Finished: Browns loss to Steelers emblematic of lack of leadership

Cleveland eliminated for AFC North race, playoff hopes on life support

Daryl Ruiter
December 01, 2019 - 7:48 pm
Freddie Kitchens Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns Pittsburgh Steelers

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (92.3 The Fan) – General manager John Dorsey kept saying “don’t believe the hype” during the offseason.

More people should’ve listened, including the Browns.

Thanks to Dorsey, the Browns finally have talent. They finally have stars. But they aren’t good enough to win like they should, and that is a problem.

Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Steelers was as embarrassing as it gets.

The last six Browns coaches have all been fired following losses to the Steelers.

Freddie Kitchens managed to escape that fate as owner Jimmy Haslam was nowhere to be seen outside the Browns locker room at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon.

Sunday’s loss combined with the Ravens win over the 49ers eliminated the Browns from the AFC North conversation, meaning it is now 27 seasons and 30 years since the Browns won a division. It all but eliminates them from playoff consideration as well, even if mathematical scenarios keep them alive for another week.

That playoff meter, which is the longest running drought in the NFL, is about to run to 17 years,  

Another season is about circle the drain after Dorsey’s Browns lost to a Steelers team that fielded their third string quarterback, a third string running back and a bunch of receivers no one has heard of Sunday afternoon.

Why?

The Steelers under Mike Tomlin are a professional football operation and have been for years.

The Browns remain a clown show, led by and embraced by Kitchens.

Kitchens thought it’d be a hoot to wear a “Pittsburgh started it” shirt out in public Friday night. He is right that it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but the Steelers, who have a keen attention to detail that Kitchens and his team does not possess, noticed.

Sure, Kitchens blew up the ‘gets us meter’ with fans but as executives in sports like to say, “when you start listening to fans and behaving like them, you become one.”

If he could do it all over again, he would and that’s the problem with Kitchens.

That loss to the Steelers spoke volumes about Kitchens’ leadership of the Browns contrasted to the leadership Tomlin provides Pittsburgh.

Under Kitchens the Browns have lacked discipline and focus from day one.

Pre-snap and personal foul penalties coupled with ejections all started against the Titans on Sept. 9 and they haven’t stopped since. At least there was no additional residue from Nov. 14 from either team as players kept their cool and kept the physicality between the white lines and whistles and both coaches deserve credit for that.

But attitude reflects leadership, and the Browns lack quality leadership.

Kitchens is supposed to be the adult in the room and above the fray. Instead, he's happy to join in the circus which is the problem. 

Pittsburgh moved on from Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. They lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season. They started 0-3 with more players dropping like flies. Running back James Conner, out. Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, out. Mason Rudolph was benched, and some guy nicknamed ‘Duck’ by his teammates goosed the Browns.

In Cleveland just one of those events would be enough to derail a season, but not in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers just keep winning while the Browns are worried about what visor, watch, pair of custom cleats and now t-shirts to wear while blaming the media for any self-created controversy that becomes headline material.

It’s incredulous to think about how the Browns couldn’t beat Pittsburgh’s backups Sunday with the volume of talent at Kitchens’ disposal.

Kitchens couldn’t win Sunday with Baker Mayfield, Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. and he got beat by Devlin Hodges, Benny Snell Jr., Tevin Jones and James Washington.

Let that sink in.

So enjoy cackling over those t-shirts, Browns.

Once again, the Steelers get the last laugh, by winning.