December 28, 2008
By Donald Starver
I wrote a piece on Christmas day called Steelers vs. Browns Recap (In Advance). In that piece, I stated that the outcome of the Steelers-Browns game was so inevitable that I could write the post-game recap before the game was even played. Well, now that the game is over, I see that I wasn’t very far off.
I predicted that the Steelers would beat the Browns 31-6. The actual score was 31-0. I also said that the Steelers would keep the Browns from scoring a touchdown for their sixth consecutive game. They did. Lastly, I said that Romeo Crennel would be fired after the game. I believe that will happen within the next 48 hours.
Now, back to the game.
The Steelers won by a score of 31-0, but the score should have been 45-0. The Steelers had a touchdown brought back when a flag was thrown on Limas Sweed for holding on a Steelers’ touchdown. Another touchdown was called back when the referees incorrectly said that a Browns’ fumble that Anthony Smith returned for a touchdown was an incomplete pass. Steelers’ head coach should have challenged the ruling on the field, but for some reason he didn’t do so. Had he challenged the play, it would have proven to be a Steelers touchdown. Fortunately, we didn’t need those 14 points.
Despite the two lost touchdowns, nobody can complain about a 31-0 victory. There were a couple of positive things about the game that should be mentioned.
First, wide receiver Hines Ward surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth time in his career. He also caught his 800th career pass during the game. Both are Steelers records. Not a bad day’s work.
Also on the offensive side of the ball, running back Willie Parker ran for over 100 yards for the first time in…..way too long. The Steelers need the running game operating on all cylinders if they’re going to be effective in the playoffs. The 176 rushing yards that the Steelers accumulated Sunday against the Browns should make them feel good going into the playoffs. Of course, the Bengals’ Cedrick Benson rushed for 171 yards last week against the Browns, so maybe we shouldn’t take too much comfort from this.
The Steelers’ defense held the Browns to 126 yards of offense. That’s right, 126 yards. Total. Now that’s some mighty fine defense. Bruce Gradkowski passed for 18 yards on 16 attempts. If that’s not some kind of defensive record, then I’d sure like to see what defense allowed even fewer passing yards.
Steelers’ safety Tyrone Carter, who was starting in place of Ryan Clark due to injury, recorded 2 interceptions during the game. He ran one of those interceptions back for a touchdown.
On the negative side, Ben Roethlisberger did have to leave the game due to a concussion. Roethlisberger was hit hard by D’Qwell Jackson and Willie McGinest. Roethlisberger stayed on the ground for a long period of time, and was finally carried off the field on a stretcher. As he was leaving the field, Roethlisberger gave the thumbs up sign to the crowd to let the fans know that he was okay.
Mike Tomlin had planned to play Roethlisberger in the first half, and then play Byron Leftwich in the second half. The plan almost worked, but Roethlisberger got hurt with only 1:58 left in the half.
Some will say that Roethlisberger shouldn’t have even played during a meaningless game, but that isn’t necessarily true. There is no definitive answer to whether a coach should rest veterans late in the season. The Colts rested their key players 3 years ago and then lost their very first playoff game because the players were rusty. It’s a catch-22 for coaches. If they don’t rest their players and they get hurt, then the coach will be questioned for playing them. If the coach rest them and they lose in the playoffs, the coach will be questioned for allowing them to get rusty rather than keeping them in playing condition. The coach just can’t win.
Every indication is that Big Ben should be fine for the Steelers’ first playoff game. With the bye week, he will have two weeks to recover from the concussion that he incurred. If Ben can’t go, the Steelers can take comfort knowing that they have a veteran QB like Byron Leftwich waiting in the wings. Leftwich is a playoff veteran, and is more than capable of leading the Steelers’ offense.
Let the playoffs begin!
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