If last week’s loss to Oakland theoretically ended the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers made sure to erase all doubt by dropping last night’s game to the lowly Cleveland Browns by a final score of 13-6. Thanks to the Browns, we’re finally free of any vague hopes of a playoff berth or dreams of a respectable defense of our Super Bowl title. Now we are finally free to see this season for what it has been all along. An absolute embarrassment.
Where to begin with this pathetic display. Let’s start with the Steelers first drive of the day because it pretty much sums up the stupidity we’ve seen all year from this team. Rashard Mendenhall ran right for 5 yards. Rashard Mendenhall ran right again for 4 yards. So on third and 1 (actually about a foot), what do we do?
LINE UP IN SHOTGUN!
Ben Roethlisberger ended up eating a 9 yard sack. On our next drive, Mendenhall carried for 5 yards on first down. He carried for 2 more yards on second down. Wanna guess what we did on third and 3?
LINE UP IN SHOTGUN!
Ben ate another sack, this time losing 10 yards. And this is how the first half went. Bruce Arians repeatedly rolled out the Flying Circus and the pitiful Cleveland defense repeatedly sent it packing. Big Ben was sacked five times in all. The offensive line broke down on a couple of them but most of the blame belonged to Roethlisberger.
Ben continually wants six or seven seconds to survey every square inch of the field before releasing the damn ball. If a jailbreak blitz is coming at you, you make a hot read and throw QUICKLY. Unfortunately, our mush brain QB doesn’t seem capable of doing this. Between that and his inaccuracy, it’s no shock he finished the game a putrid 18/32 for 201 yards. If there was ever any doubt the Steelers need to get back to Ben managing the game instead of pretending to be Peyton Manning, this game settled it once and for all.
When Big Ben managed to make a decision, our receivers gave him no help. Even normally sure-handed Heath Miller dropped a pass right in his chest. Hines Ward showed why he is the heart and soul of this team by playing with a partially torn hamstring on only three days rest. You could tell he was in a lot of pain by the way he’d limp back to the huddle. Unfortunately, Ward’s heroics failed to motivate anybody else on offense as the Steelers did basically nothing until the final minute of the half when a 24 yard pass to Santonio Holmes added to a cheap roughing the QB call that tacked on 15 more resulted in a FG.
Meanwhile, Cleveland’s offense wasn’t doing much better. Watching Brady Quinn play QB is like watching the Special Olympics. You appreciate that he’s trying as hard as he can and you kinda admire his scrappy determination but the actual display is frequently difficult to watch. Guys were open all over the field and he couldn’t get the ball to any of them. His lone nice pass was a 37 yarder to Mohamed Massaquoi where I defy you to guess who got beat. That resulted in another FG. Other than that, the Browns were just fortunate enough to have a one man wrecking crew by the name of Joshua Cribbs.
Cribbs began his assault by returning a punt 55 yards down to the Pittsburgh 8. Yep, special teams failed us again. I’ll give you a moment to get over the shock. The defense held and they only got a FG out of it. Late in the half, running out of the WildCat, Cribbs took the snap and then blew by half the defense for a 37 yard gain. Both Tyrone Carter and James Farrior had their hands on him and he broke free until Mister Woodley finally rode him down.
Farrior had a brutal game. Probably his worst ever in a Steeler uniform. I don’t know what happened from last year to this one but he looks completely washed up. The Browns ran directly at him and Travis Kirschke all night. For example, after the big Cribbs gain, they handed the ball to somebody named Chris Jennings. After breaking another Farrior tackle for 9 yards, on the next play he blew right by him before running over Will.i.am Gay for a 10 yard TD. It was the first rushing TD for the Browns this year.
I repeat, THE FIRST BROWNS RUSHING TD THIS SEASON.
Slapped In The Face By Irony #1: The one play that might have injected some life into this lifeless team was when Cleveland fumbled a punt which was recovered by the Steelers in enemy territory. That play was nullified by a holding call on the Steelers. The man who was held? Arnold Harrison.
You know, the guy Mike Tomlin cut as the scapegoat for his shitty coaching.
As we rolled into halftime with the Browns up 13-3, the Steelers had a grand total of 75 yards of total offense. If you read my Know Thy Enemy preview, you’d recall the Browns were on pace to allow more yards than any other team THIS DECADE. And yet all we could muster was 75 yards of total offense. Unbelievable.
In the third quarter, things got so dire that Holmes actually came out to run back punts. He didn’t accomplish anything but I appreciate the effort. The Browns spent most of the third quarter playing STILLER FOOTBALL, ie running out the clock and controlling time of possession. We spent the quarter playing Flying Circus. It finally began to work when we went hurry up and Ben connected with Miller for 22 yards and then a dump off to Mendy netted 17 more. But a sack and an incomplete deep ball left us with only another Skippy FG for our efforts.
In the fourth quarter, Cleveland continued to mix WildCat snaps to Cribbs with runs to this Jennings person. When the Steelers had the ball, it was pretty much All Shotgun-All The Time as they desperately tried to score a tying TD. Actually, that’s not accurate. “Desperate” infers desire and passion. The team looked like they were going through the motions. Balls were either overthrown or dropped. Dumb penalties would cost them yards. And more sacks were surrendered, bringing the grand total to 8 for the night.
Slapped In The Face By Irony #2: The Browns ran the clock down to 3 seconds left in the game. They had to run a fourth down play and chose to punt the ball to the Steelers. Holmes was out in a last ditch attempt to run one back for the game-tying score. Sadly, the Browns special teams do not suck and he was tackled shortly after fielding the kick. The man who made the tackle? Arnold Harrison.
And that’s a fitting end for our season. The man Tomlin cut because he is seemingly incapable of actual coaching ends up putting the kibosh on all our hopes and dreams. Meanwhile, our #1 rated rush defense gave up 171 yards to the WORST OFFENSE IN THE NFL. Our Flying Circus offense couldn’t score one touchdown against the WORST DEFENSE IN THE NFL. And fourteen weeks later, we still can’t play special teams.
This game was an absolutely pathetic display by the Steelers. Never do I remember seeing a Steeler team basically give up on a game or a season. Look, I can handle losing. Sometimes your team isn’t that good or sometimes your opponent is just better. But even with some key injuries, this is still the defending Super Bowl champions. Bill Cowher‘s final team in 2006, the year he “phoned it in,” played hard right up until that final game when they put the kibosh on the playoff hopes of the Cincinnati Bengals. I don’t see that in this year’s club. This is a bunch of losers with a loser mentality. I honestly don’t think we’re going to win another game.
It’s a sad day to be a member of Steeler Nation.