By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
PITTSBURGH – Here are some final thoughts on the Browns’ 24-10 loss against the Steelers at Heinz Field:
>>Right to the very end of the season, the Browns had to lean heavily on their youth. And just as happened in many of their previous losses, youthful mistakes proved costly. In the case of this defeat, it was two rookie fumbles (by wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon) that led to 14 points for the Steelers.
>>Mistakes notwithstanding, the overall effort by the Browns was commendable, given that there were no playoff implications and the air of uncertainty surrounding the team as it heads into the offseason. The defense did a fairly good job of preventing the Steelers from making big plays while limiting them to an average of 3.3 yards per carry. The Steelers’ greatest offensive success resulted from working with the short field the Browns provided with turnovers. As usual, the Browns’ defense hit hard and made the Steelers earn everything they got.
>>For someone who went from practice squad to starting quarterback in a matter of days and who was facing the NFL’s top-ranked defense (and No. 1 pass defense) in his first pro start, Thaddeus Lewis gave an impressive performance in place of injured Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy. He showed excellent poise and decisiveness. He got rid of the ball quickly and, for the most part, accurately. Lewis’ decision-making was reasonably sound.
>>Before leaving the game late after taking a hit to the back, Lewis displayed every bit the “live” arm that the Browns’ coaches were touting before the game. He also showed effectiveness when throwing on the run, as he did on his seven-yard touchdown pass to Greg Little. Since joining the team last season, Lewis had vowed to his receivers that, given the chance to play, he would not hesitant to “sling it,” and he did exactly that.
>>With the season over, it is time to think about the 2013 NFL Draft. The Browns will have the sixth overall pick, behind the Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles, and Lions. That’s two spots lower than the Browns originally drafted last April before trading up one spot to select Trent Richardson.
>>It was nice to see reserve safety Ray Ventrone, a scrappy and hard-working contributor on special teams, get the chance to enjoy a moment in the spotlight with his 35-yard carry after taking a direct snap on a fake punt. Ventrone displayed exceptional speed on the play. And it was extra special for him because it came in his hometown with many of his family and friends in attendance.
>>Seven different receivers caught passes for the Browns, and the group showed, once again, there is reason to be encouraged by its future. Little played well in catching three passes for 38 yards, and averaging a team-best 12.7 yards per catch. Fumbles notwithstanding, Benjamin and Gordon also were pretty effective against the Steelers’ loose coverage with four receptions each. In playing what might very well have been his final game with the Browns, veteran tight end Benjamin Watson did a good job in contributing seven catches for 64 yards.
>>Despite the absence of the injured Richardson, the Browns put together a decent running game by committee. Brandon Jackson led the way with 54 yards on eight carries, an average of 6.8 yards per rush, and had a long gain of 25 yards. He ran exceptionally hard, as did Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya.
>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.
>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 855-363-2459.
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