There is no quantifiable standard by which to measure bad losses, even if some are more implicitly unexplainable than others.
It was one thing for the Steelers to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs last season, a team that came into the Week 10 matchup with only two victories but walked away with a numbing 27-24 overtime victory, thanks in large part to a 97-yard kick return to start the game and several big pass plays to force the extra period.
And, two weeks later, it was another to lose to the Oakland Raiders, another two-win opponent who made a number of big pass plays during a 21-point fourth quarter and was the benefactor of a dropped interception by rookie cornerback Joe Burnett that would have ended the game.
But, one week later, at the miserable height of what would be a five-game losing streak, there would be little explanation for the way the Steelers listlessly performed in a 13-6 loss to the Browns in Cleveland, a game so devoid of purposeful focus and aggression that defensive end Aaron Smith could sense the emotional flatline on television.
"I sat at home and watched that game and it just didn't seem like we played our type of game," said Smith, who was on the season-ending injured reserve list at the time. "The Browns did what they had to do. They were effective running the ball and they took advantage of mistakes we made."
Curiously, the Steelers did not make many mistakes that night in Cleveland, other than properly preparing to play in the numbing cold against the Browns, who were 1-12 at the time. They did not commit a turnover and were penalized a modest four times for 40 yards, although one was a holding penalty by Tyrone Carter that wiped out a fumble recovery by Anthony Madison at the Cleveland 44 on a punt return.
After the re-punt, the Browns went 74 yards on eight plays to score the game's only touchdown -- a 10-yard run by backup running back Chris Jennings -- and take a 13-0 lead with 41 seconds remaining in the half.
The Browns never made it past their 45 on five possessions in the second half, but it didn't seem to matter. The Steelers were playing as if they were more interested in staying warm than winning their 13th consecutive game against the Browns.
"It was like we were there physically, but not mentally," said wide receiver Mike Wallace, who had two catches for 11 yards in the game.
"I don't know, I think we just lost focus," said guard Chris Kemoeatu, who was returning after missing the previous game with an injured wrist and knee and gave up two of the eight sacks against Ben Roethlisberger. "I don't think the weather should ever get to us, but that was one of the coldest games."
To be sure, the game was one of the coldest in the long history of the series. The temperature was 15 degrees, but 25-48 mph winds made it feel like minus-6. Because of the conditions, some of the Steelers players didn't go on the field before the game. One of those was Roethlisberger, who completed 18 of 32 passes for 201 yards in the gusty conditions.
"You know me, and us as team. I never use excuses, but I don't think the weather helped," Roethlisberger said Monday, the Steelers' first day back to practice after a three-day break because of the off week. "You didn't see guys warming up. I was one. I warmed up in the tunnel. We didn't go out and warm up.
"That's not the excuse. The excuse is, once we got on the field, they just kicked our butt, point blank. Our preparation before the game wasn't where it needed to be and theirs probably was, and they came out and flat out beat us."
Flat being the operative word.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org .