The final score was 20-14. That’s not surprising. AFC North games are usually hard-fought contests. But what was surprising was the fact that the Cleveland Browns ended up with 20 points, while the Pittsburgh Steelers only had 14. I’ll bet nobody saw that coming.
The game started off on a positive note. In the first minute, Lawrence Timmons intercepted a Cleveland pass and ran it back for a touchdown. The Steelers quickly led 7-0. But things quickly went south from there.
The Steelers went on to turn the ball over not once. Not twice. Not three times. Not 4 times. Not 5 times. Not 6 times. Not 7 times. No, the Steelers turned the ball over an amazing 8 times.
Charlie Batch threw 3 interceptions. And if that weren’t enough to put the nail in the Steelers coffin, fumbles sealed the deal. Rashard Mendenhall fumbled the ball. So did Isaac Redman. So did Jonathan Dwyer. And Chris Rainey. And Emmanuel Sanders. Everyone seemed to want to get in on the fun.
Regardless of how bad your opponent may be, it’s hard for any NFL team to overcome 8 turnovers. It almost looked like the Steelers were trying to shoot themselves in the leg (excuse the pun, but welcome back Plax).
The Steelers started off the game with a very conservative game plan. They handed the ball to the running backs early and often. And the running backs fumbled the ball early and often in return. When the Steelers finally let Charlie Batch start passing the ball, it seemed as though they did it out of frustration over the recurrent fumbles, and not because they really trusted Charlie.
And Batch didn’t give them any reason to trust him. When he wasn’t throwing interceptions, he was missing targets, sometimes badly. For example, he proved that he just doesn’t have the arm strength to run the fly pattern with Mike Wallace.
Batch ended the game with a QB rating of only 38.7. That’s a JaMarcus Russell level QB rating, and that’s not a good thing. Batch completed 20 of 34 passes with 3 interceptions and no touchdowns.
Some Steelers fans were calling for Charlie Batch to get the start last week instead of Byron Leftwich. But I doubt that those same people are nearly as enthusiastic now that Batch has actually started a game.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Charlie Batch. But Batch will be 38 years old in a week and a half. He’s easily the oldest player on the team. And with a 32 year old Byron Leftwich as the backup, I wish they had a 20-something third string quarterback on the roster instead of one who is almost 40 years old.
Despite the team’s offensive woes, the defense actually played a pretty good game. They sacked Browns’ quarterback Brandon Weeden 4 times, intercepted him once, and rushed him many more times. They also held him to only 158 total passing yards. They also held the Browns to only 108 total rushing yards. Ordinarily that would have been a fine defensive performance. But it wasn’t enough to overcome 8 turnovers.
The Steelers now find themselves with a 6-5 record. That’s the same record as the Cincinnati Bengals. However, if the playoffs were to start today, the Steelers would earn the final AFC playoff spot (the 6th seed) due to a better record against conference foes.
The Steelers must travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens next week. It goes without saying that a win in that game is crucial. So Baltimore, here we come.