CLEVELAND — When Ben Roethlisberger's pass fell incomplete, ending Pittsburgh's final chance at a comeback, the quarterback lowered his head.
Unbuckling his chin straps, Roethlisberger walked very slowly toward the sideline.
He was stunned.
This never happens to him in Cleveland, and rarely to the Steelers.
Roethlisberger, who came in with an 18-1 record in his career against the Browns, couldn't rally his team from a huge deficit and Pittsburgh's defense gave up too many big plays in a 31-10 loss on Sunday, dropping the Steelers into last place in the AFC North.
The Steelers (3-3) were no match for the improved Browns, who beat Pittsburgh for just the third time in 23 games.
"They did everything," linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "They won every phase of the game. They played a complete game and today was their day."
Brian Hoyer passed for 217 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron, and improved to 6-2 as Cleveland's starter. The Browns (3-2) hadn't beaten Pittsburgh so badly since a 51-0 shutout in 1989.
Roethlisberger wasn't as efficient as he usually is against Cleveland. He went 21 of 42 for 228 yards and one late TD, was sacked twice and threw one pick. It was his first loss to the Browns since Dec. 10, 2009, and only his second in 10 games in Cleveland.
"I didn't play well enough," said Roethlisberger, who overthrew Markus Wheaton on an opportunity for an easy TD in the fourth. "I missed some throws. I didn't make some good calls at times. I hold myself to a higher standard and I've got to be better."
The Steelers started well. Although they didn't score TDs on their first two trips inside Cleveland's 20, the Steelers took a 3-0 lead on Shaun Suisham's 20-yard field goal in the first quarter. Pittsburgh was in scoring position early in the second, but when a long drive stalled, the Steelers lined up for a 35-yard field goal.
However, punter Brad Wing botched the hold, double-clutching as he tried to place the ball.
It was a miscue, and an omen.
Not much went right for the Steelers the rest of the day.
The Browns, who were held to minus-8 yards in the first quarter, took over on downs after Wing's muff and went to work. Hoyer, rolling left, threw back across the field to uncovered tight end Jordan Cameron for 42 yards to the Pittsburgh 5. Rookie Isaiah Crowell scored on the next play, giving the Browns a 7-3 lead and momentum.
"That was huge for us," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "It just really steamrolled from there."
Cleveland's lead swelled to 21-3 at halftime, and when Ben Tate scored his second TD on a 1-yard run with 12:47 left, the Browns were ahead 31-3.
Really, it was over long before that.
Unlike the season opener, when the Steelers built a 27-3 halftime lead and held off a furious Cleveland comeback, the Browns were the ones in control at halftime. Since the break in the opener, the Browns have outscored the Steelers 55-13.
"They're a good football team, we just didn't play well enough," Roethlisberger said. "I've played them for a long time and this place was really jumping. They're a good football team and I give them a lot of credit, offensively and defensively."
The Browns rammed the ball down Pittsburgh's throat to take a commanding lead late in the second quarter.
Tate's 8-yard TD run capped an 85-yard drive soured by the loss of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who was carted off the field with a broken leg.
And while the loss of Mack was difficult for his teammates to watch, it seemed to motivate the Browns, who couldn't afford to drop to 0-3 in the division. Right guard John Greco slid over into Mack's spot, and Paul McQuistan came off the bench to fill in for Greco.
The Steelers have similar injury issues, but they seem to be lacking their usual cohesion. Maybe it's good they'll play their next three games at home.
It's time to regroup.
"We're 3-3, our record says we're an average football team," Roethlisberger said. "It's still early but we've got to get some things fixed."
NOTES: The Steelers were down two defensive starters — Ryan Shazier and Ike Taylor — to start the game and had three others get hurt. NT Steve McLendon (sprained shoulder), DE Brett Keisel (sprained knee) and S Mike Mitchell (sprained knee) all went out. Tomlin said the team will have more information Monday. ... Roethlisberger's 343 career completions are the most by any quarterback against the Browns. ... Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell had 82 yards rushing on 18 carries but couldn't break off anything longer than a 12-yarder.