Browns And Steelers Try To Overcome Blame Heaped On Them Following Rough Losses

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The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers have the oldest and perhaps most storied rivalry in the American Football Conference. To the point some call each game between these teams the Turnpike War.

But Thursday evening when these two great franchises play, it won’t be anything more than a search to stop the blame, pain and discontent that has surrounded both teams this week.

Both the Browns and the Steelers are 1-1 and hoping to matter in the postseason a few months in the future. But each are mired by some significant problems and are dealing with some uncomfortable embarrassment they heaped on themselves during losses Sunday.

The Browns lost in humiliating fashion to the New York Jets when they blew 30-17 lead in the final 1:55 against a team with no time outs.

Communications Problems For Browns Secondary

The only reason the Jets got their opportunity to win this game is because Browns running back Nick Chubb scored on a 12-yard run with 1:55 to play. Had he simply kneeled short of the end zone after picking up a first down, the Browns could have wound the clock to 15 seconds left to play — not enough time for the Jets to mount a comeback.

“Yeah, I mean, yeah I probably shouldn’t have scored right there looking back at it,” Chubb told reporters Tuesday. “It cost us the game. A lot of things went wrong, not just one thing but collectively as a unit, as a team, we could have all done things differently. It’s only a problem because we didn’t win. So I probably should have went down.”

Chubb said his reaction to the loss was, “I sat on the pain,” which is an ironic twist of words considering he should have sat on the 1 yard line.

And, look, Chubb is an outstanding player. He’s second in the NFL in rushing with 228 yards, trailing only Saquon Barkley’s 236. And his honesty about a mental error will only endear him to Browns fans.

But he has a point. There were many reasons the Browns collapsed.

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 18: New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (19) looks to pass during the second quarter of the National Football League game between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns on September 18, 2022, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Browns Had Other Errors

Receiver Amari Cooper, for example, fumbled an onside kick after the Jets scored on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Corey Davis. That gave the Jets another possession which they turned into the winning touchdown.

So how is Cooper dealing with the blame?

“To own it, to learn from it and then to flush it,” he said. “We have such a short week we can’t be worrying about things that are already past us. You know what I mean? The only reason we should worry about it is to learn from it and I think we’ve done that and now it’s time to flush it and move forward.”

The Browns secondary was a mess. The picture of Flacco connecting with Davis, who is 10 yards behind a jogging Ward, for the touchdown has got to frustrate the Browns.

The fact there was a similar 75-yard score in which Carolina’s Robbie Anderson got behind the Browns secondary in the season opener now presents a pattern.

“It was just another miscommunication similar to what we had in the first game,” Ward said. “It’s just guys we all got to get on the same page. It was just a blown coverage and we let a guy run free.”

Safety Grant Delpit said the communication in the Browns’ secondary happened on the field and Ward added some guys in the huddle didn’t get the right call.

Where there seems to be no agreement is who was supposed to take responsibility for the play. Ward told reporters “it wasn’t my coverage” and took exception to someone on Twitter saying he was responsible for 100 yards worth of completions.

Blame Game Has Commenced

“But if there’s someone you want to blame, I’ll take full blame,” Ward said Monday. “But related to my tweet that necessarily wasn’t my coverage and I wasn’t there to make a play on it.”

Delpit wouldn’t discuss whether it was his coverage or not. All he would say is it was a “communication error.”

The intriguing part of Thursday’s Blame Game meeting is the Steelers similarly spent this week trying to sort out who to blame for their 17-14 loss to the New England Patriots.

The Steelers emerged from that one with coach Mike Tomlin saying quarterback Mitch Trubisky and “we” could be more aggressive with downfield passing. Trubisky, meanwhile, complained receivers kept suggesting plays in the huddle and he doesn’t have the ability to audible.

And offensive coordinator Matt Canada caught strays for all of it.

” ‘We’ is me and us as a staff, and we’ll take it all,” Canada said. “And we’re going to keep getting Mitch in a position to make plays. We have to do that. We’ll continue do that until we win.”

PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 28: Mitch Trubisky #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to pass during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium on August 28, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Trubisky said he doesn’t have the authority to audible out of every play and that also landed on Canada’s lap because former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could change the play at the line of scrimmage if he saw something he didn’t like or he wanted to use to his advantage.

Why Is Mitch Trubisky Limited On Audibles?

“Obviously, Ben had some things in the system as we went at certain times,” Canada admitted. “But we’re evolving to that, too. You’ve got a guy who played 18 years and a guy that just got here with a bunch of young players.

“So, I think we’re slowly building to that, and obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted Sunday and we didn’t score enough the week before. We’re not where we want to be, and we have to keep working at that and adding certain things that we think will help us each week but without creating any kind of missed assignments or communication issues.”

This matchup of the limited Steelers offense against the miscommunicating Browns defense promises to be a train wreck.

Tomlin, meanwhile, said he’s experienced enough to understand that patience is required to get things right. And that includes which quarterback he picks as his starter.

“Yes,” Tomlin said, suggesting Trubisky has a longer rather than shorter leash. “Yes, it does.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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