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Steelers extend Browns' losing streak on opening day

Cleveland hasn't won a regular-season opener since 2004.

That ugly streak remains alive after Sunday's 21-18 loss to the Steelers (1-0), but the new-look Browns (0-1) showed signs of life against their AFC North rivals.

Here's what we learned from Sunday's clash:

  1. Disaster struck right away on Cleveland's opening drive when Pittsburgh linebacker Anthony Chickillo pounced on Britton Colquitt's blocked punt in the end zone for a quick 7-0 Steelers lead.

Instead of crumbling, though, Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer went on to guide the offense on an 11-play, 68-yard scoring march that chewed nearly six minutes off the clock. It was a sign of how he'd fare throughout his NFL debut.

Showing patience and decisiveness, Kizer handled this opener as well as any previous Browns starter since the team's return to the league in 1999. The big-bodied rookie used his feet, looked off his first option and showed toughness getting back up after a whopping seven Pittsburgh sacks. Kizer was at his best rallying the team for a late touchdown that cut Pittsburgh's lead to 21-18. On the down side, the rookie threw an ugly second-half pick to rookie T.J. Watt and held the ball too long on a handful of those takedowns.

It wasn't flawless, but Kizer displayed chemistry with second-year wideout Corey Coleman and comes out of this opener as the most promising signal-caller the Browns have unveiled since Tim Couch. It's something to build on.

  1. Ben Roethlisberger's first snap came with 7:59 left in the first quarter. The Steelers showed plenty of rust out of the gate, with Pittsburgh generating a measly 68 yards over the first 25 minutes of play.

Back-from-wilderness workhorse Le'Veon Bell piled up just nine yards over that span, but Pittsburgh finally got cooking before the half with Antonio Brown taking a tipped pass from Big Ben for 50 yards downfield before hauling in gains of 28 and 19 yards to set up Roethlisberger's short scoring strike to tight end Jesse James.

Brown later coaxed Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor into a killer pass-interference call before ultimately sealing the game with a leaping 38-yard snag before the two-minute warning. Until the Browns discover a way to slow down Brown -- who torched them for 182 yards off 11 grabs -- this rivalry remains a one-sided affair.

  1. What to make of Bell's slow start? His game in Cleveland last season -- a 36-touch, 200-yard explosion -- began Bell's late-year run as the AFC's premier do-everything back. On Sunday, the All-Pro back lost touches to rookie James Conner and never really found his groove. Another week of practice should help.
  1. A loss is a loss, but we saw a different-looking Browns defense on Sunday. This Gregg Williams-led unit tested Roethlisberger with fancy blitz packages and successfully collapsed on ball-carriers. Cleveland managed just one takedown of Big Ben, but employed a deep-safety look that frustrated Roethlisberger until Brown caught fire. Let's not pretend that Joe Haden -- making his first start in Pittsburgh -- would have saved the day were he still on Cleveland's side.
  1. Box score of the day: T.J. Watt. Pittsburgh's rookie pass rusher piled up two sacks, a pair of tackles for loss, a pass defense and seven total tackles.
  1. While Duke Johnson enjoyed some nice moments in the passing game, consider Sunday an underwhelming start for Cleveland's ground attack, which ran for just 57 yards at 2.3 yards per clip behind the team's rebuilt offensive line. I wasn't overly impressed with Isaiah Crowell (17/33), either, who lacked the explosion we saw early last season.
  1. One day after signing a five-year, $60 million extension, Pittsburgh's Stephon Tuitt exited the game early with a left arm injury and never returned.
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