Big Lead Sports Bar


10 Thoughts on Steelers-Browns

Time to play catch-up from a mini-hiatus! Some thoughts on the Steelers' regular season finale in Cleveland:

1. I'd say Sunday was the best-case scenario for the Steelers: they finish VERY strong, they build an enormous lead to the point where they can rest their starters, they destroy a division foe, and they stay healthy in the process. There was no repeat of Big Ben going out on a stretcher like the Cleveland finale a few years ago. Mike Tomlin was smart enough to avoid the cheap-shot opportunities for Cleveland.

I would think this was the perfect way to enter the postseason, getting two weeks to rest and recuperate before their game on Saturday, January 15, at 4:30 p.m., versus Kansas City, Indianapolis, or Baltimore. That time off should be welcome news for Troy Polamalu, Maurkice Pouncey, Aaron Smith, and any other Steelers nursing bumps and bruises, which is probably all 53 players on the roster. Any team will benefit from that much time off at this point in the season, but it should prove extremely beneficial given the importance of the banged-up players on the Steeler roster.

2. Sunday was a game the Steelers wanted to win given the opportunity to control their own destiny, and the big names showed up. Troy Polamalu made an impact right away with his interception of Colt McCoy, Mike Wallace toasted the Cleveland secondary like an overdone English Muffin not once but twice, Rashard Mendenhall found the end zone two times, and Roethlisberger looked for the second week in a row like a man among boys, with 280 yards passing, a 141 passer rating, and 2 TDs. Again, having your top players healthy and performing at their peak is the best way to enter the playoffs, and that would be how I would describe the Steelers at the conclusion of the regular season.

3. As bad as Cleveland played in all aspects of the game was as good as the Steelers played on offense, defense, and special teams on Sunday. Given the amount of points that the Browns would score on the day (nine), the game was basically decided in the first quarter, when the Steelers racked up 14 against a Browns team that clearly snail-mailed this one in for probable ex-coach Eric Mangini.

But credit for that also has to be given to the Steeler D, which closed the 2010 regular season strong in limiting the Browns to 225 yards of offense and a mere nine points on the afternoon, while creating three turnovers. Aside from the obvious Polamalu football excellence we've come to expect, Ziggy Hood and Lawrence Timmons were standouts on that side of the ball, which also got interceptions from Ryan Clark and Anthony Madison and four sacks from the unit.

Special teams was not spectacular, but very solid on Sunday; Shaun Suisham converted both of his three-pointers, Jeremy Kapinos had two great punts, and the kick return defense unit allowed a long of only 17 yards on eight Cleveland attempts during the game. Not bad at all, if I do say so.

4. Now that the regular season is over, let's look at some numbers:

-Ben Roethlisberger finished with 3,280 yards passing in just 12 games, good for 273 YPG. That's the second-highest number in his career behind only his 288 YPG in 2009, which tells me he didn't miss Santonio Holmes as much as some people would have you believe.

-The defense finished with 1,004 yards rushing allowed, an average of just under 63 yards per game - good for fourth-best in NFL history 

-Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace connected eight times on touchdown passes of 40 or more yards, a Steeler record.

-Troy Polamalu's interception on Sunday was the seventh of his season, tying his career-high.

-Rashard Mendenhall finished with 1,273 yards rushing, a career-high and the best individual total for a Steeler since Willie Parker's 1,316 yards in 2007.

-Mike Wallace finished with 60 catches, 1,257 yards receiving, and 10 touchdowns. For comparison's sake, Santonio Holmes had 52 catches, 746 yards, and 6 TDs while sitting out four games due to suspension. And yes, that does ultimately factor into the productivity of a player.
-Hines Ward's 2010 totals: 59 catches, 755 yards, 4 TDs. It was easily his least productive season since back in 2000 (48-672-4).

5. With 2010 in the books, the team's 2011 opponents are now set (given that there is a 2011 season and that it's 16 games - two things that are up in the air at this point):

Home games: Cleveland, Baltimore, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Arizona, New England, Tennessee, Jacksonville.

Road games: Cleveland, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City, Houston, Indianapolis.

It's pointless to go through that list and predict the Steelers' wins in 2011, given the changes they (and their opponents) will have between now and then. But at least going off of 2010 success, I see only six games against playoff qualifiers on the slate, with two of them against Baltimore and one of them against 7-9 Seattle.

6. Around the AFCN, the Ravens improved to 12-4 (7-1 at home) with a 13-7 win over Cincinnati, which nearly had as many reality show stars (three) as wins (four) this season. And people want Marvin Lewis to coach Pitt? Why, precisely, other than the fact that his tenure could never be worse than George O'Leary's Mike Price's Mike Haywood's?

7. Looking down the road, here are the 2010-11 NFL playoff matchups. There's no Steeler game next week, but you might want to leave your plans open for February 6. 

SAT., JAN. 8

No. 6 New York Jets (11-5) at No. 3 Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
Lucas Oil Stadium, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
SUN., JAN. 9

No. 5 Baltimore Ravens (12-4) at No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Arrowhead Stadium, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

AFC divisional round

SAT., JAN. 15

Highest remaining seed at No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Heinz Field, 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
SUN., JAN. 16

Lowest remaining seed at No. 1 New England Patriots (14-2)
Gillette Stadium, 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS

AFC Championship Game

Divisional round winners at highest remaining seed
Site TBD, 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS

NFC wild-card round

SAT., JAN. 8

No. 5 New Orleans Saints (11-5) at No. 4 Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Qwest Field, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC
SUN., JAN. 9

No. 6 Green Bay Packers (10-6) at No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Lincoln Financial Field, 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX

NFC divisional round

SAT., JAN. 15

Lowest remaining seed at No. 1 Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Georgia Dome, 8 p.m. ET, FOX
SUN., JAN. 16

Highest remaining seed at No. 2 Chicago Bears (11-5)
Soldier Field, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

NFC Championship Game


Divisional round winners at highest remaining seed
Site TBD, 3 p.m. ET, FOX

Super Bowl XLV


AFC champion vs. NFC champion
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, 6:30 p.m. ET, FOX

8. As noted earlier, the Steelers will be getting either Indianapolis, Baltimore, or Kansas City at home in their first playoff game. Pittsburgh split with Baltimore and did not face Indy or KC in the 2010 regular season. The only way the Steelers would face "feared" (by some fans) New England would be if they win and the Patriots win their first playoff game, which will be against the lowest-remaining seed.

The Steelers were 2-4 against 2010 playoff teams this season, beating Baltimore and Atlanta while losing to Baltimore, New England, New Orleans, and the New York Jets. I'd be lying if I said that didn't bother me going into the postseason.

9. Mike Tomlin's team finished the season 12-4 and AFC North division champions, and I believe he's a very strong candidate for Coach of the Year honors. The season could've gone south quickly without Ben Roethlisberger and two games against playoff teams in that first month, but for the Steelers to not only survive but thrive during that time, that's got to be a credit to Tomlin. 

Troy Polamalu could quite possibly get the Defensive MVP award, and Maurkice Pouncey will undoubtedly get honors on some level for his 2010 rookie season, which already includes the first of many Pro Bowl honors. All in all, I think Steeler Nation should be extremely satisfied with the 2010 regular season and should also be very enthused for the playoffs.

10. Finally, it's Sad Trombone time!

As you know, the Sad Trombone  goes to someone who deserves no sympathy and in turn gets mocked by internet tough guys such as myself.

It's been a fun year of Sad Trombones, but this one's got to go to Cleveland turnaround expert Mike Holmgren

The man who potentially sees himself as the coaching solution to what ails the Browns in 2011 assembled a roster built around Jake Delhomme at quarterback, which is immediately a recipe for disaster. After showing some signs of life, the Browns eventually returned to form and lost their final four games, closing with a 32-point home loss to the Steelers. Nice work in building a five-win team there, Holmgren! I'm sure you're what stands between the Cleveland Browns and NFL domination in the future. That's worthy of a Sad Trombone strictly on the belief that he can do the impossible - make Cleveland relevant in football (or any other sport, for that matter) this year.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc):


PaulDJesse said...

Just out of curiosity, but did anyone else have a problem with calling that Randle El pass to Ward?

Why call trick plays in a meaningless blowout win when they might be needed in the playoffs (not that we've ever needed trick plays in the playoffs before).

I just don't get showing your cards unnecessarily.

Unknown said...

That was clearly about giving other teams something to think about and waste time preparing for.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

@ SanDiegoPJ - you beat me to it! That's easily my biggest gripe of the game. That play call was so unbelievably out of place. There is NO REASON whatsoever for that.

@ Dan - Did other teams not know Randle El could pass before yesterday?

As for the Steelers 'getting hot at the right time'... Let's not forget 3 of their last 4 opponents will be picking in the top 6 next april and they lost to that 4th team (a playoff team). Don't get me wrong, i'm not worried. The bye will help them out tremendously, and i think they can go far. But let's get our head out of the clouds and back into reality.

On another note:
No winter classic coverage?
No (hardly a mention anyway) pitt head coach firing story? Whoever Pitt hires now will know, that he is their second choice AT BEST. Pretty tough way to start a new job.

Nate said...

"The Steelers were 2-4 against 2010 playoff teams this season, beating Baltimore and Atlanta while losing to Baltimore, New England, New Orleans, and the New York Jets. I'd be lying if I said that didn't bother me going into the postseason."

It bother me, too, but look at the numbers for other teams. Only the Patriots and Falcons have winning records against playoff opponents.

give me the brandy said...

The first Ravens game was played without Ben, and the Jets game was without Heath and Polamalu and came down to the last play. Also, in 2008 the Steelers only had a 3-4 record against playoff teams. I'm not too worried about the 2-4 record vs playoff teams. What matters more is that we're playing well and getting healthier.

Anonymous said...

I'm not too concerned about any of the losses except the one to New England. As previously mentioned the Baltimore loss was with out Ben and happened on a final drive where Flacco was very un-Flacco like and if I remember correctly they were aided by two penalties on that last drive. The New Orleans loss was probably lost on the fumble by Heath, very unlucky and not very likely to happen again. And also as mentioned the New York loss was without two of out top defenders and we still had a chance to win it at the end if Spathe could have caught the ball in the end zone. So on the optimistic side we could have been 15-1 if three plays had gone our way...

Anonymous said...

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