CLEVELAND — The Browns got tricked into thinking they would receive a treat in their Halloween showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But two late drives into Pittsburgh territory resulted in a lost fumble and a turnover on downs, and the Browns fell 15-10 on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium in their first of six AFC North games this season.
The Browns (4-4) had prevailed in back-to-back games late last season against the Steelers – the regular-season finale Cleveland needed to win Jan. 3 to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and a wild-card matchup Jan. 10 at Heinz Field.
A third victory a row would have given the Browns their longest winning streak in the series since the late 1980s, but they failed to deliver the dagger in the clutch. The Browns triumphed in seven consecutive meetings with the Steelers from 1986-89.
Now the Browns are in last place in the division. They stumbled to 9-37-1, including 1-1 in the playoffs, against the Steelers (4-3) in the expansion era.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield returned to the starting lineup for the Browns. His streak of 53 consecutive starts ended Oct. 21, when a completely torn labrum, fraying and a fractured humerus bone in his left, non-throwing shoulder sidelined him for a 17-14 win over the Denver Broncos on “Thursday Night Football.”
Playing through the injury with his injured shoulder in a new harness, Mayfield went 20-of-31 passing (64.5%) for 225 yards without a touchdown pass or an interception for a rating of 86.1.
Mayfield fell shy of becoming the first Browns quarterback to defeat the Steelers in three consecutive matchups since Bernie Kosar won four starts versus Pittsburgh in the 1986-87 seasons.
Two-time Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb and All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin also returned to game action for the Browns. But Conklin was knocked out of the game with 9:07 remaining in the second quarter because of a left elbow injury, and safety John Johnson III left late in the first half with a neck injury.
Chubb (calf) and Conklin (knee) had missed the previous two games with injuries.
Chubb finished with 16 carries for 61 yards (3.8 average).
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's starting record versus the Browns improved to 24-3-1, including 0-1 in the playoffs. Mayfield, Brady Quinn and Brian Hoyer are the only other Browns quarterbacks who have defeated Roethlisberger.
In what might have been his last game in Cleveland, Roethlisberger went 22-of-34 passing (64.7%) for 266 yards and a touchdown without an interception for a rating of 98.4.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is now 23-6-1 in the series, including postseason.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns fail in clutch vs. Steelers, fall to last place in AFC North