Steelers vs. Browns: Instant Grades, Analysis for Pittsburgh
Today, the Steelers limp into Cleveland, relying on 15th year quarterback Charlie Batch. He's the third-string quarterback in Pittsburgh these days, but for today, he's No.1. It seems that it may be in the Steelers' best interest to attack with the running game.
Don't be fooled by Cleveland's record—five of their eight losses have come by a touchdown or less. They could really interrupt Pittsburgh's run towards the postseason.
Pittsburgh 14 Cleveland 20—Final
He didn't protect the ball (two interceptions in the quarter).
He wasn't productive.
Pittsburgh was just hoping that Charlie Batch could get them this win against one of the NFL's lower-tier teams. It didn't happen, and Batch's worst performance came when it couldn't be afforded.
Charlie Batch had some good throws in the third quarter, but the ineffectiveness is only continuing. I understand that he can't help negated plays, but it seems like he's completing only throws for short yardage.
Most of the focus has shifted to the passing game, and that has translated to a pick for Batch. Steeler fans may have been hopeful that he could at least come out and protect the football.
Despite some good throws, he's been more bad than good.
Although Batch isn't to blame for the Steelers' three turnovers, he's not doing much to correct the problems.
He did a good job throwing the ball in the last two minutes of the first half, connecting on four passes on that single drive alone. Still, he'll need to do more than that for there to be a legitimate impact.
Ben Roethlisberger's absence is being heavily felt.
It's been hard to get a real judge on Charlie Batch so far. Having only thrown four passes and completing two of them, it was a pretty mediocre start.
However, Batch is not going to see the bigger load of the action, so his goal needs to be to not make any mistakes.
Based on that logic, his grading scale will be a little easier—making no mistakes and getting at least a little production will earn him a good grade, whereas that'd get Big Ben a C. For now, no production exists from Batch.
Eight turnovers. A whopping eight turnovers.
Three total interceptions and five fumbles (three in the fourth quarter) proved to be the end of the Steelers' hopes. It doesn't matter who you play, if you can't protect the football, you will not win.
The entire second half was rough to watch—they took advantage of zero opportunities in the fourth quarter to take the lead.
As has been the case for most of the game, Pittsburgh's offense was mostly lifeless in the third quarter.
They committed their fourth turnover of the day, making it an all-around effort to try to give the Browns a victory. Watching Batch hasn't been easy and the running game isn't much better.
It'll be hard to win after losing Mike Adams to injury and turning the ball over four times.
Wow. What a disaster.
Following up Mendenhall's first-quarter fumble, Dwyer and Redman followed suit with fumbles of their own in the second.
Thankfully, for the Steelers, Charlie Batch led a solid drive in the last two minutes of the first half which culminated with a Chris Rainey touchdown run.
Signs of life.
Nothing really special is going on right now, aside from the Rashard Mendenhall fumble. It's clear that the running game is the main focal point of the team—Charlie Batch has only thrown four passes.
It makes sense, though. The Steelers have three solid running backs carrying the load and Jonathan Dwyer is not having many issues with Cleveland's mediocre rush defense. Isaac Redman will also get some carries as the bruiser of the team.
Pittsburgh is banking on their rushing attack, which is probably the way to go, given the quarterback situation.
They didn't do anything wrong—Cleveland didn't score in the quarter and Pittsburgh's defense did a lot to stop them from moving.
In the end, it didn't matter how good they were. The offense consistently set them up to fail and they were only going to be able to do so much.
Hats off for the defense performing well without Lamar Woodley, but they weren't going to stop Cleveland inside the 20 every time.
Overall, Cleveland's offense was stopped pretty well in the third quarter. They scored because Charlie Batch threw a pick in Pittsburgh territory.
Still, the lower grade comes from the fact that Richardson is starting to find some momentum. Plus, Cleveland's drive at the end of the quarter was stalled because of penalties, not because of good defensive play.
Hard to believe that the top-ranked NFL defense is being beaten by one of the league's statistically worst offenses.
With the offense doing so poorly thus far, you'd hope the defense could shut down the young Cleveland offense. They did in the first quarter.
The second quarter was a completely different story. Cleveland put up 10 points, Brandon Weeden started out completing five consecutive passes, and receivers were consistently wide open. The good news is that they're doing well shutting down Trent Richardson.
Despite all this, you can't blame the defense when the running backs keep fumbling deep in Pittsburgh's territory.
Only an A- because they allowed Cleveland to get points on the board. However, you can't argue with a solid defensive score.
The defense has stifled Brandon Weeden right now, as he's struggling to find the holes where he can thread the ball. Lawrence Timmons made the early noise, scoring on a 53-yard interception return.
No real effects came from the special teams in the game. Just to change things up, I figured Cleveland's last punt that pinned the Steelers inside the five could've made a little difference.
Usually, this is a part of the game that is important, but not in this one.
If there's been one bright spot for Pittsburgh, it'd have to be the special teams. They've done nothing to potentially give the game away.
Perhaps they'll make a difference in quarter four.
Like the first quarter, special teams didn't play a big role in how the second quarter turned out.
Solid extra-point kicking Suisham!
When not much is happening, I can't really go better than a B. Shaun Suisham's extra point was spot on—what else is new, it's the NFL!
I'll give them credit where it's due—holding Josh Cribbs to average returns is worth celebrating.
What can be said? Tomlin dealt with a team that couldn't protect the ball and kept turning it over.
Doesn't matter how good of a coach you are if your team can't hang onto the ball.
You can't help but feel for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers' coaching staff. It seems that their play-calling is just fine. Their offense can't hold on to the ball.
Batch can't hit his receivers.
So on and so forth. No blame goes to coaching.
I think one of the biggest things I respect about Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh coaching staff is that they knew it was necessary to send a message to their running backs—they fumbled, and they were shown the bench.
They needed to send a message. Tomlin and company trusted Batch to move the ball down the field and then let the rookie, Rainey, punch it in from a yard out.
You got to love Tomlin as a coach.
C'mon, it's Mike Tomlin, how bad can this grade really get?
He's turned some mediocre teams into dominating ones during his time in Pittsburgh, and I can't remember a game that he's somehow mismanaged.
Since nothing key really happened in the first quarter, Tomlin can take the B.
All four running backs fumbled the ball today. Not only did they fumble, but none of them had more than 19 yards on the ground.
Pittsburgh was relying on the running game to pick up the slack that Ben Roethlisberger left behind.
They failed miserably.
All season, Heath Miller has been re-emerging after struggling in 2011. Today, he contributed in no way, shape or form to the loss.
He had a solid six catches for 63 yards, proving to be Charlie Batch's favorite target.
It proved to be worthless against the Browns, but he showed again why he's one of the league's top tight ends.
After recording eight tackles and a sack, James Harrison deserves some attention.
The defense was pretty good against Cleveland today, and Harrison was one of the leaders—as if anyone is shocked by that.
Harrison dominated the Browns' offense and would be the star of the game, had he not been slightly outdone...
There were very few highs for the men in black and yellow today, but Lawrence Timmons was one of those points.
He supplied the game's first score, capitalizing on a Brandon Weeden mistake and taking an interception to the house from 53 yards away.
In addition, he recorded six tackles—not a bad way to make up for the absence of Lamar Woodley.