Deshaun Watson hasn't been the Pro Bowl-caliber player he was in Houston during his first several games as the Browns' starting quarterback. Monday night's 26-22 loss to Pittsburgh was a continuation of Watson's struggles in Cleveland, as he coughed the ball up three times -- two which led to Steelers touchdowns (one coming on the Browns' first play on offense) -- while also committing two costly 15-yard penalties.
Watson's didn't sugarcoat his performance after the loss, which prevented the Browns from their first 2-0 start since 1993. He started the game by throwing a pick-six to Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. Watson then contributed to Pittsburgh's game winning score when T.J. Watt scooped up Highsmith's strip-sack of him with less than seven minutes left.
"Still coming along," Watson said of his current on-field play, via NFL Media. "I feel like, tonight, it was shit as far as that. There's some plays that we capitalized and we did good, but as far as my part, it's not good enough. I put that on me.
"The first play, yeah, we can get into the tactics of receiver running out and putting the ball out, and this, that and the third, but I got to give him a better ball. The forced fumble for a touchdown for them. We can say, 'This guy can do this,' but I've got to protect the ball. We're not going to put it on anyone else. You put it on me. I can take the full blame, I can take the criticism and I'm going to do that."
A three-time Pro Bowler in Houston, Watson has completed just 57.3 percent of his passes in Cleveland. In eight starts, he's thrown nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Browns are a pedestrian 4-4 in games that Watson has started since he returned from his 11-game suspension following sexual assault allegations.
"I told everyone in our offense, the whole team, I'm gonna do better for this team, for this organization, so we can win games like that," Watson said. "I'm fine with taking the criticism, and I will be better."
Watson will have to be better moving forward if the Browns are going to have a chance at making the playoffs for only the third since since returning to the NFL in 1999. The Browns lost Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb for the year during the first half of Monday's game. In Chubb's absence, the Browns received an encouraging performance by backup Jerome Ford, who rushed for 105 yard and 16 carries that included a 69-yard run.
While Watson rightly accepted responsibility for his role in the unit's struggles, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said that the entire unit -- himself included -- played a role in the loss.
"We just didn't play well as an offense," he said. "There are some throws I'm sure he wants back. There are some play calls I want back. Really just not good enough as a team."