On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns became only the NFL's second-ever 0-16 team and the first in nearly a decade.
The Browns had their chances against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that rested a lot of prominent players, including Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Cam Heyward. But Corey Coleman dropped a crucial fourth-down pass deep in Pittsburgh territory, and the Steelers hung on for a 28-24 win.
The Browns joined the 2008 Detroit Lions, who went that entire season without a victory, as the only winless teams since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule. Since 1944, the only other teams to go an entire season without a victory were the 1960 Dallas Cowboys (0–11–1); the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0–14), in their inaugural season; and the 1982 Baltimore Colts (0–8–1), in a strike-shortened season.
DeShone Kizer made some big plays in what has been a frustrating season, throwing for 314 yards — including his two longest pass plays of the season — and two TDs. He also ran six times for 61 yards and drove the Browns 58 yards down to the Pittsburgh 27-yard line with fewer than two minutes left.
But Coleman dropped a pass that went right through his hands after Kizer had scrambled free of pressure to make a perfect throw. The Steelers ran out the clock, as Landry Jones (23-of-27 passing, 239 yards, one TD, one INT) started for Roethlisberger.
The star for the Steelers, who will be the AFC's No. 2 seed in the playoffs, was JuJu Smith-Schuster, who collected 265 all-purpose yards and scored on a 20-yard TD catch and a 96-yard kickoff return that gave Pittsburgh the lead for good.
The Browns had tied the game 21-21 just prior to that in the third quarter after trailing 21-7 in the first half. They also had fallen into a 14-0 deficit early and amassed minus-14 yards on their first two drives.
Kizer was sacked six times. He finished his rookie season with nine TD passes and 21 picks, including one Sunday. Head coach Hue Jackson — whom owner Jimmy Haslam said multiple times will return in 2018 — is now 1-31 in his two seasons running the team. The Browns have become the first team in NFL history to lose 31 games in a two-season span, topping the 2008-09 Lions (30) and the 2008-09 St. Louis Rams (29).
“I don’t think we’re as far away as many people think we are," Jackson said after the game.
Was there fight in the Browns? Yes, unquestionably, right up until the end. But their last victory was on Christmas Eve last season, and they'll go more than 600 days between victories — whenever their next one comes. We assume that will be next season. But with the Browns, you never know.
They'll pick first and fourth overall in the 2018 NFL draft, the latter pick coming via the Houston Texans in a 2017 Draft Day trade involving Deshaun Watson. Perhaps new GM John Dorsey can work some draft magic and find a way to turn this Browns franchise around after the worst two-year stretch in NFL history.