The Browns' embarrassing 33-18 loss — after a 6-0 first-quarter lead — began amid a report by by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that Haley could be fired soon if the dysfunction on offense doesn't get resolved soon.
It followed a week in which Jackson vowed after the loss to the Bucs to dive in and help revive the struggling unit. But he toned down his remarks the next day, saying he wouldn't take over the play calling.
Still, tension remained between the two offensive minds as they headed into the game, their third straight loss and fourth in five games, and the pre-game report fanned the flames.
The loss dropped the Browns to 2-5-1 and marked their first loss in the division. They also lost for the 15th straight time in Pittsburgh and 25th on the road overall. The NFL record for consecutive road losses is 26, set by the Lions from 2007-2010.
The Steelers, first in the AFC North, improved to 4-2-1, and Ben Roethlisberger (257 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 94.3 rating, improved to 22-2-1 against the Browns. He also improved to 12-0 at home against Cleveland.
The score wasn't as close as it looked. Baker Mayfield threw a TD pass to Seth DeValve with six seconds left to make it a little more respectable. And it won't get any easier. The high-flying Chiefs are coming to town on Sunday.
The situation between Jackson and Haley was so bizarre that at one point in the third quarter, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown hugged Haley, his longtime Steelers coordinator, in front of the Browns bench. Before the game, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Jackson spent time chatting on the field, which is not unusual.
Once again, the Browns offense sputtered and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who came up limping after a fourth-quarter sack, struggled. The Browns managed only 12 points despite two more takeaways by the defense for a league-high total of 22 this season. The Browns converted the two takeaways into only three points.
They did manage a touchdown, but needed a huge gaffe by the Steelers to pull it off, when they let a free kick skip past them and the Browns recovered at the Steelers' 24. Antonio Callaway caught a 1-yard TD pass, Mayfield's seventh of the season.
Mayfield completed 22-of-36 attempts for 180 yards with two TDs and 1 interception for a 80.8 rating. He struggled to get the ball to Jarvis Landry, who caught eight passes but for only 39 yards.
While the defense was busy not scoring, the defense was once again gashed by James Conner, this time for 146 yards yards and two TDs on 24 carries. In the first meeting, he rushed for 135 yards.
Antonio Brown also caught two TD passes, including a 43-yarder.
Huge turn of events
The Steelers down a punt at the Browns' 4 and the Desmond Harrison was flagged for holding in the end zone, a safety for the Steelers that made it 16-6 with 8:07 left in the third. But the Steelers' Ryan Switzer watched Britton Colquitt's free kick skitter past him, not realizing that the Browns could recover it. Denzel Rice fell on the ball at the Steelers' 24 for a huge swing in field position.
The Steelers continued to implode on the drive after the big miscue, with Cam Heyward getting flagged for unnecessary roughness on Mayfield, David Njoku drawing a pass interference in the end zone zone, and Joe Haden committing defensive holding at the Steelers' 1. Antonio Callaway caught a 1-yard TD at the left side of the end zone to make it 16-12. Kicker Greg Joseph, who had missed a 41-yard field goal wide right in the second quarter, pushed the extra point wide right.
But the Steelers marched right back down the field field, behind some long runs by James Conner, including a 12-yarder for a TD that increased the Steelers' lead to 23-12 with 2:42 left in the third.
They tacked on a 42-yard field goal to make it 26-12 with 13:29 left in the game.
Kindred's strip; three-and-out
With the Steelers up 14-6 and threatening to score, Derrick Kindred stripped running back Stevan Ridley of the ball after a 4-yard pass and Denzel Ward recovered. It was the Browns' second takeaway of the afternoon, coming on the heels of Kindred's first-quarter interception. Once again, the offense wasn't able to cash in. The Browns went three-and-out on two Nick Chubb runs, including one for a loss, and a Mayfield overthrow to Jarvis Landry on third down. On the pick, they managed only a field goal. That made for a league-high 22 takeaways and only 34 points.
The Browns trailed 14-6 at the half on two touchdown catches by Antonio Brown and two field goals by Greg Joseph. Mayfield completed 10-of-19 attempts for 91 yards in the first half with no touchdowns and one interception for a 44.0 rating. The Browns were hurt by attempting field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. They were 0-1 in the red zone, and got only three points out of Kindred's interception.
Haden's INT; Brown’s 2nd TD
The former Browns cornerback picked off Mayfield on a deep ball intended for Damion Ratley at the Steelers 13 with 7:20 left in the half. It was Haden's first pick of the season. Roethlisberger then embarked on a 16-play, 87-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard TD pass to Antonio Brown on a bubble screen with eight seconds left in the half to make it 14-6. It was Haden's first pick of the season and Mayfield's sixth interception. Last week, it was former Browns defensive lineman Carl Nassib getting revenge on the Browns for the Bucs, including a third down sack of Mayfield in overtime, and this week it was Haden.
Brown’s TD catch
Brown caught a 43-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger after the receiver got behind Denzel Ward. Roethlisberger stepped up in the pocket and hit Brown down the left side to put the Steelers up 7-6 with 11:26 left in the half. Ward thought he was getting safety help from Kindred but it never materialized.
The touchdown came after Greg Joseph missed a 41-yard field goal wide right to start Pittsburgh at their 31.
Kindred picked off Roethlisberger on a pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster and deflected by Christian Kirksey with 4:54 left in the first quarter. But the Browns could only convert it into a 45-yard field goal by Greg Joseph. Mayfield was almost picked off on third down by linebacker Anthony Chickillo on a short pass over the middle. That made for 21 takeaways and only 34 points.
Browns strike first
The Browns have preached faster starts for weeks, and marched downfield on the opening drive to the 13. But the drive stalled when Duke Johnson was knocked back three yards to the 16. Greg Joseph kicked a 34-yard field goal to put the Browns up 3-0 with 9:10 left in the first quarter. Mayfield completed 6-of-7 attempts on the drive for 57 yards, completing passes to four different receivers.
The Browns host the AFC-best Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday.