It was certainly a tale of two halves in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon as the Black and Gold dominated the Celveland Browns in the first half, 27-3, but were thoroughly beaten in the second half, 24-3.
Fortunately, the Steelers three second half points came as the clock hit zero and broke a 27-27 tie and enabled them to get out of the stadium with a victory to open the season.
Big Ben Roethlisberger threw for 278 of his 365 yards in the first half and Antonio Brown, LeVeon “Cheech” Bell and LaGarrete “Chong” Blount scored touchdowns as the team appeared to put the game in cruise control. They smashed through Cleveland’s defense; making it look like the game would be a laugher. Markus Wheaton looked every bit the part of a number two receiver and even Justin Brown made some nice catches as well.
The Steelers defense found their way into the backfield early and often, limiting Brian Hoyer to under 40 yards passing and the rushing game for the Browns was nonexistent in the first half. It truly appeared that with the Ravens game looming just four days away, the Steelers would be able to rest a lot of their starters in the fourth quarter and pick up the easy ‘W’.
Yet, that’s why they play the full game. The second half felt like the two teams switched uniforms as the Browns scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes of the second half and went on a 24-0 run to tie the game.
The Steelers defense looked sloppy, couldn’t tackle, couldn’t get to Hoyer, couldn’t cover any of the receivers and couldn’t stop the run. Frankly, they got embarrassed.
The offense came out and looked flat, ran conservative and predictable plays and generally couldn’t move the ball at all. It was as if the coaches went into halftime with the 24 point lead and told the players the game was over and there were no need for adjustments at all.
Fortunately the Steelers had the ball last and were able to move the ball deep enough into Browns territory to kick the game winning field goal but the second half was laughable and alarming.
The win is certainly the one number that counts the most but they have to get better in a lot of facets of the game if they want to beat the good teams on their schedule because they certainly didn’t look good in beating one of the bad ones.
NEWS, NOTES and Other Stuff:
Game Ball: The game ball goes to Big Ben, who completed 23 of 34 passes for 365 yards, one TD and one INT. He also led the game winning drive as time expired.
Play of the Game: Well, at least the most talked about play is the Antonio Brown flying kick to the face of Browns Punter Spencer Lanning. It’s debatable if it was on purpose or not but it got the crowd fired up.
Reality: Tomlin, LeBeau and Haley were all outcoached. They put on a display in the first half but when the Browns made a furious run to tie the game, the Steelers fell flat on their face. They made no in game adjustments and had the game been five minutes longer, the Browns would have won.
Worth Mentioning: Should the Steelers consider moving to the road whites for home games in hot weather? That may have played a factor in slowing them down in the second half, that black absorbs some serious heat.
Gutsy Call: The fake punt in their own territory was a very gutsy call that Robert Golden audibled to and it worked.
Great To See: Brett Keisel out there with a couple of tackles and a QB Hit, Troy Polamalu leading the team with 11 tackles and Jarvis Jones getting to the QB with a sack and adding six tackles total.
Worth Noting: The defense did not create a turnover, something they’ll need to force in the big games to be a truly effective unit.
Team: 1-0, up next at Baltimore, 0-1.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.