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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Cleveland Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman reacts after failing to catch a fourth-down pass with about two minutes left Sunday.

Monday, January 01, 2018 1:00 am

Pittsburgh 28 Cleveland 24

Browns complete an infamous feat

Finish season0-16 after loss to Steelers

WILL GRAVES | Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – It was a lost season distilled to one play, filled with hope and achingly familiar anguish for a franchise that's known little else over the last two decades.

Fourth down. Trailing by four. One last shot at avoiding NFL infamy. Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer somehow escaped pressure. He worked to his left and flicked the ball to receiver Corey Coleman all alone on the sideline, well past the first-down marker.

The ball smacked off Coleman's hands then fell harmlessly to the frigid Heinz Field turf. Two minutes later, the clock hit zero. Pittsburgh 28. Cleveland 24.

Woe and 16.

The Browns joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go winless during a 16-game season when they couldn't overcome Pittsburgh's backups or the kind of mistakes that have become their trademark during a turnaround that's been stuck in neutral for 10 years, yet one owner Jimmy Haslam remains positive will come if his organization just keeps at it.

“I'm not going to say this is going to be easy but I am confident we'll do this,” Haslam said. “Some of you don't know us that well. We don't give up easily. We're not going to give up. Is it disappointing? Hell yeah it's disappointing. Is it discouraging? To a certain point but we're going to get this done.”

And Haslam remains intent on doing it with head coach Hue Jackson. Haslam reiterated Jackson will return in 2018 despite a 1-31 record through two seasons. Cleveland is 4-48 since Week 12 of the 2014 season, has dropped 21 straight road games and 17 straight games to AFC North opponents.

“You can say a lot of things about us this year, but down to the last minute or two minutes, our guys played hard,” Haslam said. “I think the primary job an NFL job has to do is provide leadership. I think Hue's provided great leadership.”

What Haslam knows new general manager John Dorsey needs to get Jackson over the next eight months are NFL-caliber players. The Browns have some, but not enough to compete with the likes of the AFC North champion Steelers, who improved to 13-3 despite sitting healthy stars Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and others to rest them for the playoffs.

Cleveland has the first and fourth picks in the 2018 draft, and it's the future – and not the present – that Jackson would prefer to focus on.

“This part of the journey is over with,” Jackson said. “The two years of this has been tough. But I think we're at the end of that road. I think our players know it. I think the organization knows it. I know our fans don't.”