PITTSBURGH — The worst season in franchise history won’t cost Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson his job.
If anything, owner Jimmy Haslam is doubling down on his bet that Jackson, general manager Sashi Brown and the rest of the front office are the right people to turn things around.
The revolving door that’s been an offseason fixture since Haslam bought the team in 2012 is stopping, even after a 27-24 overtime loss to the backup-laden Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday that left the Browns at 1-15.
“Clearly not an acceptable year,” Haslam said. “Really since we bought the team, it’s totally unacceptable performance, which as ownership we’ll take the entire blame for.”
And not, Haslam stressed, Jackson or Brown, both of whom were brought in last winter to revive a team that’s 15-49 over the past four seasons.
“Could not be more pleased with the job Hue and the staff are doing,” Haslam said. “You wouldn’t think this was a 1-14 team with the way this team was out there battling (today). Really pleased with Hue and really pleased with our personnel group. I think we have the right people in place.”
If not the right results. At least, not yet.
Their final game of 2016 looked an awful lot like the 15 that came before it: flashes of competence undone by questionable play-calling and occasionally bad luck.
Cleveland took a lead on Cody Parkey’s 34-yard field goal with 7:17 remaining in the extra session only to see it vanish.
Landry Jones, who started while the playoff-bound Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger, took Pittsburgh 75 yards in nine plays, the last a pretty lob to the end zone that Cobi Hamilton hauled in to give the Steelers (11-5) their seventh straight victory after a 4-5 start.
Jones finished with 277 yards passing and three touchdowns and one interception.
The Steelers will host Miami in the wild-card round next weekend. The Dolphins thumped Pittsburgh 30-15 on Oct. 16.
Isaiah Crowell ran for a career-high 152 yards for the Browns (1-15), who finished with the worst record in franchise history.
Robert Griffin III passed for 232 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but Cleveland missed a chance to beat the Steelers on the road for the first time since 2003 when it squandered a couple of golden opportunities late.
The Browns fumbled with the ball inside the Pittsburgh 5 with a minute to go in regulation and had a first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 2 turn into a field goal by Parkey, extending the game.
The AFC North champion Steelers sat most of their big names with the third seed in the playoffs already sewn up after a thrilling comeback win over Baltimore last week.
It gave Heinz Field a decidedly preseason-like feel, at least for the guys wearing black and gold.
Cleveland, coming off its first victory in more than a calendar year, looked far more engaged early. Griffin, cleared to play after sustaining a concussion against San Diego, showed small flashes of competence during his best half of football of the season.
Griffin hit Seth DeValve for a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter and found Gary Barnidge for a 4-yard strike in the second as the Browns built a 14-0 lead.
Griffin threw a pick in the red zone to thwart one drive then watched a snap sail over his head on Cleveland’s next possession to set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jones to DeAngelo Williams and the Steelers were right back in it.
Cleveland appeared to have things well in hand in the third quarter when cornerback Brien Boddy-Calhoun stepped in front of Jones’ pass and zigzagged 67 yards. When he stretched the ball across the goal line, Pittsburgh wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey knocked it loose and Jones fell on it in the end zone for a touchback.
Pittsburgh took the ensuing possession 80 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
The Steelers’ already banged up defensive line took another hit. Ricardo Mathews left with an ankle injury and did not return. Rookie Javon Hargrave went into the concussion protocol in the second half. He was cleared and returned for one more series, but spent the rest of the game on the bench. Hargrave missed a game last month due to a concussion.
Browns: “With the first pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select.”
Steelers: Meet the Dolphins in the playoffs for the fourth time in franchise history and the first time since the 1984 AFC championship game.