The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Cleveland Browns 20-14 Sunday in Cleveland to fall to 6-5 on the season. It was a game that featured the Steelers turning the ball over 8 times o offense and only compiling 248 total yards of offense. The defense played well enough to win once again, yet it was not enough. Below are the players, or group of players, that I thought had winning and losing performances in the game.
James Harrison – This was easily the best game of the season so far for Harrison, who is now starting to look healthier by the week. He recorded 9 total tackles in the game that included 1 sack. Harrison also had 3 other tackles that resulted in losses in the game. Harrison has faced Browns left tackle Joe Thomas several times over the course of his career, and while he did move around a lot in the game, this was likely his best showing against the Pro Bowler ever.
Jason Worilds – Worilds entered the game at left outside linebacker after LaMarr Woodley suffered a left ankle injury and he played with a purpose. The former second-round draft pick registered 4 tackles that included 2 quarterback sacks. Worilds also had a pass defensed to his credit. Woodley says that he intends to play next week against the Baltimore Ravens, but if he doesn\’t, Worilds certainly looks like he will not be a drop off based on the reads and explosion that he showed on Sunday.
Lawrence Timmons – Yet another Steelers linebacker makes the list as Timmons had the score 7-0 before the offense ever took the field after intercepting a tipped pass by defensive end Brett Keisel and returning it 53 yards for the first score of the game. Timmons led the defense in tackles with 10 and always seemed to be around the football during the game.
Emmanuel Sanders – Sanders was one of two offensive players that showed up ready to play on Sunday. He was easily the best route runner on the field and recorded 5 catches for 75 yards in the game. Sanders was also the lone receiver that would consistently give effort in the blocking department when the play called for it.
Heath Miller – Miller is always consistent and he chipped in 6 catches of his own for 63 yards on Sunday. The tight end also delivered some punishment after the catch in addition as he wrecked Browns safety Usama Young following one of his receptions. Another 33 yard catch by Miller was negated by a holding call.
The Running Backs – Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, and Chris Rainey all managed to each lose a fumble in the game. Mendenhall and Rainey each fumbled another time but luckily those were not lost. The four running backs combined to rush for only 49 yards on 20 carries in a game that was dependent on run success in order to win.
The Offensive Line – Doug Legursky, who started at left guard for the injured Willie Colon, allowed the only sack on the day, and the offensive line as a whole failed to open up holes for the fumbling running backs. Legursky, Ramon Foster, Mike Adams, and Kelvin Beachum were all flagged for holding in the game in addition. Maurkice Pouncey also caused a delay of game penalty after deciding to get into it with a Browns defensive player after a play was over.
Mike Tomlin – The fumbles by the running backs were certainly disturbing, but the decision by Tomlin to insert Rainey in as the lone running back for an extended period of time to prove a point was a poor decision. Rainey also had no business being in the game down at the goal-line that resulted in him scoring the Steelers lone offensive touchdown. Rainey luckily was able to bounce the stuffed run outside after running into a brick wall at the line of scrimmage. Had he not scored on the play, the Steelers would have likely went into halftime stalled deep in the Browns red zone. Tomlin also decided not to accept a holding call on 3rd down with 3:45 left in the first half. The Browns would have been facing a 3rd and 18 situation had he accepted it and it would have given his defense one more opportunity to make a play. Instead he opted to surrender a 32 yard field goal.
Charlie Batch – While the 3 interceptions were not entirely on his head, he gets most of the blame. He threw behind Mike Wallace on one and under threw him deep on another. Batch could not deliver the deep ball and was off target on a few other throws that he should have made. He looked every bit of a quarterback that has stuck around the game too long. The Browns were able to cheat the run in the game because they knew Batch couldn\’t consistently make the throws needed to win thru the air.