Browns-Steelers: The Grades are In

We close the book on the Thursday Horror today, starting with the weekly report card. Let's just a certain someone's may not find what they want under the tree this holiday season after folks get a look at this report card. It's time for that talk...

The Browns are at a loss to explain how they can follow what could have been an uplifting win with a terrible performance in Pittsburgh.

The Browns lost 27-7, and easily could have been shut out for the second time in three games against Pittsburgh, and the second time in three games overall.

"We take a step forward and then it seems like we take two steps back," linebacker Willie McGinest said.
The Browns did nothing right -- except protect quarterback Derek Anderson, who did well considering he had had no help. They did not run the ball, did not stop the run and did not catch the ball.

"The line protected Anderson pretty well," coach Romeo Crennel said. "The same line allowed us to run the ball well the last time against Pittsburgh, but couldn't protect. We are trying to figure it out."

That "figure-it-out" stuff has been going on all season, and fans are fed up. The Browns embarrassed themselves and their city on the NFL Network.

The worst thing is that in the two games around the win over Kansas City, the Browns played two division rivals -- Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. In those two games, Cleveland has been outscored 57-7.

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- It's rare to say a quarterback played well in a dismal loss, but Derek Anderson did just that. Anderson stood in the pocket like a veteran and found many open receivers. He had good numbers -- 21-of-37 for 276 yards -- that would have been better had his receivers caught the ball. Browns players dropped at least six passes.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Pitiful effort. For one, the Browns ran 11 times compared to 52 for Pittsburgh. No team can win with that disparity. Then when the Browns ran they did nothing, gaining just 18 yards. The team should be ashamed of that performance.

PASSING DEFENSE: F -- Considering Santonio Holmes made his first start and Nate Washington was playing for Hines Ward, the Browns should be embarrassed. Steelers constantly ran free, and constantly made the catch. It wasn't like Jerry Rice was running around out there, but the receivers had enough room to catch anything Ben Roethlisberger threw.

RUSHING DEFENSE: F -- Is there a grade lower than an F? That's what the Browns deserve, as Pittsburgh topped 300 yards rushing as a team and Willie Parker set a team record with 223 yards. The Browns' run defense was so absent that Parker averaged more than seven yards every time he carried the ball. This effort was putrid.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Not much to be excited about when the team as a whole is getting beat like a drum. Coverage units were fine, Dave Zastudil punted well and Phil Dawson missed a kick in the wind. Overall, a pretty ho-hum effort in an embarrassing loss.

COACHING: F -- Romeo Crennel has to wonder if he can get through to his team. The Browns followed an uplifting win with as bad an effort as they have had since 1999. The team showed all the signs of one that has packed it in and quit. Somehow, Crennel has to get them back to thinking about winning for the season's final three games.

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