CLEVELAND (AP) — The losses are now coming with lumps for the Browns.
The 11th one this season was the most painful yet.
Cleveland was manhandled on Sunday by the Steelers, who had eight sacks in a 24-9 battering. Pittsburgh gave Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler his second concussion in five weeks, an injury that could end a tough first season for him.
Kessler had to be helped from the field late in the third quarter after he was wobbled on a hard hit by Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons launched himself at the rookie and appeared to strike him with his shoulder while the QB was being dragged down. Kessler’s head snapped back and also hit the ground.
As he was being checked by medical personnel, Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor laid on the ground next to his teammate to see if he was OK.
Following the game, a passionate and disgusted Pryror sounded off about Cleveland’s quarterbacks being abused.
“We can’t keep doing this,” said Pryor, a former QB. “It’s as simple as that. I’m tired of our guys getting hit. I’m nobody to complain because I don’t run it, but it’s personal for me because I care for those guys. I don’t like seeing them get hit like that. Point blank, period. Somebody’s got to say it. I’m gonna say it.”
Browns coach Hue Jackson said it’s possible Kessler may need extra time to recover from his second concussion since Oct. 23.
“I am definitely going to talk to our medical staff because this is about a young man’s career and future,” Jackson said. “So we have to do the right thing.”
The Steelers (5-5) came in with a league-low 13 sacks, but teed off against a revamped Cleveland offensive line. Now suffering through the worst season in franchise history, the Browns (0-11) did not try to re-sign free center Alex Mack or right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in the offseason, and left guard Joel Bitonio sustained a season-ending foot injury in Week 5.
Star left tackle Joe Thomas has taken a diplomatic stance on the changes. But following another lopsided loss, the perennial Pro Bowler said the upheaval has been costly.
“We lost a couple of really good players, the best at their position,” he said, referring to Mack and Schwartz. “That was our strategy in the offseason. That’s what we decided to do. You have to lie in the bed that you made.”
Josh McCown replaced Kessler in the fourth quarter and took hard knocks as well, getting his chin bloodied by a vicious shot by Stephon Tuitt.
It’s possible the Browns could have Robert Griffin III back at some point. He’s been out since breaking a bone in his shoulder in the opener and will return to practice this week. Griffin probably won’t be ready to face the New York Giants next Sunday.
At this point, Jackson is just trying to make sure his team survives.
“I don’t want this group to go backward any more than what we already have,” he said. “I have to regroup with the guys and regroup with our coaches, and we have to keep pressing forward.”
MAN OF STEEL: Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison became the team’s career sacks leader with 77 ½. Afterward, the 38-year-old became emotional when he was presented with the game ball, saying was sad that his late father wasn’t there to see it.
“Awesome,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “He’s one of the best that I’ve ever seen or played with. I’m glad he’s on our side.”
FRONT FORCE: The Steelers got back to basics — running the ball, stopping the run — to end a four-game losing streak.
Roethlisberger didn’t get sacked and Le’Veon Bell rushed for a season-high 146 as the Steelers improved to 2-3 on the road.
With the win, and Baltimore’s loss to Dallas, Pittsburgh moved back into a tie atop the AFC North.
“The offensive line was not satisfied with how we ran the ball against the Ravens two weeks ago and against the Cowboys last week,” Bell said. “The line was putting in a lot of time in the film room over the last two weeks, and it showed. They kept me clean, kept Ben clean.”
PASS THE STUFFING: It’s a short week for the Steelers, who will play at Indianapolis on Thanksgiving.
“Anytime we can come in and get a win, get things back into perspective, it’s good,” said WR Antonio Brown, who had eight catches for 76 yards.
CHEAP SHOT?: Thomas felt Timmons’ shot on Kessler was excessive.
“To me when you have a quarterback scrambling, running out of the pocket and you get targeted, I know in college football they throw you out for something like that,” he said. “Hopefully the legislation in the NFL is trying to eliminate that type of play. Quarterbacks get hurt when they get hit like that. That’s something you don’t want to see.”