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News, Scores, Teams, Stories & More on Northeast OH Sports on cleveland.com

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    How many games with the Cleveland Browns win this season? How can they beat Pittsburgh?

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Scribbles in my notebook as the Browns face Pittsburgh to open the season:

    1. While I wrote a prediction column for this game -- Browns win, 20-17 -- I neglected to take a guess about how many games they'll win. I just can't get to the 7-9 range -- or better. At best, I see this as a 6-10 team. So I'll go with 6-10.

    2. The reason the Browns have a chance to win at least six games is the major changes in the roster. More than 60 percent of the players are new. But that's also why it's hard for them to go from ZERO wins in 2017 to something like 8-8 in 2018. Continuity matters in the NFL. The Browns have so many new faces at so many key positions (including Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley), that could lead to some rocky performances early in the season.

    3. Yet, I predicted the Browns to upset Pittsburgh. I wrote the column before hearing the awful weather forecast, although it's possible a Noah-type flood with the wind whipping off Lake Erie could help the orange helmets -- making it harder for Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to throw the ball.

    4. Roethlisberger is now 36 years and entering his 15th NFL season. He is 21-2 vs. the Browns. I'd like to say it appears he's coming to the end of his career, but he seems to have at least a few good seasons left -- assuming he stays healthy.

    5. One of the most fascinating decisions was to start Desmond Harrison at left guard. Most Browns fans know the basics of his story -- a big-time college recruit who ran into trouble at Texas. He didn't play football for two years and ended up at Division II West Georgia. He flunked a drug test at the NFL Combine, probably costing himself a chance to be drafted. He went from an undrafted free agent with the Browns to a starter.

    6. The Browns want to use their power running game with Carlos Hyde and rookie Nick Chubb. That means they need good blocking from their guards and center. Veterans JC Tretter (center) and Kevin Zeitler (guard). That's part of the reason they decided to keep veteran Joel Bitonio at guard. They had been working Bitonio at left tackle.

    7. Pittsburgh plays a 3-4 defense. The three linemen are Stephen Tuitt, Cameron Heyward and Javon Hargrave. The Browns don't say it, but their decision to start the undrafted Harrison over second-rounder Austin Corbett comes down to raw physical ability. If motivated and if he can keep his poise, Harrison is a better bet to play well against the Steelers than Corbett -- at least in the opener.

    8. So watch how the Browns use the run, especially inside. Then watch the man being blocked by Harrison. The Browns may give the rookie some help blocking with veteran tight end Darren Fells, but they are counting on Harrison to hold his own against whatever linebacker he's facing.

    9. We'll see how he plays, but Tyrod Taylor being a starter in Buffalo for the last three seasons should have him prepared for any weather he encounters in Cleveland. His strength is not turning the ball over. This will be a good test as wet footballs lead to interceptions and fumbles.

    10. The Browns lost the 2017 home opener to Pittsburgh (21-18). They used these receivers: Kenny Britt, Corey Coleman, Kasen Williams and Ricardo Louis. None are in the NFL this season.

    11. So the receiver group of Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway and Josh Gordon has to be an upgrade. Higgins was cut before the 2017 opener, then later re-signed by the Browns. Callaway and Gordon are physically gifted, they just have to produce on and off the field.

    12. This should be a good game for Taylor and Landry to connect on short and medium range passes to keep the offense on the field and pile up first downs. You can add Duke Johnson to that "keep possession of the ball" game plan through the air.

    13. I worry about the special teams. They have been rocky in the last few seasons, and they were rocky during training camp. They allowed too many long returns. Zane Gonzalez has to prove he can be a consistent kicker in the wind at FirstEnergy Stadium. I don't feel good about this unit.


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    On less empirical evidence than 10 years ago, after years of epic losing, Cleveland Browns fans are banking on a big turnaround. It didn't end well in 2008, though.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Day of the Shining Delusion coincided with the first practice at the Cleveland Browns' training camp a decade ago.

    This had become the usual procedure ever since the franchise was restored in 1999 after the faithless and inept owner moved to Baltimore.

    Every year, unrealistic hope sprang up. It became the biggest mass delusion since the little girls saw the witches in Salem.

    Big Foot's imprint

    By 2008,  a.k.a., RestorationY10, in the wake of a 10-6 record and near-miss the year before of what would have been the second playoff berth in Restoration history, fans, the always credulous media here, national pundits and TV executives decided they couldn't get enough of the venerable franchise's attempt to reclaim its storied past. 

    Derek Anderson, a.k.a., DA, a.k.a., Big Foot, a quarterback who wore size 17 shoes,  hot-handed his way in 2007 to wins against lousy teams.

    Alas, all it meant was that the capaciously shod Big Foot could walk the plank quicker than the other has-been's and never-were's who passed (mostly incompletely) through.

    At that first practice 10 years ago,  "Super Bowl! Super Bowl!" chants rang out from the crowded fan bleachers when the team took the practice field in Berea. Soon, although the sun was out, it began to rain, and the shower's drops sparkled like rare gems.

    It was an omen of absolutely nothing.

    Plague times

    The Browns finished 4-12, beginning 10 years that made the plagues of ancient Egypt seem fun and wholesome. 

    It ended in the Orange and Brown Death of  back-to-back  seasons of 1-15 and 0-16 under coach Hue "Rhymes with 'Boo!" Jackson.

    Now it is RestorationY20.

    To know where the Browns are, one must look, fearfully, at where they have been.

    The last decade was the time of Braylon Scissorhands Edwards and K2, (Kellen Winslow Jr.), the latter hardly a mountain, but rather a molehill of personal integrity; of Johnny Football, texting he'd wreck the league but only drowning his own career; of general manager Ray "Twiddle Thumbs" Farmer's suspension for in-game texting to coaches; of GM Phil Savage's F-bomb email to a taunting fan; of coach Pat Shurmur telling me, glumly, "The best player is the damn kicker," meaning Phil Dawson; of Davone Bess and Dwayne Bowe, Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden, and the chimera that was Peyton Hillis.

    The Josh and "Hue Boo" show

    It says a great deal that back again is Josh Gordon, whose promising career has been interrupted time and time again by substance abuse, sometimes of pot, sometimes of booze, but always after heart-felt professions of reform and return to form.

    More incredibly, "Hue Boo" is back too, probably because the new offensive coordinator will call the plays and the new GM will select the players, leaving Jackson to sort of figurehead it up on the sideline.,

    The usual suspects?

    The stabilizing influence is supposed to be veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who last season took the Buffalo Bills to their first playoff berth in 18 years, but didn't take them to the end zone in a 10-3 loss to Jacksonville.

    The bright hope at quarterback is rookie Baker Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy winner (so was Manziel) and a No. 1 overall draft pick (so was Tim Couch), who's undersized (so are Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, and that's about the list of quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls at six feet and a smidgen.)

    A trendy long-shot bet by crazed fans with Las Vegas oddsmakers to win the Super Bowl (say WHAAAAAT?), the Browns will do well to win five or six games.

    All those sparkles in the air years ago weren't diamonds. It was merely raining as usual on the Browns' parade.

    Bill Livingston is a retired Plain Dealer columnist who writes occasional columns for The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com.


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    Doug, Bill and Tim answer your questions after Ohio State's 52-3 win over Rutgers.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- We're breaking down Ohio State's 52-3 win over Rutgers on this postgame edition of our Buckeye Talk Podcast.

    You can always submit questions via Twitter to the @BuckeyeTalkPod account. You can also now submit questions, comments and complaints via email to BuckeyeTalkPod@gmail.com.

    Before listening to the podcast below, make sure to subscribe to Buckeye Talk at any of these places:

    Buckeye Talk on iTunes

    Buckeye Talk on Google Play

    Buckeye Talk on Stitcher

    Buckeye Talk on Spotify

    Thanks to our friends at ShopOhioState.com and MinuteManTickets.com for supporting Buckeye Talk.


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    Stephon Tuitt tore his left bicep in last year's opener at FirstEnergy Stadium. Watch video

    PITTSBURGH - Stephon Tuitt will enter FirstEnergy Stadium today focused on his Pittsburgh Steelers duplicating the results of last season's opener against the Cleveland Browns.

    With one major exception.

    "Do the same thing but don't get hurt," said Tuitt, a defensive end. "I've been preparing just like another season. I'm getting better every week. The preseason is over. The big boys are here now. We have to get ready to play and just go out there and do what we do."

    Tuitt did not get a chance to do much last season after his great start in the opener against the Browns was cut short due to an injury that limited him to 12 games basically playing with one arm.

    After he made a tackle for a loss in last year's opener, Tuitt tore his left bicep on the second play of the game. He left the field and didn't return.

    Tuitt came back three weeks later. He would play just three full games before Week 10.

    The limited play was a valuable lesson.

    "You learn this game will test you in so many different type of ways," said Tuitt, in his fifth season out of Notre Dame. "I became stronger mentally. Battling something like that and not being the type of player that you know you can be, caused me to fight through it for my teammates."

    Tuitt managed to fight enough to collect 25 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble. The numbers were below his standards and his teammates foresee more with two healthy arms.

    "A healthy Tuitt looks like a ferocious animal on the prowl," said fellow defensive end Cameron Heyward. "Tuitt's got all of the gifts. You just look for him to put it all together and that's all you need. Having him out there's going to make my job a lot easier."

    But Tuitt never expects anything easy when it comes to the rivalry between the Browns and Steelers, despite his team winning 10 out of the last 11.

    "Every time we play Cleveland it's a great game, and people don't understand that these games usually go down to the wire," Tuitt said. "We know they have some guys who can do big-time plays and we just have to limit them."

    One of those guys who helped produce big-time plays retired. Tuitt and Heyward had plenty of battles with All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas. He's a player they won't miss.

    "No Joe Thomas, but they have a rowdy bunch," Heyward said. "We've got to bring our lunch pails and be ready to work. It's going to be a heck of game and we'll be ready to scrap."

    A scrap is surely what the NFL schedule makers had in mind by scheduling the Steelers vs. Browns in Cleveland two years in a row. But couldn't a game of this magnitude wait for a build-up and take place later in the season?

    "There's no better way to start an NFL season than against your rival," Tuitt said. "Let's get it!"


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    Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018 season opener at FirstEnergy Stadium

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Today, the always formidable Pittsburgh Steelers come to town to take on the new and improved Cleveland Browns in the season opener.

    Since returning in 1999, the Browns have only managed to win one season opener. That win came against the Baltimore Ravens in 2004, 20-3.

    Over the years, Cleveland hasn't fared much better against the Steelers, having beaten them only twice since 2010.

    So one would think a season opener against the Steelers would be a sure loss. As ESPN's Lee Corso likes to say, "Not so fast." One reason is the Steelers have a few chinks in their armor. They'll likely be missing All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell. They'll also be without middle linebacker Ryan Shazier.

    Another reason is how much the Browns have improved at quarterback, receiver, defensive line and defensive backfield.

    The Steelers' minuses and the Browns' pluses add up to what should be a close game where hopefully Cleveland makes a play for the win instead of its customary mistake. 

    Crowquill, by Plain Dealer artist Ted Crow, appears three times a week in The Plain Dealer and on cleveland.com.


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    New Cleveland Browns General Manager John Dorsey isn't afraid to go against conventional NFL thinking.

    BEREA, Ohio -- DON'T BE SCARED.

    Those words are written in small letters in a corner of the huge whiteboard that covers a wall in John Dorsey's office.

    Dorsey didn't write them.

    The Browns general manager said it was the idea of his assistant, Eliot Wolf. Dorsey has used that phrase so often, Wolf wrote it on the board one day.

    DON'T BE SCARED.

    There's been nothing timid about Dorsey since he took over the Browns on Dec. 7, 2017.

    "When was there real (football) relevance when it came to the Cleveland Browns?" asked Dorsey. "The last time it was truly relevant was the 1980s."

    In the late 1980s with Bernie Kosar, the Browns were title contenders. Since then, the franchise moved to Baltimore. Next came the expansion Browns in 1999. Since then, there have been only two winning seasons (2002, 2007).

    "The sole mission of anyone in my position is to bring the team back to relevance," he said. "You just keep turning it (the roster) and keep knocking away at it. Eventually you'll have a roster of 53 that's pretty good."

    He changed more than 60 percent of the players.

    "You want to build a long-term program, "he said. "But you also want to build it to win quickly. That's because of the situation at hand."

    After a 1-31 record in the last two seasons, an immediate fix is imperative.

    Cleveland Browns practice, August 28, 2018John Dorsey wanted to draft Tyrod Taylor when Dorsey was working for Green Bay.  

    DON'T BE SCARED.

    That came into play when the Dorsey front office made three deals on the eve of free agency.

    His front office turned former starting quarterback DeShone Kizer along with draft picks in the third, fourth and seventh rounds, into DeMarious Randall, Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor.

    Some NFL people and media types criticized Dorsey for dealing draft choices for Landry and Taylor. Landry was in line for a huge contract (5-year, $75 million with $47 million guaranteed). Taylor came with a $16 million salary and can be a free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

    Dorsey was on the job for the final four games of the regular season, and he believed the Browns could have won two of those games with an experienced quarterback who didn't turn the ball over. He's not faulting Kizer.

    "He was just a kid!" Dorsey said of the then 21-year-old rookie.

    But the Browns needed a quarterback and a receiver who have been successful and reliable in the NFL.

    He had to be bold, trading for Landry and Taylor rather than waiting to see if they'd be cut because of their high salaries. The Browns had the legitimate fear those players would sign elsewhere in free agency.

    Instead, they were forced to come to the Browns because of the deals. It also served notice to other players and agents that the Browns were taking a different direction, wanting to win some games now.

    "I said from the outset, we're going to be competitive in the AFC North year in and year out," said Dorsey. "That starts here."

    DON'T BE SCARED.

    Dorsey was director of college scouting for the Green Bay Packers when Taylor was in the 2011 draft.

    "I loved him in college," said Dorsey. "His coach (Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer) told me that Tyrod was the greatest natural leader he'd ever been around. I was advocating in Green Bay for us to draft him, but they didn't listen to me."

    Taylor went to Baltimore in the sixth round.

    "The knock against Tyrod was that he was an athletic quarterback," said Dorsey. "He wasn't a true passer. I disagreed with that."

    Taylor became available despite leading Buffalo to the 2017 playoffs and having a 22-20 career record as starter with the Bills. Dorsey jumped at a chance to acquire him.

    "The knock against Tyrod was that he's a 'game manager' and is risk-averse," said Dorsey. "I see him as a veteran presence. He gives us stability. He's proven to everyone he can lead a team to the playoffs. Guys believe in him."

    Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants, August 9, 2018John Dorsey was "90 percent sold" on Baker Mayfield by last Novemeber.  

    DON'T BE SCARED.

    The Browns had the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.

    They were supposed to pick USC quarterback Sam Darnold or Wyoming's Josh Allen at the top of the draft.

    Then grab N.C. State pass rusher Bradley Chubb with the No. 4 pick.

    Dorsey selected Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Ohio State defensive back Denzel Ward.

    Mayfield was a surprise selection. Ward was a shocker.

    In his first Browns draft, Dorsey was willing to take risks. By last November, he was "90 percent sold" on Mayfield.

    Once he interviewed Mayfield in January, "I loved the kid. He's infectious. His teammates believe in him. He gives everybody hope he's going to win the game. We could see it at Oklahoma, and he's developing that here."

    Dorsey didn't care that the 6-foot Mayfield is considered a short quarterback. Analytics rated Mayfield the best quarterback in the draft. So did Dorsey's eyes, which have spent most of his adult life evaluating football talent.

    "He's got the arm strength," said Dorsey. "He can make every throw. He's got poise under pressure. He doesn't flinch in the pocket. He has quick feet and can extend plays. He makes good decisions.

    "You combine everything, and he's your guy."

    What about Ward?

    "We got the best cornerback in the draft from an athletic standpoint," he said. "He can run with anybody and cover guys vertically. He's a willing tackler. I see incredible upside."

    DON'T BE SCARED.

    Dorsey has called this "a two-front battle."

    He wants to start winning now. It's why the Browns spent more money than any other NFL team to add veteran players to their roster, according to overthecap.com.

    But the Browns still have the most salary cap space in the NFL, also according to overthecap.

    "In free agency, we may have missed on 1-2 guys," said Dorsey. "But we're trying to do it without breaking the bank."

    Dorsey explained the Browns will need money "down the road" to pay some of their younger players. He also said "most of the time" massive spending on free agency doesn't work.

    He stressed his excellent working relationship with Hue Jackson, and how the coach "just wants someone to work lock-step with him."

    Dorsey believes that is happening with both of them.

    DON'T BE SCARED.

    If you like Mayfield that much, why not just start him?

    "Don't rush this thing," said Dorsey. "Please, don't rush this thing. It's in the long-term interest of the kid and the organization if you can exercise a degree of patience."

    It's why Dorsey wasn't afraid to bring in three new quarterbacks, and surround Mayfield with veterans Drew Stanton and Taylor.

    "Stanton is the quintessential guy between Tyrod and Baker," said Dorsey. "He can help Tyrod prepare for a game. He can teach Baker what it means to be a pro."

    That's the other part of the plan, quarterback development.

    "What happens if all of sudden, you force him in there and he's facing all those complex defenses," said Dorsey. "And he has failure. In terms of the human psyche, that will affect him. Be patient. Let the game slow down for him.

    "You can't just walk out there and say, 'Boom, I can do this.'"

    Dorsey also talked about putting "the foundation in place for a young quarterback."

    So he added power running backs -- Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb. Like Taylor and Mayfield...one veteran (Hyde) and one rookie (Chubb).

    "It's Cleveland," he said. "You can't have enough good running backs, especially in November and December. You have to run the ball here."

    Dorsey concluded with this message for the fans.

    "This is a different Cleveland Browns," he said. "Tell the fans that. We are working 12-16 hours a day to make this a different Browns team."



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    Ohio State's defense allowed 134 total yards to Rutgers in Saturday's 52-3 win. Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rutgers got the ball into the hands of its best offensive playmaker on a simple toss play in the first quarter of Saturday's game in Ohio Stadium. Raheem Blackshear, a speedy back whom head coach Chris Ash compared to former Ohio State star Curtis Samuel this week, looked like he might have had the corner.

    Last week, against a Buckeye defense still working through some things with some new starters, Blackshear might have popped it for a big gain.

    But on Saturday Jordan Fuller was back at safety, and he chased the play down from the far hash mark to stop Blackshear for only a seven-yard gain.

    It's a nothing play in a stat book filled with a whole lot of good for Ohio State and, well, not much for Rutgers, which fell 52-3 in its annual scheduled loss to the Buckeyes. But Jordan's first-quarter tackle was a mark of progress for an OSU defense that was bit by big plays last week, and found some fixes before it faces a different kind of test against No. 16 TCU next week.

    "I mean the big plays, when you look at those two big runs a week ago, it changes the complexion of the game," defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. "This week I thought we did a good job. We gave up some plays, but the guys rallied to the football and we had two takeaways. That's good."

    That's better. Schiano would quibble with the idea that Ohio State's defense had to make any kind of significant gains after giving up 31 points and nearly 400 yards to Oregon State last week.

    In fact he did when presented the with the idea that the Buckeyes looked more organized on Saturday against Rutgers.

    "Yeah I don't feel like when the ones were in there, I don't think we were more organized or less organized," Schiano said. "I think the ones played well last Saturday. When we started subbing guys in it got a little sloppy, but that's why coming off the game -- I never want to see 31 points or those kind of big plays, but when you looked at the (first-team) defense they played well. We need to do it again next week because now the competition takes a steep turn."

    Perhaps what everyone knew was coming compounded the concerning blips against Oregon State and magnified them more than they had to be. Schiano does have a point after all.

    The Buckeyes didn't exactly have their second-team defense in last week when Beavers running back Artavis Pierce scored on two runs of 70-plus yards in the second half. But there were some reserve defensive linemen in there, and Ohio State started two brand new safeties with Fuller out due to a hamstring injury. Plus two of three starting linebackers were new, and last year's starting middle linebacker Tuf Borland was limited by his return from an Achilles injury.

    Hard not to expect some mistakes when that's the case.

    So Schiano wasn't hitting the panic button this week, though he did make a change. He moved Shaun Wade to nickel corner and that seemed to pay off with Wade registering a couple of tackles and an interception. But there weren't wholesale changes because the Buckeyes like what they have, even if youth showed last week.

    "It felt amazing," defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones said of a game in which the Buckeyes held Rutgers to 134 yards of total offense and 2.2 yards per play while registering three sacks, two interceptions, three quarterback hurries and six tackles for loss.

    "We worked so hard all week. ... We were a little ticked off (last week) because at the end of the day we gave up 196 rushing yards, and we had to change that real quick. Coaches got on us, we watched tons of film, made tons of corrections, that's something we really harped on was the run today, and I thought we did a good job."

    Rutgers had 69 yards on 31 rushing attempts.

    The defense looked ... sorry, Greg ... more organized.

    Now, having Fuller back is part of that. He cleaned up that early run from Blackshear and backed up the words of Schiano, who called him a "sweeper" and an "insurance policy" this week after new starting safeties Isaiah Pryor and Jahesen Wint got caught out of position at times last week.

    "The main job of a safety is if a ball pops, get it on the ground," Fuller said. "I definitely try to take pride in that and feel like it's my job to get him on the ground if he does squirt out. I feel like if Jahsen or Isaiah was in that position, they would've made the same play."

    Well, they didn't last week. But everyone looked more comfortable with Fuller back as Wint and Pryor rotated at safety next to him.

    Having some new starters with a game under their belt was part of the progress. Wint and Pryor looked better, so did linebackers Pete Werner and Baron Browning. Or at least, they didn't look quite as lost as they looked at times last week.

    And of course the fact that Rutgers flat out could not block Ohio State's defensive line clearly helped.

    Nick Bosa had three tackles for loss. Chase Young had two sacks. Robert Landers was paying rent in Rutgers' backfield. One one snap, Bosa moved before anyone else on the field did and nearly got home for a sack -- and he wasn't offsides. On another Landers got through so fast that he retreated back to the line of scrimmage because he thought it was a screen. It wasn't.

    "My biggest thing from watching film this week was get off the ball, be disruptive and make a new line of scrimmage," Landers said.

    Mission accomplished.

    TCU, with better playmakers than Ohio State's first two opponents and a talented dual-threat quarterback in Shawn Robinson, presents a different kind of challenge. Though it's worth noting that a TCU offense that's put up nearly 50 points per game against FCS opponent Southern and an SMU program that's been allergic to defense as of late hasn't exactly been tested on that side of the ball either.

    Two potentially very good units will meet next week in a game that should tell us all we need to know about them.

    Just know that Ohio State is feeling pretty good about where its defense stands after two games, and was never panicking after the first one.

    "I think we're always motivated," Schiano said. "We moved a lot of young guys in after 14 points in the first half (last week). But one of the things when you represent the Silver Bullets and represent the Buckeyes, there's only one way we play. When you're in there you have to represent. We didn't do a good job of that a week ago and I thought we did a much better job of that today."


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    We start to look ahead to TCU by picking player to watch in our Buckeye Watch. Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After two convincing home wins against inferior competition, Ohio State will leave the state for a much tougher test against TCU in Week 3 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

    The Buckeyes, after beating Oregon State by 46 in Week 1, defeated Rutgers, 52-3, in Week 2.

    But TCU will be Ohio State's toughest opponent of the season by far.

    So which Ohio State players do we have our eyes on heading into Week 3?

    Find out in the latest edition of "Buckeye Watch." After you watch the video, remember to subscribe to the Ohio State Football on cleveland.com channel on YouTube.


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    Can Taylor help the Browns shock the world this season? Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Tyrod Taylor set the tone for Sunday's game against the Steelers by revealing in an interview Friday on Uninterrupted that "this year in Cleveland, we'll shock the world.''

    What a better way time to start the shock clock than Sunday against the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium?

    "The key to his future will be these kinds of games,'' said coach Hue Jackson. "This will be what people measure him on. Here's an opportunity. Our team relishes that, and he does, too. He's worked extremely hard this week. His focus is good. He knows what needs to be done.''

    Taylor is tasked with turning around the 0-16 Browns and putting them back on the NFL map this season. In fact, coach Hue Jackson set the bar high by telling free agent receiver Dez Bryant on Hard Knocks that this will "be the greatest turnaround in sports history.''

    The improbable untold story of Browns new left tackle Desmond Harrison

    Offensive coordinator Todd Haley is counting on Taylor to make his offense sing -- and help the Browns knock off his old team on Sunday.

    "My expectations (for Taylor) are high,'' said Haley.  It's well-documented. I've said it, everybody has said it. This guy's come in and gone in head first with no hesitation. He's all in. He works his butt off off the field. He works his butt off on the field. He's a very good communicator, which is very critical at that position obviously.
    "He has the ability to throw the ball and run the ball. He's very smart, which helps us in the run game. He has to make a lot of decisions there, getting us out of good runs. My hope is we haven't seen the best of Tyrod Taylor."

    Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese has been saying the same thing since the spring, that Taylor hasn't even scratched the surface yet. And here, he has a dazzling supporting cast that features Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Duke Johnson, David Njoku and Carlos Hyde. There's a little something for everyone, and Taylor can hurt you with his legs as well as his arm.

    "He's just coming into his own and this is just the tip of the iceberg,'' Zampese said in June. "We haven't seen the best from him.''

    He admitted he's "a kid in a candy store'' with all that the eighth-year pro can do.

    "There's no limitations with him,'' he said. "He can throw it down the field, he can run the zone read stuff, he can run a conventional offense. Anything you want him to do, he can do those things and like I said, he's just coming into his own so we're still finding out all of the areas that we can get him into.''

    Since 2015, the two-time Pro Bowler has rushed for 1,575 yards, second-most among NFL QBs during that span and a Bills record.

    "The one thing you love to have is a guy that's a pocket passer that can also run and extend plays,'' said Zampese. "You have a chance to not only fit it into tight holes with the timing and anticipation, but then fix a play with your legs, so I'm really excited about having a dual-threat guy.''

    Steelers coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that Taylor will be tough to defend.

    "Obviously, he's a capable quarterback,'' he said on a conference call this week. "His mobility and decision-making are excellent. The things that he's able to create from an ad-lib perspective and you couple that with decision-making, that's a weapon."

    Taylor, who went 22-20 Buffalo and snapped their 17-year playoff drought last year, long ago won over his new Browns teammates with his leadership and work ethic, from paying for teammates to workout in L.A. to working overtime with Josh Gordon.

    "Just the time he puts in, the way he carries himself, it's so cliche to say but he literally is the first one in and last to leave,'' said Joel Bitonio. "To be a great quarterback in the NFL, it takes just a special guy that's almost married to the game and the way he does it is impressive. And then the way he commands a huddle, the way he is out on the field, it's what you think of an NFL quarterback.''

    Bitonio likened Taylor's preparation to that of a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.

    "I'm not comparing him to those guys as players but his work ethic and what he puts in is what you want in your quarterback and it's carried on,'' he said. "I know guys that are staying extra with him to work and improve and he always has people after practice, before practice doing things and you can have leaders all over the field but if your quarterback is that type of guy it really helps a lot."

    He put extra care into making sure that he and Gordon are on the same page for this game.

    "We did a lot of working out in the offseason away from here on a consistent basis,'' Gordon said. "I got a real good feel for where he likes to put the ball on certain routes. I think he has a feel for gauging my speed and where he can anticipate me to be. He's really picking up off exactly where we left off. It seems like there's no hitch in it at all. It's awesome honestly."

    Taylor so convincingly planted his flag on this team that he never for a moment left the door open a crack for No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield to steal his momentum. That's quite a feat considering Mayfield's talent and national cult following. Even when Taylor fell on his wrist in the Eagles game and dislocated his pinkie, he stormed back out onto the field and took back the reins.

    In fact, in that same Uninterrupted interview, he made it clear this is his time.

    "The learning curve will naturally happen for (Baker Mayfield) but this right now is an opportunity for me to grow as a leader,'' he said. "It's not anything I'm focusing on or not focusing on. I'm just going out there with my mind on football and doing whatever it takes to win games."

    Sunday's game against the Steelers is as good a time as any to start sending shockwaves to the NFL.  

    "It's definitely an important game for us,'' he said. "Going against the Steelers is like two games for us. For us to be the team that we want to be, winning Week 1 and having multiple wins throughout the year is definitely important for us to get to where we want to go."


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    Check here for the live final-round leaderboard for the PGA Tour's BMW Championship 2018 on Sunday, Sept. 9. The BMW is the third of four events in the FedExCup Playoffs.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Justin Rose (17-under) led by one shot entering the final round of the PGA Tour's BMW Championship 2018 on Sunday, Sept. 9, in Pennsylvania. The BMW, featuring a field of 69, is the third of four events in the FedExCup Playoffs.

    Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele were tied for second.

    Bryson DeChambeau, who has won the first two playoff events (The Northern Trust, Dell Technologies Championship) is grouped with Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose. DeChambeau, Johnson and Rose are Nos. 1-3 in the FedExCup standings.

    PGA TOUR
    BMW CHAMPIONSHIP
    Site: Newtown Square, Pa.
    Course: Aronimink GC. Yardage: 7,267. Par: 70.
    Purse: $9 million. Winner's share: $1,620,000.
    Defending champion: Marc Leishman.
    FedExCup leader: Bryson DeChambeau.
    Last week: Bryson DeChambeau won the Dell Technologies Championship.
    Notes: This is the third FedExCup playoff event, with the top 30 advancing to the Tour Championship at East Lake in two weeks. .... DeChambeau is assured of being the No. 1 seed at the Tour Championship. At stake this week is getting one of the top five seeds. Those players only need to win the Tour Championship to claim the FedExCup title and the $10 million bonus. ... Aronimink last held a PGA Tour event in 2010 and 2011 when the AT&T National moved there from Congressional ahead of the 2011 U.S. Open. Justin Rose and Nick Watney won those two years. Tiger Woods, whose foundation ran the tournament, tied for 46th in 2010 and did not play in 2011 because of leg injuries. ... Rickie Fowler is playing his first FedExCup playoffs event. He missed the last two with an injury. He started at No. 17 and now is No. 26. ... Aronimink is where Gary Player won the PGA Championship in 1962. The club will host the Women's PGA Championship in 2020 and the PGA Championship in 2027.
    Next tournament: Tour Championship on Sept. 20-23.
    Online: www.pgatour.com

    (Fact box from Associated Press.)


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    I expect the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens to be among NFL winners against the spread for Week 1 of the 2018 season.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and L.A. Chargers are among DMan's predicted winners against the spread for Week 1 of the NFL 2018 season.

    In this space, I decline to take the easy route when picking ATS. I pick all of the games, even when I don't have a good feel for some. At the same time, I am realistic. I think batting .500 ATS -- as opposed to straight-up -- is an accomplishment, and I make no guarantees. (And don't yell at me too loudly when I have a bad week(s) because, after all, this is for entertainment purposes only. We are playing with Monopoly money and Get Out Of Jail Free cards. Thank goodness for that.)

    I have researched each team/matchup, but the plan is to rely more on gut. The plan did not work in 2017, but I sense a rebound coming.

    For continuity's sake, each week I will use the MGM Mirage lines from vegasinsider.com as of Tuesday afternoon unless noted.

    Games are listed as I came upon them, not by order of certainty. I do not adjust picks even if injuries occur and/or lines change between Tuesday afternoon and Sunday. (Such an approach has cost me more victories than it has saved.) At the same time, I have given myself license to change picks for my best "bets'' video Sunday based on updated info; in those rare instances, the original full slate of picks will not change.

    I am picking NFL ATS for the fourth straight season.

    • 2015: 122-127-7 in the regular season and 4-6-1 in the postseason.
    • 2016: 130-118-8 in the regular season and 9-2 in the postseason.
    • 2017: 113-133-10 in the regular season and 6-5 in the postseason.

    2018/Week 1

    Thursday, Sept. 6

    Atlanta at Philadelphia

    The line: Eagles by 2
    Skinny: The Eagles' 5-0 loss to the Browns in the preseason scares me. (Kidding, of course.) But the preseason version of Eagles QB Nick Foles, who is subbing for Carson Wentz, instilled no confidence. Falcons won't need the points.
    The pick: Falcons, 24-23.

    UPDATE: Foles and the Eagles practically begged the Falcons to beat them, but the Eagles prevailed, 18-12. (LOSS)

    Sunday, Sept. 9

    Pittsburgh at Cleveland

    The line: Steelers by 4
    Skinny: Browns EDGE Myles Garrett, QB Tyrod Taylor and WR Jarvis Landry carry coach Hue Jackson's Hard Knocks-enriched crew to glory. However, Browns players opt not to carry Jackson off the field after the franchise's 17-game losing streak ends and H-Jax improves to 2-31 as Browns coach.
    The pick: Browns, 22-21.

    San Francisco at Minnesota

    The line: Vikings by 6
    Skinny: Vikings' D, at home, is the difference. It scores a touchdown and causes other problems for 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
    The pick: Vikings, 24-17.

    Cincinnati at Indianapolis

    The line: Colts by 3
    Skinny: Frank Reich's debut as NFL head coach is successful largely because QB Andrew Luck plays well on his turf. Luck has been sidelined since Week 17 of 2016.  
    The pick: Colts, 23-18.

    Buffalo at Baltimore

    The line: Ravens by 7
    Skinny: Ravens, insulted that the line isn't at least double-digits given that the Bills' starting quarterback is Nathan Peterman, cruise. Peterman "only'' throws four picks in this start.  
    The pick: Ravens, 23-6.

    Jacksonville at N.Y. Giants

    The line: Jaguars by 3
    Skinny: Jaguars reached the AFC Championship last season, but I don't trust their offense in the Meadowlands. Giants' D compensates for QB Eli Manning's struggles.
    The pick: Giants, 20-17.

    Tampa Bay at New Orleans

    The line: Saints by 9.5
    Skinny: This is one of those times when the NFL doesn't make sense, albeit via a Buccaneers garbage-time touchdown for the "backdoor'' cover.
    The pick: Saints, 30-23.

    Houston at New England

    The line: Patriots by 6.5
    Skinny: Patriots begin to remove bitter taste of Super Bowl 52 loss. They start slowly, maybe even trail at half, before QB Tom Brady takes over.  
    The pick: Patriots, 27-17.

    Tennessee at Miami

    The line: Titans by 1.5
    Skinny: Titans QB Marcus Mariota moves his offense between the 20's but can't generate enough points. Dolphins actually use home field to their advantage.
    The pick: Dolphins, 17-13.

    Kansas City at L.A. Chargers

    The line: Chargers by 3
    Skinny: Chargers are fun to watch even on bad days. They execute a fourth-quarter comeback and also celebrate no longer being on the short end of the Browns' most recent victory.
    The pick: Chargers, 24-20.

    Seattle at Denver

    The line: Broncos by 3
    Skinny: Broncos begin to put embarrassment of 5-11 in 2017 behind them. New QB Case Keenum isn't sexy, but he knows how to "manage the game.'' On the other side of the ball, Broncos' D has its way with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.  
    The pick: Broncos, 23-15.

    Dallas at Carolina

    The line: Panthers by 2.5
    Skinny: After QB Cam Newton's Panthers win comfortably, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones meets with reporters to assure them that coach Jason Garrett's job is safe.
    The pick: Panthers, 24-20.

    Washington at Arizona

    The line: PK
    Skinny: I freely admit to having no feel as to how this one will go. In such cases, I side with the home team.
    The pick: Cardinals, 19-18.

    Chicago at Green Bay

    The line: Packers by 7.5
    Skinny: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is uber-rich and poised for an MVP-caliber season. Packers should roll -- but strange things are known to happen in Bears-Packers games. Bears somehow keep it close enough for the cover.
    The pick: Packers, 25-20.

    Monday, Sept. 10

    N.Y. Jets at Detroit

    The line: Lions by 6.5
    Skinny: Jets QB Sam Darnold plays well in spots in his NFL debut, but his defense can't keep up with Lions QB Matthew Stafford in his house. Stafford has struggled in big games but thrives against opponents such as this.
    The pick: Lions, 26-13.

    L.A. Rams at Oakland

    The line: Rams by 4.5
    Skinny: Rams have received plenty of love in the offseason. Deservedly so. Still, I think Raiders old-new coach Jon Gruden figures out how to keep it just close enough. Rams' talent advantage prevails in entertaining close to Week 1.
    The pick: Rams, 27-23.

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    Here's why I think the Browns will win on Sunday.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- I'm jumping on the bandwagon and picking the Browns to beat the Steelers, 12-10, on Sunday afternoon. It's going to be a sloppy, low-scoring slugfest.

    OK, the goofy score aside, I do believe the Browns have a real chance to win this game. It starts with the Steelers. The good teams in the NFL, as we saw on Thursday night, are usually still trying to find a groove in Week 1. We saw it in this very game last year when the Browns nearly beat the Steelers with a rookie quarterback at the helm.

    The other reality is that the Steelers are down one of the best players in the NFL in Le'Veon Bell. James Conner might be really good. Conner definitely isn't Bell.

    The Browns have a better rushing attack than a year ago and a quarterback who will protect the football. They also have the motivation to leave 1-31 behind, to end the 17-game losing streak, finally win an AFC North game for the first time since 2015 and finally win an opener for the first time since 2004.


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    ESPN's College Gameday will be at TCU when they meet Ohio State in Arlington.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State will be one of the featured teams on College Gameday for the first time this season on Saturday when ESPN's pregame show heads to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Buckeyes' Week 3 game vs. TCU on Saturday.

    OSU was featured on College Gameday three times last season. One of those was for its season opener, a Thursday night game at Indiana.

    Both teams head into Week 3 with 2-0 records. Kickoff between the Buckeyes and Horned Frogs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington is at 8 p.m., with ABC broadcasting the game.


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    I believe the Browns will upset the Steelers today at FirstEnergy Stadium.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Josh Gordon is right. The Browns have a better shot at beating the Steelers today than at any other time he's played them since 2012.

    They have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, two Pro Bowl receivers in Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry, and a monster defensive end in Myles Garrett.

    These are not the same, old Cleveland Browns that the Steelers are used to, and this version should be able to upset the division champs today in the opener at FirstEnergy Stadium.

    Several things will have to go right for this to happen.

    Taylor will have to operated the new offense efficiently and not turn the ball over. Garrett will have to get Ben Roethlisberger off his mark, and maybe even sack him a couple of times. Terrance Mitchell or Damarious Randall will have to get their hands on a Big Ben pass.

    Gordon will have to be the Pro Bowl receiver we remember from 2013, and rookie cornerback Denzel Ward will have to man up and handle Antonio Brown. Undrafted rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison will have to grow up fast and hold off Bud Dupree, Cam Heyward or whoever else the Steelers throw at him.

    Taylor believes Cleveland will shock the world this season.

    The shock clock starts today.

    * Inactives

    The following Browns are inactive today: QB Drew Stanton, WR Damion Ratley, CB E.J. Gaines, LB James Burgess, OL Austin Corbett, DL Ifeadi Odenigbo, DL Anthony Zettel.


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    "Dwayne is focused. He knows what he wants and he goes and gets it," center Michael Jordan said. Watch video

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- You want to catch yourself on Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, offer the reminder that these first two games were against Oregon State and Rutgers. 

    At the same time, you want to insist that of course this is real and historic, and that this is just a taste.

    Should you hold back on Haskins or let it all go, because through two games, 53 attempts, 42 completions, 546 passing yards and nine touchdowns, it really has looked easy.

    Let it go. Because what will shake him?

    Haskins hit the postgame news conference podium after Saturday's 52-3 win for the Buckeyes over Rutgers and looked again and as usual, in complete control.

    "(He's) growing every practice, every game, and building as we go," acting head coach Ryan Day said. "It's not going to be perfect. We know that. ... But I think his preparation was good this week and he came out and played well."

    It wasn't perfect -- Haskins threw three incompletions. Only one was truly a misfire, a crossing route to Parris Campbell that might have gone for a touchdown if it had been a foot lower.

    "He's an elite quarterback," Campbell said. "He can throw it deep or short or whatever. ... He doesn't miss too many throws on the field."

    The other mistakes? Not throwing to guys who may have been more open than the receivers he did hit who were open.

    That's right -- the critique is that his success could have been more successful.

    The problem is that you catch yourself wondering if the praise for the passing game comes from the place of watching the winning, yet sometimes frustrating, Ohio State passing attack of the last four years. Because it never looked like this.

    Is this what other college football teams have been doing every week? Are we overreacting?

    Because right this moment, I think Dwayne Haskins might win the Heisman with the best season ever by an Ohio State quarterback.

    "Dwayne is focused," center Michael Jordan said. "He knows what he wants and he goes and gets it." 

    His threw for 233 yards Saturday, but it could have been so much more. He led the offense on seven drives before he was pulled for good in the middle of the third quarter. There were two punts -- and five touchdown drives of 67, 50, 71, 76 and 84 yards.

    So he's averaging 273 passing yards per game, and if he does that for 13 games, he'll throw for 3,549 yards. The Ohio State single-season record is 3,330 by Joe Germaine in in 1998. 

    He's averaging 4.5 touchdowns per game. If he keeps that up, he'll throw for 58 scores in 13 games. The Ohio State record is 35 by J.T. Barrett last season. 

    He's on track for 273 completions and Barrett holds the record with 240 last year. He's completing 79.2 percent of his passes when Troy Smith holds the record at 65.3 percent during his 2006 Heisman campaign.

    The one thing Haskins didn't do last week was hit any true deep balls because they weren't there for the taking. Saturday, they were, and he dropped both opportunities onto the hands of Johnnie Dixon, for a 38-yarder and a 44-yarder.

    It seemed normal, when in the past confetti cannons may have gone off. 

    "We were trying to plan up some post routes today," Haskins said. "Just being able to, with the weather and seeing Johnnie get open like that, it's a lot of fun for me. Basically he's wide open for me from that perspective. Johnnie did a great job today."

    The Ohio State receivers are wide open from most of Haskins' perspectives. His electric arm is one thing, but through two games he's seeing the field in a way that makes you believe that won't change drastically when the defenses improve. He said that comes from throwing against Ohio State defensive backs now in the NFL in 2016 and 2017.

    "Going to the game and seeing the field, this doesn't feel -- it feels like second nature really," Haskins said. "Just whether we call a play, me and Coach are on the same page, we want to go with the ball every single time."

    TCU will throw a top-20 defense at the Haskins and the Buckeyes next week, and if he does this a third time, maybe we'll believe it even more.

    But go ahead. Believe it now.


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    It wasn't toughness that brought the Browns back. It was big-time players making big-time plays.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Browns didn't fight their way back Sunday. They played their way back.

    It was talent that dragged the Browns back from the dead against the Pittsburgh Steelers after fans started streaming out of FirstEnergy Stadium early in the fourth quarter, tired of a steady rain and a home team down by two touchdowns.

    Don't let this 21-21 tie for the ages be attributed to grit, when it was something much more fun and meaningful than that. Grit only goes so far. Talent goes further.

    So the Browns looked done Sunday, but they weren't as buried as they could have been because rookie cornerback Denzel Ward intercepted two passes to end Pittsburgh scoring drives that, if they had been turned into points, would have made a comeback impossible.

    The Browns looked done, but they were revived because second-year defensive end Myles Garrett often decides he won't be blocked. So he did that again in the fourth quarter when the Browns needed it most and stormed into the backfield to force a fumble on James Conner that changed everything.

    The Browns still looked done even when the Steelers made one mistake on a snap, and Garrett was there and made them pay again with another forced fumble. That's because the Cleveland offense fizzled.

    But when the Browns got it back again, they weren't done because Tyrod Taylor found Rashard Higgins first and then Josh Gordon at last for a 17-yard score to tie the game.

    So Ward, the No. 4 pick in this draft, helped keep them in it. Garrett, the No. 1 pick in the the previous draft, gave them life. And the Gordon, the receiver they've always been waiting for, got them back to even.

    Beer flew in the air when that happened.

    Teams try hard all the time. Sometimes that doesn't matter. It looked like it wasn't going to matter Sunday, because Pittsburgh had Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and the Browns didn't.

    But the Browns had Ward and Garrett and Gordon, and that's what made it a game.

    And then they had fifth-round pick Genard Avery, with the final sack of Roethlisberger that made a difference. He's the pass rusher everyone thinks is a steal - because he's talented. The fumble he forced landed in the arms of linebacker Joe Schobert, last year's Pro Bowler.

    Usually when the Browns win the turnover battle 6-1, as they did Sunday, they should fare better than having to climb back from a 14-point hole to settle for tie.

    They'll win games like this. Because they have players.

    Garrett will win them games almost on his own some weeks.

    Ward will make life more difficult on No. 1 receivers. Gordon, when he's more integrated into the offense, should earn more than the three targets he got Sunday and do more than that single catch. Actually, he was on the field enough Sunday that the Browns should have found a way to use him more.

    But he made a difference. Great players do that.

    So don't make this first sign of life after 1-31 just another commercial in the Browns' "Hardland of America" campaign.

    Make it something more. Make it about the Browns as a better football team with more talented football players. That's what really matters.


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    Bad habits reared their heads for the Browns in Sunday's tie.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- There was a scene in Hard Knocks that captured Hue Jackson telling his new quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, that the Browns have some bad habits. He was talking about practice habits, but he could have that same conversation with Taylor after the Browns tied the Steelers on Sunday, 21-21.

    The Browns fought back and made this as heartbreaking an opener as they've had since coming back in 1999, but the reality is that bad habits, especially early, plagued them.

    It felt like the demons would be exorcised. It's just not easy to erase two years of history. When the Browns had the ball and were driving in the fourth quarter, Taylor underthrew Josh Gordon deep down the right sideline with a ball that Cameron Sutton intercepted.

    The Browns had chances again, in overtime -- a big one -- but couldn't capitalize.

    Too many bad habits. The run defense, a bright spot last year, disappeared. It's an element of the defense that can be overrated, but not when the interior of the defense gets gashed again and again by the Steelers' second-best runner.

    There were drops -- David Njoku had back-to-back footballs go off his hands in the third quarter, including on one of Taylor's better throws of the afternoon on a third down. Even the sure-handed Jarvis Landry had one on a drive in overtime.

    Speaking of Taylor, this is what comes with the territory when he is your starter. He was dynamic at times running the ball. He took a few shots downfield, but not as many as Browns fans would like. He played it safe (except when he didn't on that throw to Gordon). That keeps the turnovers down, but it keeps the chunk plays down, too.

    The flags hurt, too. The Browns committed 11 penalties for 87 yards, and there were others the Steelers declined because of results of plays. Myles Garrett, who was incredible on Sunday, committed a costly penalty on Joe Schobert's fumble return that made Zane Gonzalez's field goal longer than it should have been.

    Then there was the coaching. Josh Gordon started after a week of hearing he wouldn't start -- then he disappeared for a while. The Browns went pass-happy early, calling pass plays on eight of their first nine offensive plays. That's particularly frustrating, given the run game's effectiveness in spots during the second half.

    Let's give credit where credit is due: The defense tried its hardest to win this game. Garrett wrecked things when great defensive players are supposed to wreck things in the fourth quarter, forcing two fumbles. The defense almost single-handedly came back and won this game.

    Oh, and Josh Gordon did a big-time Josh Gordon thing, catching that touchdown pass.

    Ultimately, they couldn't escape some of the same old Browns mistakes that have left them winless for so long.


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    Let us know what grade you give Tyrod Taylor in his debut for the Browns.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - Tyrod Taylor became the Browns' 29th starting quarterback since 1999 on Sunday against the Steelers.

    His Cleveland debut was ... rocky.

    He finished 15-of-39 passing for 197 yards, an interception and a touchdown for a quarterback rating of 53.0. He also rushed/scrambled eight times for 77 yards and a touchdown.

    Taylor was banged up on a first-quarter sack, but never left the game. He scrambled for a 20-yard touchdown run - lowering his shoulder to plow into the end zone - that tied the game in the third quarter. He tied the game in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass to Josh Gordon.

    Now let's head to the lowlights.

    Taylor was intercepted on the Browns' final play of regulation, allowing the Steelers to take a knee and send the game to overtime, and he had an earlier interception negated by penalty. Also, the Browns' offensive line didn't make it easy on Taylor, who was sacked seven times.

    What grade do you give Taylor for his Browns debut? Check out the poll below, and you can explain your answer in the comment section.

    Get the best Browns news and perspective in your inbox at lunch time every weekday. Sign up for our Browns newsletter.


    Don't miss the latest cleveland.com sports podcasts right here at cleveland.com/podcasts.


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    The Browns got six takeaways by their defense but couldn't pull out the game. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio --  The Browns didn't lose to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in the season opener Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, but they didn't beat them either.

    The game ended in a 21-21 tie after Zane Gonzalez's 43-yard field goal attempt in the driving rain with 9 seconds left in overtime fell short after being blocked by the Steelers' T.J. Watt.

    The Steelers knew exactly how the Browns felt. Chris Boswell's 42-yard attempt with 1:44 left in overtime sailed wide left.


    The last time a Browns game ended in a tie was Nov. 19, 1989 against Kansas City, a 10-10 final.

    "Obviously disappointed at the outcome, a tie game," Browns coach Hue Jackson said after the game. ". . . The guys fighting, coming back and giving us a chance . . . the defense did some good things.

    "This is not preseason football, this is the National Football League, it's the regular season, and we have to get better. Again, I think the  guys can see that we're an improved football team, but there are some areas we have to clean up and clean up fast, and we will.

    "We didn't finish it. A tie . . . a tie."

    The Browns went three-and-out on their first three drives in overtime.

    They failed to win the game despite getting six takeaways by their opportunistic defense: three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

    Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 15 of 39 attempts for 197 yards, with one touchdown and one interception for a 53.1 rating. He was sacked seven times.

    Roethlisberger completed 23 of 41 attempts for 335 yards with one TD and three picks. He was sacked four times and stripped twice, finishing with a rating of 51.4.

    The Browns won the toss in overtime and elected to receive, but went three-and-out on their first three drives in overtime.


    On their first opportunity, Taylor's deep ball down the seam to tight end David Njoku was knocked away, and almost intercepted by Sean Davis.

    The Steelers took over at their 17, but punted from their 28 after Larry Ogunjobi sacked Roethlisberger for a 10-yard loss.

    On the punt, Jabrill Peppers called for a fair catch despite having 20 yards to run, and the Browns started their second drive in OT at their 19. Once again, they went three-and-out, and this time, they had another special-teams gaffe. Roosevelt Nix got penetration, and Britton Colquitt uncorked a 29-yard punt to start Pittsburgh at its own 45.

    The Steelers blew a 14-point lead in regulation as the Browns scored twice in the final 7:32 on a Carlos Hyde 1-yard touchdown run and a Josh Gordon 17-yard TD catch.

    The Browns defense, as dominant as it had been all preseason, got six takeaways: three interceptions and three fumble recoveries, including one off a strip-sack by Myles Garrett.

    Garrett, who delivered the monster game he promised, forced Steelers running back James Conner to fumble with 7:36 left, and Peppers recovered and returned the ball 16 yards to the 1. Carlos Hyde punched it in to narrow the gap to 21-14.

    Garrett came through again, strip-sacking Roethlisberger with 6:41 left in the game, and Joe Schobert dove on the loose ball. But the Browns went three and out on the ensuing drive.

    The Browns D forced another three-and-out, and Taylor started at his own 45. He fired a 38-yard pass to Rashard Higgins on the first play of the drive to the Steelers' 17, and then a 17-yard TD pass to Josh Gordon with 1:58 left in regulation.

    Gordon's TD catch, over Cameron Sutton, at the front right pylon, was his only reception of the game.


    Tyrod Taylor's TD run

    The Browns, trailing 7-0 at the half, came out in the third quarter and ran it down to the Steelers' throats to the tune of 76 yards on an all-rush 10-play TD drive. That march tied the game at 7 with 10:05 left in the quarter. It was capped by Taylor's 20-yard TD run, on which he scrambled up the left side and dove over Artie Burns at the pylon. Hyde had runs of 9, 15 and 12 on the drive, and Nick Chubb woke up for a 17-yard gain.

    The euphoria was short-lived

    The play after Taylor's TD, Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster on a short slant over Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and he raced 67 yards down the left side to the Browns' 7. After a couple of Steelers penalties that wiped out TDs, Roethlisberger threw a 22-yard TD pass to Antonio Brown over Denzel Ward that made it 14-7 with 8:24 left in the third.

    Le'Veon who?

    With the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell holding out, Conner played like a Pro Bowl running back, rushing for 135 yards 31 carries and two TDs. He opened the scoring with a 4-yard run in the second quarter, and then ran in from 22 with 5:23 left in the third to increase the Steelers' lead to 21-7. He kicked off the two-play drive with a 17-yard blast as the Browns' defense got gashed on the ground by the second-year back out of Pitt.

    Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey believed before the game that the Steelers would be disadvantaged without Bell, but that proved not to be the case.

    Josh Gordon starts the game after all

    Jackson said Gordon wouldn't start the game. He did, but he didn't have much impact the way Haley thought he would.

    By the of the third quarter, Gordon had been targeted once with no receptions despite playing most of the snaps. The pass was a 47-yard attempt into the end zone on which Joe Haden reached in and broke it up, slightly grabbing Gordon's facemask in the process, but with no flag.

    Jackson said after the game that he did not intend for Gordon to start, but the Browns' personnel grouping called by offensive coordinator Todd Haley sent Gordon out for the opening offensive snap.

    Denzel Ward's two picks

    In one afternoon, Ward picked off Roethlisberger twice to equal his interception total in three seasons at Ohio State. Unfortunately for the Browns, they weren't able to cash in on either of the picks.

    The first one came with 5:22 left in the first quarter after Roethlisberger moved Pittsburgh to the 18 on a 27-yard pass JuJu Smith-Schuster. On a pass intended for Antonio Brown on the right side, Ward layed out and swiped the ball in traffic at the Steelers' 10. But the Browns punt from their own 26 after Bud Dupree batted a pass intended for Jarvis Landry.

    Ward picked off Roethlisberger again with 42 seconds left in the half when he grabbed a short pass to the right intended for Jesse James at the Browns' 29 and returned it 26 yards to the Pittsburgh 45.

    Once again, the Browns' offense faltered. After Duke Johnson lost six yards, Taylor was strip-sacked by Bud Dupree after he beat Desmond Harrison. The half ended on that play.

    Garrett's first sack of Big Ben

    Garrett got one of the things he came for: his first sack of Roethlisberger, whom he vowed to "chop down'' last year shortly after being drafted No. 1 overall. Garrett dropped Roethlisberger for a 5-yard loss on the first play of the second quarter, but it didn't do much to slow down Roethlisberger. Two plays later, he bolted for 22 yards on third down, and then hit James for 13 to the Browns' 11.
    Garrett was flagged for roughing after Roethliberger threw the ball away in the back of the end zone, but it looked like a legal wrap-up of the QB to most,  

    Offensive line woes

    The Browns revamped offensive line, with rookie Desmond Harrison at left tackle, surrendered -- sacks. On one drive, Joel Bitonio and Harrison were flagged for back-to-back false starts. All in all, it was a challenging afternoon for the line. Harrison was also beat on that Dupree strip-sack.

    Damarious Randall's pick

    Randall joined the pick party in the second quarter, but once again, the Browns' offense couldn't cash in.

    Next:

    The Browns play in New Orleans next Sunday at 1 p.m.


    0 0

    Ohio State is a 14-point favorite for its Week 3 game vs. TCU after opening as a 12.5-point favorite.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State opened as a 12.5-point favorite for its Week 3 game vs. TCU on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, according to VegasInsider.com. But 15 minutes later, the line changed to 14.

    The Buckeyes are 2-0 against the spread this season, including covering against Rutgers in Week 2 with a 52-3 win.

    On the other side, the Horned Frogs are 1-1 in the spread after failing to cover a 49.5-point spread in a 55-7 win vs. Southern in Week 1.

    Kickoff from AT&T Stadium is set for 8 p.m., with ABC broadcasting the game.


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