SOME observations in the wake of the Cleveland Browns' season-ending 13-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
UPGRADE THE OFFENSE: Playmakers are a must. Definitely a receiver. Maybe two of them. A running back, if the Browns let Peyton Hillis walk, as it appears they will. A quarterback, if the braintrust of president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur determine Colt McCoy isn't the guy. Again, this looks to be the case.
A BACKUP FOR A REASON: Seneca Wallace has made noise in recent weeks about getting a legitimate chance to be the Browns' starting quarterback. I saw nothing Sunday - nor in his other starts in place of McCoy - to indicate Wallace is anything but what he has always been, which is a career backup.
Yes, the conditions were far from ideal on Sunday, given the wind, rain and eventually snow in the game's closing moments. Wallace was 16 of 41 for 177 yards and a good portion of those numbers came on the final drive, with the Steelers keeping plays in front of them.
There were some drops, most notably an ugly one by Mohamed Massaquoi that could have been a big play. But even that pass was delivered behind Massaquoi. If Wallace hit him in stride, the play could have gone for a touchdown.
Many of Wallace's misfires weren't even close to being completions and one of his poor throws was picked off by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu at the Browns' 43 and set up a tiebreaking Pittsburgh touchdown. Two or three other Wallace passes could have been intercepted.
PLAYCALLING: The Browns need an offensive coordinator. Former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress, out of football this season after getting fired in 2010, surfaced Sunday as a candidate.
Childress doesn't inspire confidence, but he can't be any worse than Shurmur acting as the head coach and coordinator, unless Shurmur is still calling the plays next season.
Oh, wait. The Browns are on record as saying that even if they hire an offensive coordinator, Shurmur still will call plays. What's the point then?
ON THE DEFENSIVE: The Browns are on the right track defensively. Statistically, they were not the 1985 Chicago Bears, but given how little the offense did all season, the Browns' defense played well.
Sunday's game was a case in point. It was a credit to the defense the Browns had a chance - albeit a slim one - to win with a Hail Mary on the game's final play. The Browns forced two second-half fumbles by Steelers running back Isaac Redman and also forced a punt to set up their last-chance drive.
The Browns' defense improved as the season wore on, despite an offense that was unable to sustain drives and averaged less than 14 points per game. A lesser defense might have buckled under the weight of all those three-and-outs, not to mention the loss of starting linebacker Scott Fujita and starting safety T.J. Ward.
KEY DEFENDERS: Cornerback Joe Haden recovered one of those fumbles and broke up a pass on third-and-2 to help the Browns get the ball back with 1:46 to play.
Haden is arguably the best all-around player the Browns have. If the Browns choose to use one of their draft picks on another lock-down cornerback, they'll be as good or better in the secondary as they've been since the heyday of Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield in the mid-1980s.
Jabaal Sheard, who had a sack and a hurry against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday, is another keeper. He finished his rookie season with 8.5 sacks.
Sheard and defensive tackles Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin should give the Browns' front four a strong nucleus for years to come.
Veteran linebacker D'Qwell Jackson should be in the Pro Bowl after being plagued by injuries most of the last two seasons. The Browns need to re-sign him.
ANOTHER KEEPER: You could make a case for kicker Phil Dawson as the Browns' MVP. Not counting field goals that were blocked or otherwise missed because of bad snaps, Dawson was 21 of 22 this season.
Dawson, like Jackson and Hillis, can become a free agent. The Browns ought to bring back all three of them. Dawson is the best outdoor kicker in the NFL. Jackson and the underrated Chris Gocong gave the Browns two solid linebackers. Fujita isn't getting any younger and finished the season on injured reserve, so the Browns could use some depth there.
LITTLE STRIDES: Rookie wide receiver Greg Little was targeted five times on Sunday, but didn't catch a pass. Part of the that was because the Steelersd recognized that Little was the closest thing the Browns had to a play maker, so they did everything they could to shut him down.
Little finished with 61 receptions for 709 yards and two touchdowns. Remember, this was essentially his senior season of college, since Little sat out his final year at North Carolina because of NCAA violations. The converted running back has some skills.
SEVEN IS MORE THAN THREE: The Browns lack play makers, but Shurmur's playcalling, as mentioned above, often leaves a lot to be desired. This is especially true when the Browns get close to the other team's end zone.
Far too often this season, the Browns had first-and-goal in the shadow of the end zone and settled for field goals.
It happened again Sunday, when Wallace scrambled for 27 yards to give them a first down at the Steelers' 4 in the second quarter. Everyone in the stadium knew Hillis was getting a handoff on first-and-goal. Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton knockled center Alex Mack backward on his way to dropping Hillis for a 4-yard loss.
Two incompletions later, Dawson kicked a 26-yard field goal for a 3-0 Browns lead.
Field goals, of course, aren't going to win a lot of games. The Browns managed just four field goals and no touchdowns in two games against the Steelers.
Until they can cash in more consistently on prime opportunities, the Browns are going to struggle to win games.
STAY THE COURSE: Shurmur's first season had some ugly, baffling moments. But the Browns need to stay committed to him. Look at the Steelers, who have had three coaches (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin) since 1969.
There is something to be said for that level of commitment and consistency. The Browns have had three coaches since 2008. They could and have done a lot worse than try to emulate their biggest rival from top to bottom, in terms of front-office personnel, coaching staff, philosophy and talent evaluation.
There was a reason the Steelers were able to essentially discard Santonio Holmes a Super Bowl hero for a fifth-round draft pick a couple of years ago. They found gems in little-known receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
The development of those players left the Steelers well-position to rid themselves of a troubled player in Holmes and later to deal with the diminishing returns of veteran Hines Ward.