Boondoggle. Travesty. Debacle. These words come to mind when reliving yesterday’s Steeler loss to the Browns – not because Cleveland did not deserve the win, but because Pittsburgh took every opportunity, and chose to shoot themselves in the collective foot again and again and…well, you get the point.
As any casual football fan knows, turnovers often spell the difference between winning and losing. Then, there are games like yesterday’s Steelers / Browns game that make you shake your head and wonder how it was so close. Shockingly, the Steelers never faced a deficit of more than six points. When the final whistle was blown, the Browns had upset their rivals 20-14. This lackluster performance reminded me of the 2009 Thursday night game in Cleveland, which allowed the Steelers to continue a five-game skid, and ultimately miss the playoffs.
Eight turnovers is unacceptable for peewee football, let alone in the NFL. Pittsburgh has that dubious distinction of giving the ball away EIGHT TIMES to the Browns! Give Cleveland credit – they were certainly taking their swipes at Steelers ballcarriers to dislodge the pigskin. 8 forced fumbles, 5 fumbles lost, and 3 interceptions is not a way to win a football game. Coach Mike Tomlin made that abundantly clear during his postgame press conference.
Usually, I break down a game into game-changing sequences along with winners and losers. Well…for game-changing sequences, how about all eight nauseating turnovers? Each turnover sank Pittsburgh further into an abyss from which they could not recover. Each young man that calls himself a Steeler halfback – Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, and Chris Rainey – lost a fumble. Charlie Batch threw three interceptions in relief of the top two quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich. The running game accounted for less than 50 yards, while Batch threw for under 200 yards. The defense somehow managed to hold the Browns to 20 points, despite being put in untenable positions all day long thanks to the onslaught of turnovers. There were no winners today…just a whole slew of losing football. And, here’s the cherry on top of the sundae – Pittsburgh (6-5) visits Baltimore (9-2) next week, and may still be without Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Troy Polamalu.
What looked to be a relatively easy final four games all of a sudden appears to be a challenge that could well doom the Steelers’ playoff hopes. After their toughest road test of the season in Baltimore, Pittsburgh hosts San Diego (4-7), travels to Dallas (5-6), before returning home to face Cincinnati (6-5) and Cleveland (3-8). A 9-7 record may be good enough to get into the playoffs for the lesser conference that is the AFC. However, if anyone thinks that the Steelers will beat the likes of New England, Baltimore, Houston, or Denver playing this brand of football, then they are sorely mistaken.
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.