You know, it’s really strange to look back on last year’s first game against the Browns (also a week one game) and think “Oh, if only they played that well”.
I mean, last year’s game was pretty bad. The big difference? The Steelers won.
This year we are left with the disturbing aftertaste of that ultimate cop out – a tie.
There were 7 turnovers in this game, 6 by the Steelers and 1 by the Browns, giving the Browns a ridiculous +5 differential. This is the perfect stat to accompany that:
This stat has been all over the place since yesterday, but it's worth stating again:
Since 1999, when a team has a +5 turnover differential, they are 142-4-1. The Cleveland Browns are responsible for 2 of those losses and the tie.
— Brian E. Roach (SCU) #SHALIEVE (@CannonsDontThun) September 10, 2018
As amazing as it may sound, there is some good, plenty of bad and more than a fair share of ugly to go over in this game, so let’s get to it!
Le'Veon who? James Conner runs it in from 22 yards out for his second touchdown of the game. Steelers 21 Browns 7 pic.twitter.com/nsUCFSfhU6
— Brian E. Roach (SCU) #SHALIEVE (@CannonsDontThun) September 9, 2018
- 31 attempts, 135 yards, 4.4 average, 22 long, 2 TD, 1 Fumble
- 5/6 receptions, 57 yards, 11.3 average, 19 long.
So that is 192 total yards of production from James Conner.
Not to be petty, but let’s just compare that to a certain running back who did play last year in the first game, but did not play this year:
Le’Veon Bell (2017 Game 1)
- 10 attempts, 32 yards, 3.2 average, 15 long
- 3/6 receptions, 15 yards, 5.0 average, 10 long
- Total production, 47 yards.
For everyone who wants to say that the Steelers would have won the game yesterday had Bell started, I would emphatically state that you can make a better argument that they would have LOST had Bell played. James Conner was the only (offensive) reason they were even in the game. To argue that a Le’Veon Bell who would still have missed all of camp and the preseason would have performed any better than he did last year is grasping at straws.
— NFL (@NFL) September 10, 2018
I almost feel like I don’t need to say anything more. Just read the stats. 11 tackles (8 solo, 3 assists), 4 sacks (FOUR SACKS!?!?) and a blocked FG to save the tie.
Guess how many times JJ Watt had 4 sacks in one game. I’ll wait. Google it. Go ahead.
The answer is zero.
Watt was effective when he dropped, was solid on run support and was nearly unblockable when he rushed. I guess he really does like the right side!
- 7 sacks
That is the exact same line I wrote last year about the defense. They had 7 sacks. Last year TJ Watt only got 2, so they were spread around a bit more. As far as this year goes, Jon Bostic had a sack, Bud Dupree got one and #GrownAssMan Cam Heyward also got one. Add those to TJ’s 4 and you have 7 sacks.
The defense wasn’t perfect. But it was pretty good. They had a few instances were communication seemed to be an issue, but they were few and far between. They gave up a few splash plays, but look, Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry are very good receivers. They are gonna eat to some extent.
The most significant thing to me was that in many regards the actually improved during the game. They were very undisciplined in their pass rush, and it allowed Tyrod Taylor to exploit them for 77 yards on the ground, but as they game wore on, they got better.
Joe Haden left the game and Cam Sutton did a decent job of stepping in, picking up an INT late in the game. (FYI - Hadden appears to be fine as of today, pending MRI results).
If the defense continues to build upon this game, I’ll look back on this tie with much less annoyance.
Ben (and everyone else on offense not named James Conner)
I said this in the podcast, and I tweeted it out on Sunday – watching this team on offense you could tell who got snaps in the preseason and who didn’t. Let’s not forget that even AB missed a lot of practice and didn’t play at all in the preseason. They looked out of sync as a unit, and bad overall.
Yes, it was bad weather. Yes the Browns are better. I still believe if you gave the starting offensive unit real work in the preseason they would have played much better and this game probably wouldn’t have even been close.
And please stop calling for Mason Rudolph already.
The Little Yellow Flags
Sadly, I'm not talking about Terrible Towels. No, instead it's the annual tradition of littering the field with yellow doilies is underway! Flags here, flags there – freaking @#@$@#@ flags everywhere!
The calls were bad all over the place, and the no-call on the clear peel back block on Bud Dupree still annoys me.
The refs stink. They will always stink. Hopefully as the season goes on they will start to stink less.
I doubt it.
I can’t even say it wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. Because it wasn’t a win, it was a tie. Is it better than a loss. I try and tell myself “Yes, it is better than a loss”, but I almost think it’s not. It’s dishonest. There were two teams that really wanted to win that game yesterday – one was the Steeler’s defense and the other was the Brown’s defense. Both of those units played the game with some passion and desire. They were determined. They made plays.
The offenses both looked, well, to quote Charles Barkley – “turrible".
Give Ben and the boys a chance to work a little more and it will be alright in the long run. It had better be. I’d hate to get to the end of this season thinking – “You know, the last thing I was worried about was the offense”.