The Steelers just lost to a weakened Browns team by two possessions. Is there currently any light at the end of Pittsburgh’s tunnel?
Following their unpleasant 17-14 loss to the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers were left having to establish a way to capitalize on the weaknesses of their future foes, and visiting Cleveland to take on the Browns should have been a beautiful start to doing so.
Yet Pittsburgh still found a way to lose.
Nothing about the game swayed in favor of the Steelers, a squad that once again had its offensive and defensive limitations exposed to a statistical degree. In fact, the only edge that it ever appeared to have was when it held a 14-13 lead at the half, but even that doesn’t matter when you go on to lose by 12.
Offensively, Pittsburgh was horrendously average, with quarterback Mitch Trubisky throwing for just over 200 yards and not a single touchdown. He also attempted his fair share of terrible passes over the course of the affair. There are some positives to take away, though.
To list a couple, he didn’t throw any interceptions this time around, and slinging the rock for 207 yards is much better than last week’s 168, but it was still not enough to get out of the shadow that Jacoby Brissett’s performance cast (more on that later).
As for the rushing game, both of Pittsburgh’s touchdowns were on the ground, with one from Trubisky and the other from running back Najee Harris. However, neither of the plays were too dazzling, having both been taken in from 5 yards out or less (with Trubisky’s being only a 1-yard score).
That brings us to the defense, which was also far from pretty, as it gave up more points in this game than it had in each of the two prior ones.
When looking at Cleveland’s offensive playmakers, several managed to stand out under the Thursday night lights (as Still Curtain’s own Shayne Kubas had expected they could). Said playmakers include aforementioned quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running back Nick Chubb, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and tight end David Njoku.
Just how good was Cleveland’s offense against the Steelers?
Brissett threw 21/31, for 220 yards and a pair of scores. Especially when considering that he was originally supposed to be Deshaun Watson’s bench warmer, that is not bad at all.
Looking at the other guys, they all took turns in exploiting the Steelers defense the way that fans were worried they could when entering the season.
Chubb had a strong game (surprise, surprise), hitting the end zone once while averaging just under 5 yards per carry, but that probably stings a little harder when realizing that he did so with the ball hitting his hands a whopping 23 times. As for Cooper and Njoku, they were clearly the dynamic duo on the receiving end, combining for 16 receptions, 190 yards, and both of Brissett’s touchdowns.
Those stats don’t even show the concrete blocking that they had as they made a lot of their plays happen, but that is something that almost doesn’t need to be mentioned when remembering that Steelers defenders are not new to getting bullied in the physicality department.
So yeah, the Browns not only beat us, but they beat us bad. All that leaves is one of sports’ bleakest questions: What now?
When looking at opponents on the horizon, the worst is yet to come if the Steelers can’t turn things around—and it’s coming soon.
Next Sunday, our guys return home to welcome the New York Jets. Three weeks ago, that looked like an easy win on the calendar, but that was before we knew that the Jets could play Cleveland better than Pittsburgh could. In other words, a win isn’t even promised there now.
Regardless of how good or bad the Steelers look in that battle, there is no way that it’ll be able to prepare them for who is next in line: the Buffalo Bills.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Bills have already cemented themselves as one of the league’s mightiest teams until further notice, and Pittsburgh will have to visit them on October 9th.
No matter what changes the Steelers make between now and then, that game will probably only be as close as Buffalo is willing to keep it.
But, if this loss to Cleveland doesn’t successfully serve as a warning for what the future has in store, then Pittsburgh could be just a couple of weeks removed from not just another defeat, but one of its ugliest in recent memory.