The 2022 season has come to an end for the Cleveland Browns. And with an ugly finish as well as they lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 28-14 to drop to 7-9 on the year. To add insult to injury, the Browns saw three starters leave the game with an injury in cornerback Denzel Ward, left tackle Jedrick Wills, and linebacker Reggie Ragland.
What stood out the most from this disappointing finale as the Browns finished the season 4-3 down the stretch? Here is your last 4 Downs of the 2022 season as we now enter yet another uncertain January in Berea, Ohio.
1st Down: Deshaun Watson's ability is evident, but turnovers are unacceptable
Browns QB Deshaun Watson vs. Steelers. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Quarterback Deshaun Watson continued to find success through the air after he caught fire in the second half against the Washington Commanders. Given the amount of pressure he faced on the day as well, his Houdini-like pocket movement to evade pressure and make plays for the Browns was admirable.
However, his two killer turnovers were unacceptable and gave the Steelers 10 cheap points on the afternoon. He tried to force a football in a two-minute drill after the Steelers had just scored. They were then able to get three points themselves before the break.
Then in the second half on a third and 18, Watson threw a pick in his own territory that completely flipped field position. The Browns would have punted and at least pushed the Steelers back, and instead, the Steelers scored on a short field.
He was certainly the answer for a lot of Cleveland’s success today, but also the reason for some of their issues as well.
2nd Down: Steelers' offense does not play well but it did not matter
Browns vs. Steelers. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
For most of the game, the offense of the Steelers was inefficient.
Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett completed under 50 percent of his passes and running back Najee Harris averaged less than four yards per carry on 23 carries. However, when it came to third down, that was all that mattered.
On that dagger of a drive alone, Pickett found rookie wide receiver George Pickens for a first down and hit rookie H-back Connor Heyward down the seam for a big gain. If you looked at the raw offensive numbers for the Steelers, one would not guess they would have won this game.
Yet they won the time of possession battle, were 9-of-15 on third down, and gave up just one sack on the day.
3rd Down: Expect Joe Woods' future to be decided quickly (It's probably already been decided)
Browns vs. Steelers. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]
Head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry are scheduled to speak to the media tomorrow at 3:30 PM. While a decision on the future of defensive coordinator Joe Woods may not be announced by then, the Browns have had their minds made up for weeks.
And Woods spoke as if he knew it in his last presser as well.
Big third down after big third down was surrendered by Woods’ unit once again today as the Steelers converted three third and longs to put the Browns away on the drive after Watson found Chubb to bring the Browns back within striking distance.
This defense sold out way before the comments of Jadeveon Clowney, and a new leader on that side of the football is needed. And is inevitable.
4th Down: Offensive line gets dominated for 60 minutes
Browns vs. Steelers. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)
Given the amount of money allocated to this offensive line, and how well we have seen them play over the past three seasons, it has been shocking to watch them crumble down the stretch in 2022.
The fifth-year option of Jedrick Wills is still probable, but he has a long way to go to prove he is worth a second contract in Cleveland. Is late-game injury muddies the picture for him as well.
The play of Wyatt Teller for weeks now has been incredibly concerning. James Hudson is likely nothing more than a swing tackle at the NFL level into the future for the Browns, and their newly-extended right tackle Jack Conklin did not play in this one. Once again down the stretch, Joel Bitonio is the only consistent performer up front.
This unit will all be back together in 2023, outside of center Ethan Pocic as he is set to enter free agency, so they have some soul-searching to do this offseason.
Extra Point: We are on to the 2023 NFL Draft
Browns vs. Steelers. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
The season is over and now the offseason begins. This means mock drafts, scouting reports, team needs analysis, and more will become more prevalent at Browns Wire.
The Browns do not have a first round pick, but that does not matter as they still have eight picks to work with this upcoming Spring. Defensive tackle, wide receiver, and defensive end will be massive talking points this offseason for the Browns, but a second consistent tight end is a sleeper to watch for on day-two of the draft as well.
Regardless, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Draft time.