFC North.
The Browns will try to bounce back next week at home against the 2-9 Jacksonville Jaguars.
Before we can look ahead, however, we have to look back and hand out grades.
As always, weekly grades are handed out based on how much a player impacted the game, if he won his individual battle, whether he was a positive contributor and if he could have performed better.
Let’s see how they did.
Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden: D
For the second week in a row, the quarterback performance wasn’t pretty. For the seventh time this season, Brandon Weeden was a part of it.
Before Jason Campbell went down with an injury he wasn’t playing all that bad. He was 14-of-22 for 124 yards and made a few plays downfield but also lost a fumble.
Once he left the game with a concussion in the third quarter, things did not get any better. Weeden also fumbled, threw and interception for a touchdown and essentially had just one good drive when the game was out of reach.
Previous position grades: D+, C+, C+, A, B, D+, F, A, A, D
Chris Ogbonnaya, Willis McGahee and Fozzy Whittaker: D-
When your running backs combine for 16 carries and 55 yards, then you were either behind in the game or struggling to run the football.
Both of those scenarios were true for the Browns Sunday.
Chris Ogbonnaya was the most effective on the ground, but he fumbled a key position around midfield right before halftime and gave the Steelers three points.
That could have been a 10-point swing if the Browns would have scored on that drive.
Previous position grades: C-, C-, D+, B-, B+, B+, D, C-, D, C-
Josh Gordon, Davone Bess and Greg Little: C+
It is so tough to grade the wide receivers when one is so dominant and everyone else is so underwhelming,
Josh Gordon caught 14 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown. According to Matt Florjancic of ClevelandBrowns.com, he broke Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome’s record for yards in a game and tied his record for receptions in a game.
Everyone else combined for seven catches for 44 yards. There were also a few drops.
The wind may have been a factor, but this has been a problem with this receiving corps since the weather was still nice.
Previous position grades: D, D, A-, B+, A-, C+, D, C, B+, C-
Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge: D-
Jordan Cameron struggled again, catching just three passes for 32 yards. He still cannot find a way to break out of double coverage and make plays for his quarterback.
He also dropped a touchdown pass that turned into points for the Steelers.
An interesting note was that Weeden targeted Cameron far more often than Campbell had been.
Maybe his performances will get better if Weeden has to start games down the stretch.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, A, A, C+, B, B+, B+, B, C-
Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz: D+
It is tough to give the offensive line good grades when it allowed the quarterbacks to get hit nine times and sacked five, including the play that knocked Campbell out of the game.
I will need to go back and watch film, but there is absolutely no reason a defender should ever be so uninhibited to the quarterback.
On that play, there were two blitzers on the right side of the line and Ogbonnaya blocked one. It is very possible the sack is on Campbell for not recognizing and changing the protection.
Either way, the line did not play well.
Previous position grades: F, D+, D+, C+, C-, A-, B, A+, A, D
Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Desmond Bryant, and Billy Winn: D-
The defensive line gets its worst grade of the season after this embarrassing performance. It came into the week ninth in the NFL in sacks, while the Steelers were second worst in the NFL at sacks allowed.
Then the Browns failed to register a sack.
They were decent against the run, holding running back Le’Veon Bell to 80 yards. Then again, the Steelers did not really even try to establish any kind of run game.
Their failure to get to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is extremely troubling. They did not seem to have any fight in them Sunday afternoon.
Previous position grades: A+, B-, B-, A-, C+, C+, C+, B+, A, C+
Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo: D-
The pass-rush specialists on the Browns defense created pressure exactly one time in the game. Barkevious Mingo had one of the two quarterback hits registered by the defense.
This is becoming a trend. The outside linebackers have not been able to create any pressure whatsoever the past few weeks, and it is affecting every other level of the defense.
I can count on one hand how many times I remember Roethlisberger even being bothered in the pocket, and it was usually by the defensive line and not this unit.
They need to be better.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, B, B-, C, C+, C+, B+, B, C-
Tank Carder, Darius Eubanks and D’Qwell Jackson: C-
This was the unit that I was most worried about entering the game, and it did not actually play half bad.
Craig Robertson was held out of Sunday’s game with a knee injury, and many thought that Pittsburgh would attack his backup Tank Carder. He didn’t but mostly because he was too busy attacking the secondary.
Then, after Carder left the game with a shoulder injury, Darius Eubanks entered and played some solid football too. It was not a terrible effort form this group at all.
Previous position grades: B, A-, B-, C+, C-, D-, D-, D, A+, B+, B-
Buster Skrine, Chris Owens and Joe Haden: D+
I’m not sure I have ever seen a unit perform at one extreme and then the polar opposite the very next week like the secondary did Sunday.
After a nearly perfect performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, they were absolutely torched Sunday. Joe Haden was picked on for most of the first half. Even though he got it together down the stretch, it was too late and wide receiver Antonio Brown already had done his damage.
He finished with six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Previous position grades: C-, C, A, A, A, B-, D+, B, C+, A+
Tashaun Gipson and T.J. Ward: C +
The Browns needed T.J. Ward to come up huge if they were going to win on Sunday. It was the perfect scenario: cold-weather game against their rival and a quarterback who turns the ball over quite a bit.
While Ward was solid he was not spectacular. In fact, no one in a Browns uniform was spectacular Sunday.
Maybe it is unfair to hold him to such high standards, but I keep waiting for that breakout game—and it doesn’t ever happen.
They did combine for 16 tackles, and Ward had two tackles for loss.
Previous position grades: C+, B, B-, C+, A, B+, B, B-, B, C
Billy Cundiff, Spencer Lanning, Fozzy Whittaker, Jordan Poyer and Coverage Units: C
The Browns special teams units were much better than last week but still just average overall.
The highlight of this group was punter Spencer Lanning, who had two punts inside the 20 despite some tough winds.
Kicker Billy Cundiff missed a late field goal by about 45 feet to the left, but the game was out of reach by that point.
Both Jordan Poyer and Fozzy Whittaker were essentially non-factors in the return game. The coverage units played pretty well, though.
Previous position grades: C+, C+, A+, D+, A+, B-, B, C, B, D+