By Ryan Lewis
and Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writers
CLEVELAND: No Browns wide receiver has ever produced a better game statistically than the one Josh Gordon had Sunday in a 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
His 237 receiving yards are a franchise record, and his 14 catches tied hall of fame tight end Ozzie Newsome for the team record. Newsome established franchise records for catches and receiving yards when he tallied 14 catches for 191 yards against the New York Jets on Oct. 14, 1984.
But Gordon won’t enjoy the feat. Not one bit.
“After taking a loss like that, it means nothing,” said Gordon, who also caught a 1-yard touchdown pass with 3:13 left in the fourth quarter. “To me, it’s great and everything for me as a young wide receiver to get that experience, but if we can’t go out there and win, I don’t really care about it.”
Most of Gordon’s record-breaking production came in garbage time. Gordon caught seven passes for 158 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter with many fans exiting the stadium even before the Steelers (5-6) went ahead of the Browns (4-7) by 24 points with 4:27 left. It’s one of the reasons why Gordon doesn’t “really see anything positive” in the records.
“The city wanted to see us win,” said Gordon, a second-round pick in last year’s supplemental draft. “We all wanted to win that game. That would have meant a lot. For me, it was for nothing.”
Gordon also tallied his fifth 100-yard receiving game this season, another team record he now has. His 237 receiving yards brings his season total to 988. The Browns’ record for receiving yards in a season is 1,289, set by Braylon Edwards in 2007. To break it, Gordon will have to average 61 yards per game for the rest of the season. It’s important to note he has only played nine games this season, because he served a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
“Josh is a good talent,” quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “He’s a great route runner. There are a lot of things that go into it. He’s a big-time playmaker, and as the quarterback, you know where those guys are at all times.”
Browns cornerback Joe Haden had one of the best games of his career last week in a 41-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but he followed it with perhaps one of his poorest against the Steelers.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown had six catches for a team-high 92 yards, which included a 41-yard touchdown that put the Steelers ahead 10-3 with 2:33 left in the second quarter. Haden fell a step behind after he let up and looked back for a split-second while covering Brown, who used the separation to catch the pass in the front of the end zone while falling on his back as Haden tried to knock the ball away.
“When I turned back, I felt like he was stopping for a comeback, but he wasn’t,” Haden said. “I thought he was going to stop. He kept running for the fade. When I finally caught up, I got to hit the ball out of his hands, but it just laid on his chest, and he covered it up. It was a good play by him.”
Haden and strong safety T.J. Ward were clearly frustrated after the game and directed blame at the offense’s four turnovers.
“As a defense, we’re going out there every time no matter where the ball is placed,” said Haden, who last week had two interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown. “No matter what it is, we’re out there trying to do what we can do. I can only speak for the defensive side. We’re not getting ran up and down the field on. Of course, big plays, they made a play on me today. That’s a great play. Good receiver. Good quarterback making a good play. I got beat.
“They are going to make a play. You know, they get paid big bucks, also. I’m not knocking what I did at all. I’m just saying as a corner, it’s not going to always go my way.”
Blitzburgh strikes again
The Steelers had five sacks, two against starting quarterback Jason Campbell and three against Weeden.
The most notable, of course, unfolded when William Gay went untouched on a cornerback blitz, whacked Campbell across the face mask with his left hand and caused him to fumble. Campbell suffered a concussion during the play and was knocked out of the game with 7:46 left in the third quarter. Safety Will Allen returned the fumble 49 yards to the Browns’ 4-yard line to set up a touchdown that put the Steelers ahead 20-3.
“[Campbell] was getting it going a little bit and it just kind of was one of those freak things,” left guard John Greco said. “They dialed up something. They got us. Unfortunately, we didn’t pick it up, and he gets hit.”
Greco suggested Campbell should have gotten rid of the ball sooner.
“They brought one extra [guy] and [it was] just kind of timing,” Greco said. “We didn’t get it out quick enough. But hats off to them for dialing something up that beat us.
“Jason gets hit blindside, and it’s just a protection beater or if we didn’t do it right, whatever you say. But for him, it’s hard to hold on to the ball when you’re getting teed off on from the blindside.”
With Campbell’s status uncertain for Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, coach Rob Chudzinski said the team will prepare Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, to start in his place.
Weeden is 0-4 as a starter this season and 5-14 in his career, so can the Browns win with him?
“Yeah, absolutely,” Greco said. “We’ve won games with Brandon coming in and we’ve won games with Brandon starting before. We’ll rally behind him.”
Browns running back Chris Ogbonnaya lost a fumble for the second week in a row.
Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu ripped the ball out of Ogbonnaya’s hands and recovered it with 1:43 left in the second quarter. The takeaway led to Shaun Suisham’s successful 32-yard field goal with seconds left in the first half.
“I thought he held the ball pretty tight,” Chudzinski said. “It was a great play from Polamalu, it looked like to me on the replay. We just have to protect it in those situations. I thought that we had something going on that drive right there before the half. It was a complete swing in the game.”
Kicker Billy Cundiff nailed a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter. But in the fourth quarter, he missed a 46-yard attempt far to the left. It was his first miss since Sept. 29, and it snapped a streak of 12 consecutive made field goals. Winds topped 30 mph at points during the game.
“I was definitely disappointed I missed that,” Cundiff said. “I played it right of center, but I probably should have gone maybe even outside the post. ... Right when I was getting ready to kick, the wind [picked] up.”
Next man up
Tank Carder started at inside linebacker in place of Craig Robertson, who was inactive with the sprained right knee he suffered last week. Carder, though, left the game late in the first half with an injured shoulder and did not return. As a result, Darius Eubanks played his first defensive snaps in the NFL and registered four tackles.
Starting cornerback Buster Skrine left the game in the second half with injured ribs and did not return. If he misses time, Chris Owens would likely be bumped into a starting role and rookie Leon McFadden would take over nickel-back duties.
In addition to Robertson, tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring), center Patrick Lewis, offensive tackle Martin Wallace, guard Garrett Gilkey, offensive tackle Reid Fragel and defensive end Armonty Bryant (back) were inactive for the Browns. … Ziggy Hood started at defensive end for the Steelers in place of Brett Keisel (foot). Jarvis Jones, the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft, started for the Steelers at outside linebacker in place of LaMarr Woodley (calf). ... The Browns donned brown jerseys and pants for the second time this season. … The Browns also wore helmet decals to honor former offensive tackle Mike McCormack, who died Nov. 15 at the age of 83. The decals, a black circle with the initials “MM” in the middle, will be worn for the rest of the season. ... Matt Bahr served as an honorary captain for the coin toss. Bahr is a former Browns and Steelers kicker.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow Nate on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj