The 42-yard hookup between Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was atypical.
The same could be said of the 1-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry, who was unaccounted for in the Steelers’ end zone.
One of the lessons from Browns 21, Steelers 7 last Thursday night in Cleveland is busted coverages can happen, even when your free safety is Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“Cleveland didn’t do anything spectacular, it was just us making mistakes,” Fitzpatrick offered after practice today. “Baker Mayfield’s a professional quarterback. He sees an open man down the field, he’s gonna throw it.
“We really haven’t done it too often, but it happens.”
It had happened to the Steelers infrequently since Fitzpatrick’s arrival on Sept. 17 from Miami, in advance of a Week Three visit to San Francisco.
The Steelers hadn’t given up a pass play of more than 30 yards since Oct. 13 in Los Angeles (quarterback Philip Rivers to wide receiver Jason Moore for 32).
And they hadn’t been burned for a 40-yard strike since the regular-season opener on Sept. 8 at New England (quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Philip Dorsett for 58, and to wide receiver Josh Gordon for 44).
But the Steelers opened the door in Cleveland, Fitzpatrick said, and the Browns took advantage for a 42-yard gain to the Steelers 1-yard line when Mayfield found Beckham being covered 1-on-1 by cornerback Steven Nelson on the fourth play of the Browns’ first possession.
“We put a man (Nelson) on an island and didn’t put him in the best position,” Fitzpatrick said. “There was a man running open across the field (underneath) so I had to come out of my middle-of-the-field spot, kinda left (Nelson) on his own and put him in a bad position.”
Landry had almost half of the end zone to himself on a first-and-goal snap early in the second quarter. The bulk of the defense appeared to be playing man-to-man coverage. Inside linebacker Devin Bush looked as if he was playing zone. Cornerback Joe Haden and safety Terrell Edmunds were both covering tight end Pharaoh Brown, who had lined up at fullback and run a route into the flat.
Landry was all by his lonesome.
“We know what we did,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not like they outsmarted us or threw amazing passes or made great catches. It was the stuff that we did, stuff we know we can fix.
“It was unfortunate we lost the game, it is what it is.”
The Browns also had a 41-yard completion from Mayfield to wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge.
Beckham’s catch was the third-longest play against the Steelers’ this season and Hodge’s reception the fourth.
Such breakdowns were frustrating for the defense but not confidence-altering for a unit that had been stingy since Fitzpatrick was added into the mix.
“We know we’ve gotten so much better in those aspects, as far as communication, not giving up big pays,” nickel cornerback Mike Hilton said. “You take away those big plays, it could really be a different game. We’re gonna fix that this week and get ready.
“We’re not gonna let one game throw us off. As long as we go back and communicate and everyone’s on the same page, we’ll be fine.”
The Steelers prepare for the Week 12 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals