EXTRA POINTS - Steelers vs Browns Post Game Wrap
*How To Lose To The Clowns - Simple, just play like clowns. Fumbles, Penalties, and defeatist play calling is a good start. This was the first time in over ELEVEN YEARS than an NFL team had 8 turnovers in a single game. The Steelers had 7 fumbles (lost 5) in addition to 3 picks thrown by Batch. Add in 9 more penalties by a supposedly veteran laden team, and you have a recipe for an award winning shit sandwich. It is remarkable the game was as close as it was given the amount of turnovers and penalties the Steelers had.
*Field Position Differential - In the first half the Browns average starting field position was the 48 yard line while the Steelers average starting point was their own 20. That added up to a difference of 189 hidden yards in the opening half alone that the Steelers offense had to overcome. If the turnovers and special teams gaffes weren't bad enough, penalties also killed field position multiple times. A penalty on a kick return pinned the Steelers deep at their own 9. A Mike Adams hold to start the 3rd qtr changed field position from 2nd and 1 at the 30 to 1st and 20 at the 10. The Steelers have continually shot themselves in the foot in the field position battles all season, but it was especially bad the last two weeks.
*MASH Update: Lamarr Woodley and Mike Adams left the game with ankle injuries while Chris Rainey twisted his knee at the end of the game and needed help off the field. When a team is down to its 3rd string QB, RT, WR, and RB in a game at the same time, you have to expect a big drop in play. What will the Steelers field in a crucial game at Baltimore next Sunday?
HC Mike Tomlin: - It's hard to evaluate a Head Coach on a day where his team had 8 turnovers, many of which were unforced. Regardless, this Steelers team came out sloppy, undisciplined, and unfocused just like they have much of this season. Rookie mistakes by veterans and young players alike continue to plague this team. Until Tomlin starts to crack the whip and instill some discipline on his players, the results won't change. Expect more careless turnovers, mental mistakes, and sloppy penalties. The standard is the standard, and it is time for Mike Tomlin to show some more substance as a head coach. As he's told us, style points don't matter. (Grade: F)
OC Todd Haley: "Turtle" Todd Haley called runs up the middle on 7 of the first 8 plays of the game. This included one particularly frustrating run on a 3rd down and 4. His play calling and game plan was defeatist, highlighted by called runs on a 2nd and 15 and 3rd and 19 plays. Throwing the ball can at least draw a P.I. or defensive holding foul, each of which carry automatic 1st downs. Running it just sets up better position to punt, which seemed to be the game plan going in. Run, run, run, punt and hope the defense can win the game. Trailing by 6 before half, Haley ran the ball on 1st down with just 2 minutes left and burned 40 seconds off the play clock. After a completion on that drive with 49 seconds left on the clock, Haley failed to call timeout which wasted 20 seconds with 2 time-outs in his pocket. After Plaxico Burress drew a PI call, the Steelers had 1st and goal, but only 8 seconds left in the half. Those wasted 20 seconds would have been more valuable than the extra timeout in the pocket. Facing a one-play, must-score situation, Haley called a run up the gut with his 180 lb speed back. Rainey bounced it outside for the score with only 1 second left, but had he been tackled on that bounce out, the Steelers likely would have seen the clock expire on the half before they could get a timeout. Facing a 3rd and 13 on first drive of 3rd qtr the play call was slow getting in which forced a delay of game penalty. (Grade: F )
DC Dick Lebeau: Facing a bunch of short fields, Lebeau and his defense were tested quite a bit in scoring range. They responded fairly well by only allowing 2 of those drives for a TD, and only 1 other non-turnover drive was converted into a FG. The Browns longest drive of the game was a 44 yard drive that ended in a FG. When the game was on the line in the 4th, the defense gave the offense the ball back twice with a chance to win the game. Over the final 5 drives, the Steelers defense allowed a grand total of 8 yards on 19 plays. You can't ask for much better than that with the game on the line. (Grade: B)
QB: Charlie Batch played like a 38-year-old QB who hadn't taken a snap in practice since training camp. He misfired on easy passes, and was just a little off on some more difficult passes which resulted in incompletions. Batch threw 3 INT's, and was a big factor in the loss. (Grade: D)
RB: Rashard Mendenhall returned to the starting lineup only to fumble his second touch after carrying the ball away from his body. A simple hand slap to the arm caused the fumble. Mendenhall fumbled twice on four carries. The second fumble came when he backed into Heath Miller in the 4th and the contact caused him to drop the ball. Mendenhall certainly hasn't played like a back in a contract year and he certainly hasn't lived up to his first round draft status. Fortunately we are only 5 games or so away from never having to see him in a Steelers uniform again. Redman fumbled again on his first touch, just like last week. He hasn't looked right much of this year, especially after returning from injury two weeks ago. Jon Dwyer again got the bulk of the carries, but fumbled just before half which led to his benching next to Mendenhall and Redman. Rainey took over and fumbled an outlet pass, then fittingly fumbled on a screen pass the final time to end the Steelers shot at pulling out a win. Kirby Wilson deserves better than this group of thin-skinned losers. (Grade: F---)
WR/TE: Emmanuel Sanders led the receivers with 5 grabs for 5 yards, but was called for another false start on a 3rd down play. He then made a catch in the 2 minute drill and made zero effort to get out of bounds to save a timeout. He also fumbled/muffed a punt. Mike Wallace did little to nothing. He dropped a slant thrown behind him which was intercepted. He did get open deep once, but Batch under threw him, and he offered little to no fight on two interceptions that were intended for him. Plax drew a PI call in the endzone, but dropped another pass and ran a sloppy route which lead to a Browns INT. Heath Miller was called for a hold which wiped out a nice Mendenhall run. Otherwise, Miller was a force in the passing game pulling 6 balls for 63 yards. You can win a lot of game with a roster full of Heath Millers. You can't say that about many players on this team. (Grade: D-)
O-Line: Willie Colon dressed but did not play due to injury. Ramon Foster drew a holding call deep in his own end on a running play. Mike Adams was called for a hold on a screen and was mediocre before leaving with an ankle injury. Doug Legursky was beaten badly for a sack of Batch by Phil Taylor, and was also called for holding late in 4th. Kelvin Beachum came in to the game for Adams and was called for holding on the next play which wiped out a 33 yard completion. Max Starks was very solid as he has been all season, while Maurkice Pouncey had another mediocre game. (Grade: D)
DL: Brett Keisel's tipped pass led to the Timmons pick-6. He also had a big 8-yard sack in the 4th qtr which stalled a Browns drive. Cameron Heyward had a couple of nice stuffs in the run game early on including a TFL on the 2nd drive. Hood drew 2 holding calls on RG Lauvao in succession. Casey Hampton was called for hands to face, had 1 solo tackle, and did a decent job clogging running lanes. Steve McClendon had a rare TFL and offered some excessive celebration afterwards. (Grade: B)
LB: Lawrence Timmons got burned in coverage by Josh Gordon on the opening play, but rebounded with the pick-6 off a tipped pass later in that drive. He was beat in coverage by TE Watson, and also overran his lane on the Richardson TD. Otherwise Timmons was actively making plays all over the field. James Harrison got a sack on a stunt up the middle on 2nd drive, had 4 TFLs, and was dominant against the run. Woodley yet again was injured, this time tweaking his ankle after doing nothing up to that point. Worilds got extensive playing time which included a couple of flukey sacks. Foote had a workmanlike game with 7 tackles and no splash plays made. (Grade: B+)
DB: Ike Taylor had good coverage again in this game and pretty much took Greg Little completely out of the game except for a short 6 yard reception. Ike nearly made a diving INT just before half, and jumped a route early in the 3rd qtr where he just missed another pick. Keenan Lewis continued his solid tackling and coverage throughout this game. Will Allen missed a pop-up gimme of a pick on the opening drive, then was beat by TE Cameron for a TD pass. Ryan Clark was again flying around trying to knock out himself or anyone else in his general area. (Grade: B+)
STs: With the Browns backed deep in their own end after the 2nd drive of the game, the Steelers sent out only 10 players for the punt return. This is just another example of a stupid mental error by this unit. Instead of a potential return across midfield, Sanders was forced to fair catch the ball at the Steelers 40. Suisham's kick-offs went out of the endzone this week, let's see if he can continue that next week. Sly Stevenson drew another holding call on a kick return after the Browns went up 10-7. As a repeat offender, will he be deactivated by Tomlin? This penalty pinned the struggling Steelers offense to its own 9 yard line. A huge 52 yard punt from the Steelers own end to open the 3rd QTR by Drew Butler and nice tackle by Cortez Allen flipped bad field position the Steelers way. Butler followed that up with a nifty angled 52 yard punt that went out of bounds and pinned the Browns back to their 20 after a holding penalty. Emmanuel Sanders fumbled the one punt he had a chance to return in the game. Leonard Pope called a fucking fair catch at the 18 yard line on a kick-off with nobody within 10 yards of him. What a waste of a roster spot that guy is. (Grade: C-)
Game Balls: (This award has been discontinued until further notice.)
Goat Balls: The Steelers stable of running backs had the single worst game I've seen from them, ever. SIX fumbles, four lost, and a pathetic 2.5 YPC against a mediocre Browns run defense. In a game where the plan was to be conservative, pound the ball on the ground, and protect the ball, the backs single handedly shot that strategy to shit by constantly fumbling and turning the ball over. The Steelers have to take a good hard look at this group and consider complety retooling the roster at the RB spot in the offseason.
The Steelers are a Super Bowl contender with Ben Roethlisberger under center. They are equal to the Chiefs and Browns, maybe even worse, when he is out. With the AFC as weak as it is this year, the Steelers likely only need to beat the Bengals, Browns, and Chargers down the stretch to earn a playoff spot. With the defense playing as well as it has of late, who knows what could happen if they get hot in December and get into the dance. Most of our expectations, mine included, for this season are pretty low at this point. I suggest you all just sit back and enjoy the ride. Either they could make a miraculous run, or they could be set up in prime draft positioning for April.