Browns fall short against Steelers in season-opener

Monday, 11 Sep, 2017

With the ball spinning in the back corner, Steelers defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo fell on it to give Pittsburgh an early advantage. No, this isn't a Deadspin "Why Your Team Sucks" highlight reel.

Although the game started that way, it was not the same old sad story for the Browns Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium. As far as season-openers go, it's not necessarily Dwayne Rudd tossing his helmet, but holy hell is it a demoralizing way to begin a season. Brown faced his share of double coverage, but that should diminish once Roethlisberger and Bryant get re-acclimated to playing together. Of course, that could come down to rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.

CLEVELAND _ Wide receiver Antonio Brown had just two catches for 12 yards through the first 15 minutes of the 2017 season. He rifled the ball in. In that game, the Steelers were penalized 14 times for 163 yards in a win over the Oakland Raiders. A 22-yard checkdown to Isaiah Crowell. One covered 50 yards to the Browns 39-yard line just before the two-minute warning in the second quarter.

The rest of the half was eventful only in that the Browns made it uneventful for the Steelers.

Kizer did a terrific job getting the team in and out of the huddle all day including when they changed the pace and went hurry-up.

The Steelers offense didn't have to do much, but Brown showed off his speed and usual ability and proved he's not rusty after the team's big year last season that led them to the AFC Championship. On the fourth, the Browns kicked off from midfield as a result of Wilcox's unnecessary roughness penalty.

The Browns didn't just wilt, however.

That Cleveland offense that looked poorly on the first two series, drove 68 yards for a touchdown on its third. Antonio Brown was a monster, finishing with 11 receptions for 182 yards. From there it was pretty elementary. The Steelers are 11-1 in those contests.

Kizer looked like someone growing into his role as a possible franchise savior in how he showed a sense of fearlessness and confidence, despite playing in his first-ever National Football League game for his boyhood favorite team.

The Browns' defense deserves a ton of credit.

"We prepared well for this game", the rookie said. They first met with owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and later with Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams and other officers to develop a "neighborhood plan".

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming from a 17-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers in the final preseason game. Kizer showed some clear signs he is a rookie making his first career start. If Kizer can continue to improve and the defense continues to limit the damage done by opponents, the Browns have the potential to impress this season and finish the year as the NFL's most improved team.