Beating The Browns
And so ends another Football season in Steeltown, certainly not with the results all of Steeler Nation had hoped for, but ironically on a positive note even at 8-8. Positive in the players minds as they seemed to be on the upswing, but with much changes forthcoming and many inevitable personal changes in the coming months, there’s still a level of mystery surrounding this team moving forward. The annual week 16 meeting between the Browns and Steelers normally ends with a blow-out, Cleveland has little to play for and today’s match-up was no exception. The Offense struck quick with a 60 yard march in 9 plays culminating in a touchdown lob to Jericho Cotchery for a easy seven. Big Ben did not have his best game of the season, but he traditionally has one foot out the door himself in this final four quarters. Ben was a meager 19-31, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. He did however manage and control the game well in what were less than suitable weather conditions.
The big story on offense of course is the emergence of rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, who with this game eclipsed a franchise rushing record that was formally held by Franco Harris way back in 1972. Bell has 1259 yards from scrimmage over Franco’s 1235. What is impressive about besting Franco, aside from the fact no other back has surpassed Harris in 41 years, is that Le’Veon did it in 13 games in an era where the majority of offensive plays involve passing the ball. Let’s hope Bell’s future shines half as bright as did Franco’s, he’s certainly off to a rousing start.
The defense has been on it’s best behavior as of late, which still doesn’t put it in the top five, but to a lesser degree they’ve been playing more as a unit then in the first half of the season. I guess the biggest downside is that they didn’t shut out the Brownies, which is normally the case as none of the Cleveland players have an interest in being out there in the cold and rain. Facing an inept offense, the Steelers still stayed on the field for 64 total plays and gave up 293 yards. Jason Worilds and Lamar Woodley both sat out with injuries, which left all pro Lawrence Timmons and rookie outside backer Jarvis Jones to do the clean up work. Jones actually had a good day, stout in pass coverage and getting to the ball with much more aggression than his previous starts. He actually led the team with 8 solo tackles and 1 tackle for loss. The defense got gashed occasionally by rookie running back Edwin Baker, but with the aide of some key drops by the browns receivers and an uninspired Cleveland offense, they did what they had to do. As well as turnovers, Keisel had a sack fumble and Timmons had an interception to close out the game.
Kicking game was pretty good under the weather conditions, Suisham was 2-2 and punter McBriar 4 boots for 147 yards. Not much happening in the return game, but fortunately the offense was moving the ball well enough regardless of field position.
A pretty routine day at the office for the Coaching staff, OC Todd Haley mixed in a heavy dose of running back Le’Veon Bell with more down field passing. Dick Lebeau’s job was to simply not due anything foolish as this is about as easy a match-up as one can get facing quarterback Jason Campbell and crew. Fortunately for Coach Tomlin he didn’t have to call any time outs before crucial plays with time running out, he’s definitely going to have to correct those aspects of his game management moving forward. Otherwise the team was as prepared as they could be to beat an uninspired 3-12 team.
Certainly the victory could have been bittersweet if the Chiefs had beaten the Chargers, and a playoff opportunity awaited us. But the simple fact is this team didn’t deserve to be in the playoff, they dug themselves a deep hole then stumbled several times as the attempted to dig themselves out. And so ends another beating of the Browns and another Steeler season in the books, and in this case down the drain. Better luck next year fellas!