PITTSBURGH — Baker Mayfield's orange helmet was replaced by a white baseball cap as he watched the fourth quarter from Cleveland's sideline.
The Steelers battered the quarterback and forced the Browns to tap out early.
They made Odell Beckham Jr. scream, throw his helmet and kick off his cleats.
No doubt, the Browns (4-2) are a much better team than recently. However, they've still got a long way to go before they're ready to compete with Baltimore or Pittsburgh — the heavyweights of the AFC North.
Mayfield's early interception returned for a touchdown set the tone for Pittsburgh's 38-7 shellacking of the Browns, who were completely overwhelmed in losing their 17th straight game at Heinz Field — a beating that soured their best start in 26 years.
“We didn’t do anything right,” Browns first-year coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Obviously.”
By the end of the third quarter, the Browns were down by 24 and Mayfield, who came in nursing sore ribs, was pulled in an act of surrender and survival by Stefanski. The quarterback was sacked four times and pressured incessantly by Pittsburgh's snarling, swarming defence .
“I didn't want him to get hit one more time,” Stefanski said.
Moments later, Beckham was left standing in his socks.
Cleveland's polarizing, playmaking wide receiver had tried to rally his teammates in the first half with a fiery sideline speech. But the Steelers (5-0) weren't done shoving the Browns around and ended their rival's longest winning streak since 1994.
In the fourth quarter, an exasperated Beckham, who missed two practices this week after being sent home Thursday with flu-like symptoms, was replaced. He tossed his helmet, removed his cleats and stood with his arms folded while trying to process how the Browns were so thoroughly dominated as Cleveland's reserves played the final minutes.
Beckham wasn't the only angry Browns player.
“We’re all very frustrated,” said Mayfield, who finished 10 of 18 for 119 yards before he was pulled. “We don’t come out here just to get stats. We come out here to win. So it’s a frustrating loss for us knowing that we didn't play well. We let a great team capitalize on all of our mistakes. We’re all frustrated.”
For all the strides they've made, the Browns, now have been throttled by Baltimore, 38-6 in Week 1, and Pittsburgh.
Mayfield said it's vital for he and his teammates to quickly get over this one.
“You don’t want to let it landside,” he said. "You don’t want to let one (loss) turn into two. We have to learn from the mistakes, grow from it and move forward.”
Mayfield's first mistake was a killer.
With the Steelers already leading 3-0, Mayfield tried to hit rookie tight end Harrison Bryant on a slant pattern, but didn't see safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who picked off the pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.
Mayfield threw another interception later in the half when he avoided being sacked by linebacker T.J. Watt but then threw a ball up for grabs when the smarter play would have been throwing it away. It was Mayfield’s fourth interception in a four-quarter span.
“I’ve got to take care of the ball,” Mayfield said. “The first one, the Pick-6, I gotta see that coverage.”
Stefanski brought in backup Case Keenum to finish the game to protect Mayfield, who didn't want to come out but understood his coach's reasoning.
“I’m focused on the here and now, and I want to get out there and have some success,” Mayfield said. "But in his words, he’s got a big-picture mindset, so you just gotta roll with the punches.”
Stefanki quickly dismissed any thought that he was considering a change at quarterback for next week in Cincinnati.
"Baker will start as long as he is healthy, and I think he will be,” Stefanski said.
Lost in the shuffle was Myles Garrett's first game against the Steelers since the Browns' star end clubbed Pittsburgh backup QB Mason Rudolph in the head with a helmet last season. Garrett, who spent a moment visiting with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin before the game, was negated and not a factor.
Garrett said the loss didn't sting any more than any other.
“They got ahead and never let go,” Garrett said. “We better have their number next time. It is one game. We will see them again and then you will be able to measure how we stack up against either of them. Until then, just leave it as it is. They had our number.”
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