The Steelers took this one on the chin... and on the butt.
Though a division rival for many years, previous incarnations of the Cleveland Browns have not been a true rival in any sense: the teams on each side must dish out as much as they take for any series to truly be a rivalry.
In the case of the Steelers, they came into Cleveland having won their previous 4 contests against the Browns. Optimists (such as myself) were also quick to point out that even when Pittsburgh fell to this particular opponent, it was without QB Ben Roethlisberger at the helm. Big Ben owned the best record of any QB versus one opponent with an 18-1 mark against the Browns.
It stands to reason the Steelers felt good coming into Cleveland. They probably felt equally good when looking at the schedule, with games scheduled against basement dwellers such as Tampa Bay and Jacksonville: neither of those games were stellar either.
However, on this afternoon, the Steelers didn't just play down to their opponent; they played looked like those past incarnations of their opponent.
While this article is entitled Likes and Dislikes it will be lacking severely in the like column. This game was every bit as embarrassing as the 55-31 lambasting the Steelers took in New England last year. That game sent Pittsburgh to a 2-6 record last season, and perhaps served as a wake up call, in which they tore off a 3 game winning streak en route to finishing the second half of the season 6-2.
As dreary as it looked last year, the team was able to pull together and make a push for playoff contention. A similar wake up call will be necessary this season, as the team rests on a 3-3 record, but at the bottom of their division.
As Mike Tomlin said in his press conference, the offense is able to move the ball and gain yards. That's about the only positive you can take from this game. In fact, the statistics show a game that appeared much closer than it actually was: until you see the last (and most important) statistic.
|Net pass yards||221||210|
|Time of Possession||33:05||26:55|
As fans sit here on Monday, baffled as to what happened, I can say I don't know who to blame and I don't know how to fix it. The Steelers failed in every phase of the game.
For reasons that still befuddle me, the Steelers opt to receive the kick every time. Then they go 3-and-out, and punt... with a penalty...
The defense held their ground in the first quarter, producing the team's only sack of the day from DE Cameron Heyward.
The offense drove to the Browns 7 and 17 during their next two possessions, but instead of coming away with 14, 10 or even 6 points, they came away with 3, due to muffing the snap on a field goal.
3 points in 2 drives.
It's no wonder the momentum shifted... and it didn't take much for it to shift.
Browns QB Brian Hoyer only completed 8 passes the entire game: 5 of those passes came in a 2nd quarter where Cleveland scored 21 points, on their way to 31 unanswered. Also, 5 of Hoyer's passes cleared 20 yards or better. During the 2nd quarter rally, Hoyer completed 3 of those deep passes: 42 yards and 51 yard grabs by TE Jordan Cameron, one of those plays resulting in a touchdown-saving tackle by a defensive end (Brett Keisel) when no other player was near Cameron.
Plays like that are inexcusable.
The Steelers had several opportunities to stop a Browns drive in the 3rd quarter, but failed. Facing 3rd and 5 from the Pittsburgh 34, S Mike Mitchell was flagged for a 10 yard pass interference penalty.
The Steelers then leaked 20 yards on 3 consecutive Ben Tate runs, which backed them up to their own endzone. On a Cleveland 3rd and 2 from the Pittsburgh 4, CB Cortez Allen was penalized for a defensive holding call which gave the Browns a first down at the 2, leading to a TD 2 plays later.
Self-defeating penalties like that are inexcusable.
The Steeler would have to immediately answer the Browns touchdown, but went 3 and out again, before the defense bailed them out with a fumble recovery (one of the few bright spots on the defensive side of the ball.)
However, Pittsburgh again could not capitalize in the redzone: after a penalty gave them 1st and goal from the 1, LT Kelvin Beachum committed a personal foul, and sent the team back 15 yards. They would exhaust all 4 tries and turn the ball over on downs: the third time they would not convert in the redzone for the evening.
After reviewing the game, it's hard to point the finger of blame at one specific play, or player. While many fans have directed their anger toward various coaches, it's difficult to blame them when players are not executing the plays on the field.
As stated earlier, all we can do is hope this is the wake up call this team needs to make necessary adjustments and get back on track. Otherwise, it will be a long season: and it doesn't get an easier, as the Houston Texans will have 11 days of rest before arriving in Pittsburgh next Monday night.