CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns won a big game against the Steelers but also lost their cool in a big way.
They picked off Mason Rudolph four times in a 21-7 victory over the Steelers to improve to 4-6, but played with a lack of discipline and made egregious mistakes.
Myles Garrett got into it at the end of the game with Rudolph, and ripped off the QB’s helmet. He then whacked Rudolph in the head to get ejected from the game. While a scuffle ensued, with center Maurkice Pouncey kicking Garrett in the helmet when he was on the ground, Larry Ogunjobi walked up to Rudolph and shoved him in the back.
He was also ejected, as was Pouncey.
But Garrett and Ogunjobi weren’t the only Browns defenders thrown out of the game. Damarious Randall was also ejected for a helmet-to-helmet blow on Diontae Johnson that knocked him out of the game with a concussion.
Garrett will probably be suspended for next week’s game, if not longer.
“That’s inexcusable,” Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield told Fox about Garrett’s actions in his postgame interview on the field. “That’s just endangering the other team. That’s inexcusable. He knows that.”
“Of course, that’s not how we want to be at the end of the game,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said in his postgame interview. “That’s not who Myles wants to be. That’s not who we’re going to be. You have to be able to maintain your composure. At no time do we want anything to do with anything like that.
“I’m embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It’s not good. He understands what he did, and he understands it’s totally unacceptable, and we have to get through it.
“We’ve got 5 seconds to go in the game, the biggest game this team has won … beating Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the same year … there’s 52 other guys on the team, that hurt, and it’s going to hurt going forward. Myles understands what he did wrong.”
Kitchens was asked after the game what he thought the suspension for Garrett might be.
“I”ve never seen that in my life, so we’ll see. I can’t answer that,” Kitchens said. “Myles is very upset about it. He’s got to maintain his composure. That’s it. We’ve got to take it, whatever they give to us.”
The Browns failed to convert their first two interceptions off Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, but they wouldn’t be denied on the third. Browns linebacker Joe Schobert swiped his second pass of the night off Rudolph with 6:22 left in the game, on a pass intended for James Washington and returned it 20 to the Steelers’ 4.
If that wasn’t enough of a gift for this sluggish Browns’ offense, which sputtered after taking a 14-0 lead in the second half, nothing was going to be.
Drive after drive the Browns defense got the ball for the offense, and time and again they wasted the opportunities and punted.
But not this time. After a Beckham incompletion and a Nick Chubb loss for four yards, Mayfield, facing a third down from the 8, found tight end Stephen Carlson on a post route to the back line of the end zone that produced the final margin, 21-7.
Carlson, called up from the practice squad Nov. 1, leaped up over linebacker Mark Barron and plucked the ball off his helmet. In a game featuring Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, Carlson was an unlikely hero. The TD was his first career catch.
But the Browns needed someone on offense to make a big play, and Carlson was the man. Just to make sure this upstart Steelers teams didn’t come clamoring back, safety Juston Burris picked off Rudolph a fourth time, with 3:54 left to seal the victory.
The victory, the Browns’ second straight, improved them to 4-6 and kept their faint playoff hopes alive. The Steelers had their four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 5-5. The two teams will meet again in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1.
The Browns’ defense was dominant throughout the game, but then played with the out-of-control emotion that Kitchens wanted them to avoid.
From 2002-18, only seven of 99 teams (7.1 percent) that went 4-6 reached the postseason.
The Steelers lost three of their best offensive players in the game in leading receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, receiver Diontae Johnson and running back James Conner. Smith-Schuster and Johnson and both suffered concussions on helmet blows by Browns defenders, and James Conner re-injured his shoulder.
Damarious Randall ejected
The Browns couldn’t be satisfied with the dominant defense they were playing. They had to lose their cool and start committing dumb and dangerous penalties.
Randall was ejected from the game with 8:05 remaining after a crushing helmet-to-helmet blow on receiver Johnson, who appeared to be knocked out cold from the hit. He was helped up and wobbled off to the sidelines. He left the game with a concussion and did not return.
The loss of Randall hurt a lot, considering the Browns had already lost strong safety Morgan Burnett to an Achilles injury with 1:26 left in the half.
Randall’s 15-yard penalty for the illegal hit was the first of three defensive penalties on the drive, and the Steelers cashed in with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Rudolph to Jaylen Samuels that made it 14-7 with 5:39 left in the third.
The other two penalties were an illegal contact by Juston Burris and a 38-yard pass interference penalty against Williams to the 3 to set up the TD.
No points off two picks
The Browns defense picked off Mason Rudolph twice in the first half, and the offense couldn’t convert either one into points. The first was in the second quarter when Burnett picked off a ball tipped by Denzel Ward and returned it 43 yards.
Austin Seibert was wide right on a 45-yard field goal attempt.
Joe Schobert intercepted Rudolph with 9:44 left in the half to start the Browns at midfield in the third quarter, but T.J. Watt sacked Mayfield on the first play, and the Browns went three-and-out.
Browns hot start
The Browns led 14-0 at the half after scoring on a 1-yard Mayfield sneak and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry. The Browns played lights-out in the first half, shutting out the Steelers for the first time in 13 years, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
The Steelers lost Smith-Schuster to a concussion with 9:08 left in the half when he was drilled in the helmet by Greedy Williams, and running back James Conner re-injured his shoulder in the first quarter.
Smith-Schuster was face down on the field before walking straight into the locker room with help.
The Browns set the tone early in the game when the defense forced a convincing three-and-out, holding Pittsburgh to no yards on their opening drive. They stuffed the run twice and then pressured Rudolph into a throwaway.
Mayfield’s first pass was batted down by Cam Heyward, but he found Kareem Hunt down the right side for a 20-yard strike and then came right back and hit Odell Beckham Jr. with a 42-yard bomb on a post route. It was first ruled a TD, but he was ruled down at 1 upon review.
Mayfield scored on the sneak to open the scoring 7-0 with 11:07 left in the half.
The Steelers drove to the Browns’ 33 thanks to a 33-yard pass interference call against Denzel Ward, but Chris Boswell sailed a 44-yard field goal wide left at the Dawg Pound end after a bobbled snap.
The Browns increased their lead to 14-0 on a 1-yard TD pass from Mayfield to a wide open Jarvis Landry with 9:55 left in the half. Key play on the drive was a 41-yard pass to KhaDarel Hodge. Mayfield, who re-discovered his elusiveness, got the pass off despite Jayrone Elliott crashing in.
Burnett, who had a sensational first half against his former team, picked off a Rudolph pass tipped by Denzel Ward, and returned it 43 yards to the Steelers’ 30. But Mayfield threw two incomplete passes to Landry, and Seibert was wide right on his 45-yard field goal attempt with 2:31 left in the half.
Unfortunately for Burnett and for the Browns, Burnett suffered the Achilles injury with 1:26 left in half and hobbled off the field.
The Browns host the Dolphins Sunday Nov. 24 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
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