Fresh off their disappointing 35-30 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the 4-5 Pittsburgh Steelers had lost their 4th straight game and were at a crossroads. Would they now face the ultimate horror of losing to their next opponent, the 0-10 Cleveland Browns, our would that loss give them some much-needed perspective to beat the Browns and end their losing streak.
Fortunately, the latter happened for the Steelers as they traveled to Cleveland and beat the Browns 24-9 for that much-needed win to even their record at 5-5 and end their 4-game losing streak. The Steelers victory combined with a Baltimore Ravens loss to the Cowboys also put the Steelers back into a first-place tie with those Ravens in the AFC North.
The fact that the Steelers won was a good thing, but how they won, made it more special. The defense, who has struggled all season (especially in their losses) was the fuel to this team’s victory. Playing like the Steel Curtain and Blitzburg defenses, this Steelers D sacked the Browns QB 8 times, intercepted them once, returned one for a touchdown and even knocked starting QB Cody Kessler out of the game. It honestly made you wonder if Mean Joe Greene or Joey Porter was playing in this game.
One player who played on those great defenses was on the field in this game. 38-year old LB James Harrison got 1 of those eight sacks and is now the Steelers all-time leader in that category. He now has more sacks than LC Greenwood, Jason Gildon, and Joey Porter. Impressive.
But the true defensive star of the game was DE Stephon Truitt, who had 2.5 of those eight sacks. LB Lawrence Timmons was all over the field as he had eight tackles and a sack and fellow LB Ryan Shazier was also stellar as he had seven tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, which lead to the team’s defensive TD by rookie DT Justin Hargrave, who also had a sack. Rookie CB Artie Burns, the team’s 1st round pick had the interception, his second of the season.
The Steelers may not have done much on offense, but it was just enough for the victory. With the cold winds blowing around First Energy Stadium they focused on the running game and produced excellent results. RB Le’Veon Bell had his best output of the season as his work down the Brown’s defense with 146 yards and a TD, but the most telling stat was the fact that the Steelers were able to control the clock against the Browns with a 33:58 Time of Possession. It took the Browns out of the game.
After the Kessler’s pass had been intercepted by Burns, the Steelers offense went to work. QB Ben Roethlisberger leads a 9-minute drive that ended with a 32-yard Chris Boswell FG, giving them a 3-0 lead. After the Browns were forced to punt, Big Ben then led the Steelers on another 9-minute drive that ended with a 33-yard FG and a 6-0 Steelers lead.
As the first half was about to end, the Steelers were on the march again as they drove 59 yards on 11 plays and after two straight defensive penalties by the Browns, the Steelers scored their first TD of the game as Bell ran it in from the 1-yard line. Then what did the Steelers do? You guessed it: A 2-point conversion attempt and it was successful when Big Ben found TE David Johnson, giving the Steelers a 14-0 lead at the halftime.
In the 3rd quarter, the Browns were able to get n the board when K Cody Parkey’s 24-yard FG closed the Steelers gap to 14-3. After another long drive by the Steelers that ended with Boswell’s 3rd FG of the game, the Steelers knocked out Kessler. And when backup QB Josh McCown came into the game, he got the Browns into the end zone for the first time in the game, but a missed extra-point only closed the Steelers lead to 17-9.
The Steelers offense was unable to convert on two straight drives, but when the Browns have pushed back to their goal line thanks to a penalty, the Steelers defense terrorized McCown once more as he was chased into their end zone. Shazier sacked the Browns QB and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Hargrave in the end zone, extending the Steelers lead to 24-9, which was the final score.
In addition to his 146 rushing yards, Bell also had eight catches for 55 yards. WR Antonio Brown was the receiving leader with eight catches for 76 yards, as he went over 1,000 yards for the 5th time in his career. Big Ben passed for 146 yards. For the Browns, Kessler passed for 128 yards, and the INT, McCown for 118 and the TD and Pittsburgh product Terelle Pryor led all receivers with 97 yards on five receptions.
Ray’s Take: What cures a losing streak? A win of course, and that’s all the Steelers needed to do. I don’t care if it was against the 0-10 Browns or the Clairton Bears, a win is a win. I like how the Steelers went back to basics with the running game and time of possession. There was no way the Browns were able to come back from that game. Remember, they had the Ravens on the ropes before finally losing, so it certainly wasn’t a result of taking the Browns for granted. Congrats to Harrison who now has more sacks than any player in Steelers history, even more than the Hall of Famers. Does that make Harrison a Hall of Famer? Good question.
The Steelers will play again three days later on Thanksgiving Day as they travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts.
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