Some Random Thoughts On Steelers at Browns
I finally had a chance to watch the game this morning, or what is morning here on the Big Island. I would have watched the game last night except that it was the conference dinner and I had to put in an appearance. The dinner was, in its own way, a part of this crazy and unforgettable season.
I joined my husband on the lawn as they were getting ready to serve dinner. I generally skip the meet and greet beforehand, as I know very few people and am not particularly excited by the idea of waiting in an immense line for a drink. (There were many hundreds of people at the dinner.)
My husband took me to our table and introduced me to the couple on our left. The male half of the couple teaches at a university in Mississippi—I forget which. I commented to the wife that they clearly weren’t originally from Mississippi, wherever else they might be from, and the husband jumped in and said “You have one guess as to where we are from.” As my mind rapidly processed the possibilities he began softly chanting “Here we go Steelers.” It turns out they both grew up in the ‘Burgh.
Later in the evening he led the table in a full-blown chant of “Here we go Steelers.” It was a surreal moment. The nine people at the table, all participating with a reasonable degree of fervor, were said professor and his wife, his three Iranian graduate students, a Chinese post-doc, my husband’s former Nepali grad student, her second-generation Russian husband, and me. (Dr. Rollett was waiting in the drink line.) From a musical standpoint it was absolutely vile. Not one single person was singing in the same key as any of the others, and several could scarcely be said to be singing at all. And yet it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard in a long time.
I realize this is a rather long preamble, but I’m guessing you are all in a good enough mood to indulge me when I launch into Story Hour. But now I’m going to give you my favorite bit of the game.
Without question the chunk of time beginning at 11:57 in the fourth quarter takes the prize. It features almost everything one could wish in a game.
The score was 17-12. A lead is nice, but a big lead would have been much nicer at this point. The Steelers were forced to punt.
Special teams delivered, in spades. Jordan Berry’s punt traveled 49 yards, and according to the NFL play-by-play, Shamarko Thomas downed it after Ross Ventrone (only referred to cryptically in the NFL document as “Ross”) kept it from going into the end zone.
The Browns had it at their own 1-yard line. A member of the Cleveland offensive line decided this wasn’t challenging enough, apparently, and took a false start penalty, which backed the ball up to the half-yard line.
In the meantime, the cameras, panning across the gathered players, revealed that James Harrison’s left shoe was untied. I found this quite unsettling. However, the Browns then took a Delay of Game penalty, moving the ball to the nine-inch mark. Still 1st and 10 on the NFL graphic, but to be precise it was 1st and 10.75.
I hoped for a safety. Instead, Austin Davis got the ball to Gary Barnidge for 20 yards. He then threw incomplete to Terrelle Pryor. On 2nd and 10 he was strip-sacked by Lawrence Timmons, and Arthur Moats recovered. My fears of Deebo’s loose shoelace somehow tripping up the Steelers D were for naught. The Steelers took over at the CLV nine, Ben threw a touchdown to Markus Wheaton, and Fitzgerald Toussaint caught the throw for a 2-point conversion.
This means the Steelers were 8-for-11 on attempts in 2015, far outpacing the rest of the league with a 72.7% conversion rate. The closest was Green Bay, with a 66.7% rate, but on only six attempts (four were successfully converted.)
But the Steelers weren’t done. Special teams came up huge again as Anthony Chickallo forced a fumble from the kick returner which Brandon Boykin caught, giving the Steelers the ball back at the CLV 28. At this point most of the remaining Browns fans were leaving the stadium. Who could blame them?
There were loads of other things I loved about the game outside of the game itself. Steeler fans screaming and twirling their towels as Buffalo intercepted Ryan Fitzgerald with :15 left in the game. The game announcers noting that the end of Dolphins-Patriots game was nearing with the Patriots trailing, and saying “It’s Brady time!” But Brady time never came. Mike Tomlin hugging William Gay’s helmeted head after he iced the game with an interception of Austin Davis. Sean Spence, Mike Mitchell, and Antonio Brown dancing on the sidelines like extra guys at the middle school dance. Mike Tomlin taking extra time to speak with about-to-be-deposed Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine, even as he was no doubt eager to celebrate with his guys.
Yes, there was plenty to dislike about the game. It even featured the almost unthinkable—an Antonio Brown fumble. I would have been a wreck had I been watching it in real time, at least for the first three quarters.
It’s disconcerting that Ben has thrown so many picks in the past two weeks in particular. The sideline reporter said at the start of the game that she tried to talk to Ben on Saturday evening and he declined as he was sick. I’m guessing he was still recovering from the awful flu bug which has been making its way through Pittsburgh for the past few months. I had it, and could barely talk for over a week, much to the joy of my singers, and felt awful for at least two weeks. If that’s what he has, he should be feeling better any time now, and hopefully next Sunday we’ll see the Ben of the game @ Cinci and not the Ben of the game @ Baltimore.
I know there is a great deal of angst about the prevent defense, but as long as the defense can prevent touchdowns, I’ll take it. Yes, Cincinnati has a considerably better offense than Cleveland. And the sun is a little bit bigger than the moon. But that Cincinnati offense only put up 20 points, at home, in the previous game. And it looks as if it will be the same quarterback, as AJ McCarron is preparing to play.
I think this will do it for the nonce. I’ll have a regular-season stats wrap on Thursday, and will probably have more to say. (Have you ever known me to have less to say?)
The Steelers are not a team without flaws. One of the biggest is probably what Ed Bouchette calls a lack of talent in the secondary. The second is the boom-or-bust we’ve seen lately from the offense. But I think the Steelers have a decent chance to make some noise in the post-season, and really, what more can we ask for? Especially given what the team has fought through this season, they have frequently done a lot with rather a little, and I like their chances.