A difficult loss to the Steelers could be demoralizing to the Browns.
Cleveland twice led Pittsburgh by 10 points in the fourth period, only to give up 224 yards passing and three touchdowns in one quarter of play.
The Browns' disappointment was tangible. Joshua Cribbs called the defeat devastating, and few of his teammates disagreed.
The Browns put a lot into trying to avenge a 41-0 loss to Pittsburgh a year ago, but they came up short and were left to listen to the cackling of Joey Porter on his way out of town.
With high-flying Cincinnati coming to town Sunday, the Steelers loss has all the potential to send the Browns into an end-of-the-season tailspin.
"We're going to come back," coach Romeo Crennel said. "I'm telling you. I don't quit. My guys don't quit. We're going to keep fighting."
Report Card vs. Steelers
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Charlie Frye described the Browns' performance well -- good at times, bad at times. The biggest problem with the Browns offense was that it missed chances in the first half to put the game away, and it did not get in the end zone. The Browns' scores came on defensive and special teams touchdowns. Pittsburgh talked dismissively of the Browns for good reason. In the fourth quarter when the Browns needed a completion in a huge way to give the defense a break, Frye telegraphed his throw and Troy Polamalu stopped his blitz and knocked the pass down.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Given unheralded Jason Wright started, the Browns did well. Wright averaged 4.1 yards per carry -- 1 yard more than Reuben Droughns is averaging for the season. He did give the ball up on a fumble, but Wright found holes, ran hard and performed fairly well in his second start. With Droughns not looking like the same back he was a year ago, it might be time to give Wright a few more carries.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- The Browns continue to provide negative numbers that defy belief. In the fourth quarter Sunday, the Browns gave up 224 yards passing and 19 first downs to Ben Roethlisberger. This is almost incomprehensible, especially since the Browns did a fairly good job for three quarters. The collapse of the pass defense in the final period cost the Browns a win.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Willie Parker was coming off a 200-yard game, but he gained just 46 yards on 16 carries. Parker had little room to move, and the Browns contained him well. They just didn't contain the passing game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The Browns got a kickoff return for a touchdown, but they also gave up some returns. The special teams play has been strong this season, but Phil Dawson missed a field goal when the ball was placed in a divot. It was that kind of day for the Browns as they lost to the Steelers for the sixth time in a row.
COACHING: D-minus -- Just once you'd like to hear a coach admit that he could have done something different. Romeo Crennel said it wasn't the game plan that led the Steelers to throw for 224 yards in one quarter, it was just that the defense did not make a play. At some point when an offense is picking a defense apart, the defense does something different. The Browns never did, and Roethlisberger continued to run around and complete pass after pass.