Pittsburgh Steelers Week 12 Report Card
Pittsburgh Steelers Week 12 Report Card
This past Sunday marked probably the ugliest loss the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered all season long. Even though the Steelers were in position to beat the Cleveland Browns, a great amount of turnovers from the offense kept Pittsburgh from adding another game to the win column. The 20-14 loss now puts the Steelers three games out of the lead for the AFC North title.
Pittsburgh was down to their third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, and unfortunately, his play wasn’t enough to get the Steelers back on the winning track. Batch’s three interceptions, along with five lost fumbles from the rest of the team, resulted in Pittsburgh’s second divisional loss of the year.
The defense did everything that they could, including returning an interception for a touchdown early in the first quarter, but the inconsistencies on offense proved to be too much to handle. The constant giveaways by the offense are what kept the Steelers’ defense on the field for extended periods of time, which probably led to fatigue.
The Steelers’ devastating defeat now puts them in a position where their backs are against the wall. One more loss will not only potentially put them out of the running for the division title, but it will also knock them out of the final playoff spot in the AFC, which they currently hold.
Just like last week, Pittsburgh’s grades on defense are much better than they are on the offensive side of the ball. The Steelers’ offense needs to step up to the learning curve quickly, because if they don’t the season will be over sooner than they will like.
Fifteen-year veteran quarterback Charlie Batch looks as if he’s overstayed his welcome in the league. No one thought that he would pass as much as he did. Batch completed 20 of his 34 pass attempts for 199 yards and three interceptions. Some would say that his throws lacked arm strength. His best throw was possibly the pass in the end zone in the second quarter that was incomplete, but drew a pass interference call. However, Batch did manage to lead the offense down the field during the drive that had the pass interference call that led to a Pittsburgh touchdown that gave them a 14-13 lead going into halftime.
This was hands down the worse performance I have ever seen by a group of running backs. All four of Pittsburgh’s backs lost a fumble during the game, two of which resulted in field goals for the Browns. On top of that, all four running backs combined for 20 carries and gained only 49 yards, which comes out to an average of 2.5 yards per carry. The team’s leading rusher had 19 of those yards and had the longest run of the day, which was eight yards. The only bright spot was the one-yard touchdown run by rookie Chris Rainey in the final seconds of the first half. If it was possible to give a lower grade, I would.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Seven different players caught passes during this game. Unfortunately, four of the players were from the backfield. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had five receptions for a game-high 75 yards. Tight end Heath Miller did what he could with the 63 receiving yards he got from his six catches. Pittsburgh’s big-play receiver, Mike Wallace, had just one catch for nine yards (which came on the last play of the game). All Plaxico Burress did was attract a pass interference call in the end zone. Burress had no catches, and seemed to be out of football shape. This was clearly aware on a lazy route he ran that resulted in an interception.
Although the offensive line wasn’t responsible for the four fumbles by the Steelers’ running backs, they should be held accountable for the minuscule 49 rushing yards Pittsburgh had throughout the game. I will say that injuries to some of the linemen prior and during the game didn’t help matters at all. The injures put the Steelers in a position where they had to place a rookie guard at right tackle. This moved proved to be costly because the rookie was flagged for a holding penalty that negated a 33-yard gain by tight end Heath Miller. Despite all of that, they only surrendered one sack.
The Steelers’ defensive front did allow the Browns to rush for over 100 yards as a team, but Cleveland only averaged 3.2 yards per carry for the game. Pittsburgh stopped the Browns’ running game numerous times at and behind the line of scrimmage. Defensive end Brett Keisel continued to be the cornerstone of the defensive line by tipping a pass that resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown in the first quarter. Keisel also had one of Pittsburgh’s four sacks of the game. The fact that the offense turned the ball over eight times probably took its toll on the defensive front. Can’t blame them for that.
The Steelers’ linebackers are slowly but surely getting better in their pass rushing. Pittsburgh’s linebacking corps has recorded eight sacks in the last five games, with three of those versus the Browns. The Steelers’ play of the game came from linebacker Lawrence Timmons. His 53-yard interception return for a touchdown gave Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, and added to his team-leading three picks on the year. It also gave the Steelers their first defensive score of the season. Along with the defensive line, the linebackers also were a big contributor in stuffing the Browns’ ground attack.
Once again, the Steelers’ defensive backfield held another quarterback under 200 yards passing for the entire game, further proving that they have the best pass defense in the league even without generating many turnovers this season. This week’s performance made their passing yards per game average look even better going into next week (165.7). Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks didn’t give up many big plays to Cleveland’s wide receivers, only surrendering one pass play that was more than 20 yards. The Steelers’ safeties came up big in helping their front seven stop the Browns’ running game and contributed with a combined 12 tackles.
Due to the offense’s inability to get into field goal range, Pittsburgh didn’t have a chance to attempt to put three points on the board. The Steelers managed to put only one of its six punts inside the 20-yard line, but did have a long of 55 yards. The punt return game has been in the toilet ever since the Steelers’ primary punt returner injured his ankle in Week 9. Emmanuel Sanders only averaged one yard out of three punt returns, and had a muffed punt. The same can be said for the kickoff game. Rookie Chris Rainey averaged a mere 18 yards on four returns.
In the second half, time management was an issue, and it ended up biting the Steelers in the rear end in the latter part of the game. Due to using all of their timeouts before the two-minute warning in the second half, Pittsburgh was unable to challenge a Browns fumble that could have potentially given them the ball back with a chance to win the game. However, the coaching staff did make a bold call late in the first half by going for the touchdown on the one-yard line with the time running out. I really can’t blame them for abandoning the running game with all of those fumbles.
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