Steelers Versus Browns Game Rewind – First Half Notes

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns 20-14  Sunday and below are my first half notes from the game with the second half notes to follow soon.

The Browns open with an explosive play to Josh Gordon on an underneath shallow crossing route. It was against the Steelers zone defense and caught them off guard a bit. It would, however, be their only explosive play of the game. Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark collide making the stop, but both wound up being alright. Clark did have to leave the game momentarily though. On the second down pass that would follow, Brandon Weeden severely under throws Travis Benjamin deep, but Will Allen has the interception bounce off of his hands after it looked like he lost the ball in the sun. It was a stroke of good luck, however, as Lawrence Timmons would return the next pass that was tipped by Brett Keisel at that the line for a touchdown.

James Harrison records the first sack of the game on the Browns first play of their next possession. Tackle Joe Thomas is forced to pick up the blitzing corner on the play while Harrison and Keisel just run a simple inside stunt. Keisel should get some credit for this as well as he takes center Alex Mack up the field to create the nice lane. Harrison also gets delayed pressure on third down and Weeden throws incomplete to end the drive.

Ahtyba Rubin strips Rashard Mendenhall of the ball on the Steelers second play of their first possession and the Browns are now in business inside Steelers territory. They rush for 27 of their 108 yards on this drive but ultimately settle for a field goal afterr a nice third down tackle by Cortez Allen. The defense did use the dime on this play.

Jonathan Dwyer gets the call on the second series and compiles 18 all purpose yards before giving way to Isaac Redman on an ensuing 3rd down. How committed are the Steelers to running in this game? Redman gets the carry on 3rd and 4 on a counter to the left. He is short of the first down though and the Steelers punt.

Jason Worilds is now in the game for the injured LaMarr Woodley and punishes Browns tight end Alex Smith on an attempted reception off of a roll out. Smith bobbled the catch and Worilds made sure it ended there. The Browns drive ends on the next play and they punt.

Charlie Batch misses a wide open Heath Miller down the seam on first down against a cover-2 look. On second down the screen pass is batted down on a safety blitz. Emmanuel Sanders false starts on third down and the offense is faced with a 3rd down and extra long. The drive of course stalls.

The Browns go three and out on their next possession that includes Keenan Lewis staying at home on an end around run to make a nice open field tackle on Benjamin.

A holding call on the Steelers next possession ultimately results in the offense facing another 3rd down and long. They run Isaac Redman up the middle to get punting room but he fumbles and the Browns recover at the Steelers 10 yard line.

On 3rd and goal Weeden hits his tight end off of a poor rub route as nether Allen nor Larry Foote can get over top or underneath quick enough. The Browns now have 10 points off of turnovers.

Batch hits Sanders on an underneath crossing route on 3rd and 8 on the Steelers next drive to get them out of their own end. Batch then misses Miller again out in the right flat on 2nd down and overshoots Wallace on third down. It appears that Wallace and Batch were not on the same page as to where the route would stem on the play. The Steelers punt.

The Browns convert a few first downs following the punt and tight end Ben Watson makes a hell of a catch at the Steelers 20 yard-line with Timmons in trail on the play. On the ensuing third down the Browns are flagged for holding but Mike Tomlin curiously decides to decline it. I really do not understand this decision as the Browns would have been backed up even more and the defense would have had another chance to perhaps make a splash play of some sorts and perhaps even drive them out of field goal range. Instead, Tomlin resigns himself to giving them an easy field goal.

Dwyer is now in at running back but he fumbles on first down. The Steelers have now lost 3 fumbles by three different running backs.

Worilds and Keisel combine for a first down sack and Taylor has a sure interception bounce off of his hands on third down. The Browns go from looking like they will get 3 easy pints, to instead punting.

Chris Rainey is now in the game and he fumbles after making a catch but fortunately it goes out of bounds. A few underneath passes to Sanders and Miller quickly has the offense inside the Browns 30 with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half. Batch just misses Burress across the middle, but goes back to him in the end zone on 3rd down and it draws a pass interference call. On first down from the one Rainey gets the call out of an inverted wishbone formation. He has nowhere to go up the middle but luckily is able to bounce way outside to the left for an easy touchdown. The play call wasn\’t curious, only the personnel used, as Tomlin is hell bent on teaching his other 3 running backs a lesson about fumbling at any cost.

Regardless, the Steelers take a 14-13 lead into halftime.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Buccos9

    It goes without saying that the number of fumbles by the RBs were unacceptable, but it’s not all their fault that they had so little success running the ball. The Browns overloaded the box a lot to stop the run, daring Batch to throw, and he was horrible. Expect the Ravens to do exactly the same thing if Batch starts on Sunday. One thing that stuck out is that the Browns defensive players were trying to strip the ball continually. And it worked. Good coaches train their players to do this. The Bears are another team that emphasizes stripping the ball and is very good at it. Good coaches also train defensive linemen to get their hands up to tip passes if they aren’t getting to the QB. The Texans are excellent at it. If the pass rush is not getting to the QB fast enough or often enough, we need to create turnovers in other ways.

  • Tim Culligan

    I think this is an example where the loss of Antonio Brown really really hurts. He is a great receiver who can play the slot, be used on screens, and turn a 8 yard catch into a 20 yard gain.

    Without him, Wallace is ineffective as he draws Joe Haden and the safety on deep routes. Sanders is effective but after that, thats it. Heath is reliable, but is on the line on 50% of the plays. And when the running game is dead, play action is really helpful at all. Especially since penalties and negative run plays created 3rd and Longs- obvious passing situations.