Just suppose that a few weeks ago I had told you that the Browns’ defense will have given up the fewest points per game in the NFL this season. And then I told you the Steelers’ offense would play those same Browns without Ben, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro. And then I had told you that center B.J. Finney would be injured partway through the game and would be replaced by Chris Hubbard, who would give clear and frequent demonstrations as to why he isn’t the backup center. And then I told you that the Browns’ defense would force a fumble and recover it, and that they would pick off Landry Jones early in the game. And then I told you the Browns’ offense would manage to score 24 points. How confident would you feel that the Steelers had pulled out a win?
Probably not very confident. And with excellent cause. But in fact that’s what happened. To do so they got a little help from the refs, who overturned a fumble call on Ridley (and rightly so, as his arm was clearly down before the ball moved) and called a rather ticky-tacky roughing the passer call on Myles Garrett. They also got help from a couple of receivers—JuJu Smith-Schuster not only had a heck of a game on offense but took a kickoff 98 yards for the Steelers’ first kick return touchdown since Antonio Brown did it in 2010. They also received help from a player who has been more than generous in that way throughout this season—Browns’ receiver Cory Coleman, who dropped what would have been a huge fourth-down conversion in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, thus more or less giving the game to the Steelers, who hung on to a tenuous 4-point lead for the last 25 minutes of the game or so.
Given that the only starter on the defense to not play was Cameron Heyward, it’s hard to feel very good about a Steelers’ defense who gave up 24 points to the worst offense in the league. Or so I assume, and checking with the NFL offensive stats,