Baker Mayfield played through an injury Sunday, and it showed in a 38-7 drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The degree to which Mayfield was hurt remains unknown. His coach, Kevin Stefanski, told reporters Monday the quarterback was cleared to play, which was enough for Stefanski to send Mayfield out there in a key divisional game.
The results weren’t ideal. Mayfield completed 10 of 18 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown, threw two ugly interceptions (including one that was returned for a touchdown by Minkah Fitzpatrick) and never looked even remotely comfortable. Whether it was visible stiffness in his upper body or his skittish nature in the pocket Sunday, Mayfield was far from his best self, begging the question: Should he have been playing at all?
“I think it’s a fair question,” Stefanski said. “He was cleared. He was obviously sore throughout the week but got better. It was incumbent upon myself and how we performed to keep him clean, and we didn’t do that. He answered the bell last week just in terms of how he went through rehab and fought his butt off to get out there with his teammates on Sunday.”
Pittsburgh took full advantage of Mayfield’s physical status, bringing rushers from a variety of directions — registering pressures on 50 percent of Mayfield’s 22 dropbacks — and hitting Browns quarterbacks a total of 13 times. Stefanski replaced Mayfield with backup Case Keenum once it became clear there was little reason to keep him out there.
In all it was an ugly day for Cleveland.
“I think we got away from a lot of things that we were doing to win some ballgames,” Stefanski said. “If you don’t play clean on the road against a good team, you’re not going to come away with a victory.”
It’s fair to wonder if the Browns might be best-suited to just sit Mayfield against a one-win Bengals team in Week 7, but it sounded as if Stefanski wasn’t considering such a scenario. The coach said he’ll expect Mayfield to be available in Week 7 against Cincinnati.
We’ll see if he looks more comfortable than he did on a nightmarish Sunday in Pittsburgh.