Merry Christmas Steelers fans. It’s Christmas day, and I’m traveling due to the holidays. I don’t know how much access I am going to have to a computer while I’m on vacation. Therefore, I decided to write my recap of this coming Sunday’s Steelers-Browns game now. Some of you may be asking yourselves “how can he write a recap of the game before the game even happens?” Well the answer to that question is pretty simple. The Steelers have beaten the Browns 10 straight times. The Browns haven’t scored a touchdown in five straight games. So do you really think my recap will be that different if I write it before the game or after the game? Neither do I. Therefore, without further ado I present my Steelers-Browns recap. Have a very happy holiday.
On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers played the final regular season game of the 2008 season against their long-time rivals the Cleveland Browns. The Browns came into the game nursing a bruised ego due to ten consecutive losses to the Steelers.
Both teams were seeking to rebound from losses the previous week. The Steelers lost to the Tennessee Titans 31-14. Meanwhile, the Browns were shut out by the lowly Cincinnati Bengals 14-0.
In what should have been a meaningless game for both teams, the Steelers entered the game determined to win and finish a sweep of their AFC North opponents. When asked about resting veterans, Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear that his goal was to win the game, not to rest players for the playoffs.
The Browns were forced to start Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback. Gradkowski had only joined the Browns 3 weeks earlier. Both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson had been placed on injured reserve (IR) by the Browns, then third string quarterback Ken Dorsey suffered a concussion and bruised ribs last week. Thus, the Browns were forced to start Gradkowski at quarterback.
Gradkowski faced pressure from the very beginning. Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau chose to start linebacker James Harrison despite a hip injury that Harrison had suffered last week against the Titans, and Harrison proved that to be a smart decision. In the first quarter, Harrison beat Browns tackle Joe Thomas and recorded his 17th sack of the season. Fellow linebacker LaMarr Woodley also got into the action and sacked Gradkowski in the first quarter.
To make matters even more difficult for Gradkowski, Browns’ starting wide receiver Braylon Edwards dropped several passes that probably should have been caught. Edwards has been a model of consistency this season. Prior to Sunday’s game against the Steelers, Edwards had recorded a reception in 57 consecutive games. Unfortunately, Edwards had also dropped at least one catchable pass in 75 consecutive games.
Edwards has not been a fan favorite in Cleveland, and earlier in the year, he claimed that Browns fans didn’t like him because he played for Michigan. He failed to consider the possibility that fans might not like him because he drops too many passes.
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor shadowed Braylon Edwards through most of the game. He harassed him all game long, and caused Edwards to end the game without a single reception, thus ending his 57 game streak.
Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. whined through much of the game, and he was actually seen crying several times during the game after hits by Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu.
Browns head coach Romeo Crennel made several puzzling calls during the game, including attempting a 73 yard field goal, three failed on-side kicks, punting the ball from the Steelers’ 13 yard line rather than attempting a field goal, and calling a quarterback sneak on a 4th and 11 play. Crennel was fired immediately following the game.
On offense, the Steelers were able to run the ball at will. This didn’t come as much of a surprise, since Bengals running back Cedrick Benson had torched the Browns for 171 yards rushing the previous week. Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore combined for over 200 yards rushing.
Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had fumbled 4 times and thrown 2 interceptions against the Tennessee Titans, was much more careful with the ball this week. Roethlisberger completed 11 of 13 passes in the first half and threw 1 touchdown pass before being replaced by backup Byron Leftwich in the second half. Despite his earlier claim that he had no intention of resting players, Coach Mike Tomlin decided to sit Roethlisberger for the entire second half in an apparent effort to avoid injuring his quarterback during a meaningless game.
Replacing Roethlisberger, Leftwich threw 2 touchdown passes in the second half. Running back Mewelde Moore also ran for a touchdown.
The Steelers’ defense kept the Browns from scoring a touchdown for a sixth straight game, as the Steelers beat the Browns 31-6. The Browns were able to score two field goals, but were kept out of the endzone by the stingy Steelers defense.
The Steelers will now get to rest during their first round playoff bye. They will await the results of the first round playoff games to see who they will play in round two. Regardless of who their opponent will be, the Steelers take comfort in knowing that they will have to come to Heinz Field where the Steelers are very hard to beat.
Also, please see our Top 10 Reasons the Browns Will Lose To The Steelers found here.
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