The Pittsburgh Steelers continued their dominance over the hapless Cleveland Browns on Sunday, handing them a 27-14 defeat. The ever-generous Steelers tried to hand the Browns a lot more than a loss, committing four turnovers and playing awful special teams. Our Black and Gold have developed a nasty habit of playing to the level of their opposition. These brief fits of stupidity hurt what was otherwise an outstanding effort on both sides of the ball.
Let’s start with the record-setting day by Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben passed for 417 yards, only the fourth time in Steelers history a QB has surpassed four bills through the air. He already had one of the other 400 yard games so he’s the first to do it twice. Ben finished the day with two TD passes, which should’ve been three if Hines Ward hadn’t dropped a ball while doing a Stop-Drop-and-Roll demonstration in the end zone. I wonder if the fan in the #86 jersey he gave the ball to gets an IOU since their souvenir is kinda worthless.
Hines did have a great game, amassing 159 yards, including a fantastic 52 yard deep catch and run for a TD. Not to be outdone, Santonio Holmes chipped in with 104 yards on only 5 catches. His day was highlighted by a 41 yard play where he caught a deep pass down near the sideline, then cut all the way across the field, leaving a pile of white jerseys in his wake. The offense ended up with an astounding 540 yards of output yesterday, the majority of which came from Bruce Arians‘ Flying Circus.
The running game, however, had some issues. Rashard Mendenhall got the majority of carries, finishing with 76 yards and a TD. Fast Willie Parker returned to action and it may have been a little too soon. FWP looked awful, running tentatively and having a lot of problems making his cuts. The announcers seemed to think his spiffy new Titanium Reinforced Twinkle Toe Shoes might be too cumbersome for him. I’ve seen Buster Browns cause some tragic wipe outs in the church parking lot so there may be something to that. However, the image of Parker bumbling and stumbling to the ground after catching a screen pass in the flat with nothing but 15 yards of green grass ahead of him is going to be hard to forget.
Equally hard to forget will be the miscues by our offense. Ben Roethlisberger, despite his virtuoso passing performance, had some turnover issues. He mishandled a snap, leading to a turnover. He also threw a terrible interception into TRIPLE coverage. But his sins were nothing compared to those committed by our Dynamic Duo. Late in the third quarter, Arians tried to kill the clock with some running plays. Give the man credit for learning from past mistakes. Unfortunately, his faith was rewarded with Willie Parker fumbling the ball away like it was coated with AstroGlide. On the next possession, they handed the rock to Mendy, who proceeded to carry it looser than a sorority girl after a Jager bomb, leading to another fumble.
This lead to the humorous situation at the end of the game when the Steelers took the ball on their 1 yard line following a Ryan Clark pick. Who did Mike Tomlin call on to close the game out? Who had the unwavering faith of our Super Bowl winning coach? Was it FWP, our highly paid superstar? Was it Mendenhall, our highly paid first round draft pick?
Of course not! It was third down back Mewelde Moore!
Speaking of turnovers, the Steelers D also caused a smorgasbord of miscues by Browns. Troy Polamalu got a “Welcome Back” pick thrown right to him. Troy’s return shored up the secondary a bit, although he seemed to be noticeably slower than usual. The Steelers linebackers, lead by Lawrence Timmons, harassed poor Anderson all day. Timmons, it should be noted, had a dominant performance, recording 2 sacks and causing 2 fumbles. When QB Derek Anderson did manage to get a pass off, it didn’t matter since the entire Browns receiving corps seemed to be infected with Sweeditis.
There was much debate in the comments section over what to do about replacing injured DE Aaron Smith. The Steelers answer appears to be a heavy dose of Travis Kirschke with a sprinkle of Nick Eason. Those of you pining for some Ziggy Hood will be disappointed to know his crust hasn’t risen or something because he didn’t take the field at all. The plan seems to be Kirschke plays in the base defense while Eason comes in on obvious passing downs. They looked decent enough although next week will be the real test.
The defense limited the Browns to a little less than 200 yards of total offense. Two turnovers, two sacks, and numerous pressures all amounted to a pretty good effort on that side of the ball. They only gave up 7 points so it’s nice to see the stinginess coming back to Blitzburgh. If not for Joshua Cribbs‘ 98 yard kickoff return TD, this game would’ve been the blowout we all hoped for. Speaking of which, it was sad to see the Steelers run up the White Flag on special teams after that fiasco, squib kicking the rest of the game.
So what did we learn this week? Not much, I’m afraid. The Browns are a wretched awful team that would be lucky to win the Arena Bowl. Next week, we face Brett Favre and his undefeated Fighting Wranglers Minnesota Vikings. If you wanted a measuring stick to gauge exactly where this team is at this year, that will be it. If they can find a way to clean up this week’s sloppiness while managing to keep the explosiveness on both sides of the ball, the sun may be coming out in Steeler Nation.
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