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The refs cheated the Browns and helped the Steelers — again

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The Steelers probably wouldn’t have scored a touchdown right before halftime if officials just spotted the ball correctly.

Hello Browns fans, welcome back to your weekly column pointing out a moment when your team got screwed by officials. You may have been here when officials missed a blatant false start by the Chargers on a touchdown against the Cleveland secondary, or when Derek Carr fumbled against the Browns but officials inexplicably blew the play dead.

When the Steelers and Browns met in Week 1, Myles Garrett was penalized for a sketchy roughing the passer call that extended a Pittsburgh drive that ended with a touchdown.

This time, the Steelers were gifted two free yards to help set up a touchdown just before halftime against Cleveland in a Week 8 game. Here’s the play narrated by a Browns fan too angry to get the yard lines right.

The third down run by James Conner clearly should’ve been spotted near the 5-yard line, but instead it winds up inches away from a first down at the 3-yard line.

Those couple extra yards probably mattered a lot too. With a short fourth down, the Steelers decided to go for it and converted with a 3-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. After a timeout, Pittsburgh snagged a 14-6 lead with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.

The Browns weren’t allowed to challenge with the clock inside two minutes, but maybe calling timeout could’ve helped Hue Jackson persuade the officials to take a closer look. He didn’t end up using them anyway, for reasons he can’t recall.

It’s anyone’s guess how things would’ve played out if it was a longer fourth-down situation, but the best guess is that the Steelers would’ve kicked a short field goal to take a 10-6 lead. Six of the Browns’ first seven games were decided by four points or less, so those extra four points for Pittsburgh weren’t an insignificant amount, although James Conner ran roughshod over the Browns defense en route to a comfortable win.

The Browns’ losing record is mostly self-inflicted, so it’d be a stretch to say that officials are the reason why Cleveland is having yet another bad year. But the Browns seem to be on the wrong end of an egregious officiating mistake every Sunday. The down judge who missed the Chargers false start lost his job, but that hasn’t changed the fact that the Browns just keep getting screwed.

Meanwhile, the Steelers were fortunate not to get a penalty called on them for what looked like an illegal pick play during their game-winning touchdown pass against the Bengals in Week 6. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and the Steelers definitely seem to have better luck with officials than the Browns.