If you had an event for fans to come out and show their support for the Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive and Offensive Coordinators Dick LeBeau and Bruce Arians, you would fill Heinz Field for LeBeau and most likely a van in the parking lot for Arians. On some level Arians has gotten a pass this year being somewhat handicapped at the quarterback position with the Roethlisberger suspension.
With today's return of Big Ben's to the Steelers offense that grace period is over. With the pressure on Arians, let's see how the coordinators did today.
Offense: I had myself convinced that Arians was going to let Roethlisberger rip one deep on the first play of the gamel. Oh, well. A fairly pedestrian first quarter, nothing spectacular, but the way the offense moved the ball on the ground there was really no need to do anything out of the ordinary. Even when formations gave you a pretty good idea of what might happen Cleveland couldn't stop it. Ben Roethlisberger killed a drive deep into Cleveland territory with a bad throw about a yard behind his intended target, but you can't put that on anyone other than Big Ben.
Defense: A very good start to the game. The ghosts of the Baltimore Ravens game where the Steelers only rushed three and four for most of the game seem to have passed. Colt McCoy was sacked twice and intercepted once. Josh Cribbs and the wildcat formation has been a non-factor. The defense also held Cleveland to a field goal after the Roethlisberger interception game the Browns excellent field position.
Player of the Quarter: Rashard Mendenhall
Offense: Arians started to open the passing game up this quarter, resulting in a Roethlisberger 29 yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace. After that drive not much of anything for the Steelers. Exhibit A of what drives Steelers fans nuts is with about a minute to go in the half, having to see an all star backfield consisting of Mewelde Moore and David Johnson. There is being conservative, and then there is giving yourself no chance. I am going to continue to stand on the soapbox that Issac Redman needs to be a bit more involved in the offense. A four point halftime lead with eleven pass attempts is not going to get it done.
Defense: Hindsight being what it is, LeBeau called a safety blitz with Ryan Clark into a Cleveland screen pass with about ten minutes remaining before halftime giving the Browns a nice gain. On the next play James Harrison took the wood to Josh Cribbs and knocked him out of the game. Expect to see even more pressure up the field with the Browns best weapon out of the game. There were a couple of plays late in the quarter where blitzing linebackers essentially abandoned the middle fo the field allowing Peyton
Hillis a few good gains.
Player of the Quarter: James Harrison
Offense: Things started with more of the same in the third quarter. On the Steelers first possession after Chris Kemoeatu having to leave the game, run up the middle and a incomplete screen pass puts the Steelers in third and long. Next drive, boom, boom. Long completions to Mike Wallace and Heath Miller set up a great effort by Hines Ward for a touchdown. The quarter ends with the Steelers going back to more very conservative play calling deep in their own end.
Defense: The play calling has become inexplicable. Back to the Baltimore game and dropping seven and eight into pass coverage - today against a quarterback playing his first NFL game. This grade would be even lower had the defense not kept the Browns off of the scoreboard. On a side note to all who thought Colt McCoy was going to come out today and crawl into the fetal position for 60 minutes - he didn't.
Players of the Quarter: Tie - Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger
Offense: With one-third of the NFL season behind us, we finally saw a two back set featuring Rashard Mendenhall and Issac Redman, with Redman promptly ripping off a 12-yard run. Hats off to the call on 3rd and 7 deep in Cleveland territory after a Cleveland fumble on a punt where Roethlisberger hit Mendenhall for a first down to set up a touchdown taking the score to 21-3. I'm not sure I understand the long pass that was called on 3rd and 2 with two and a half minutes left in the game when that was the time to run the clock out on the ground.
Defense: Early on I would have thought that playing with a 17 point lead would have giving the green light to turn the heat back up on McCoy. Didn't happen. More four man pass rushes and McCoy took the Browns right down the field for a touchdown with four minutes remaining in the game. Lawrence Timmons ices the games with an interception off of a tipped ball.
Player of the Quarter: Lawrence Timmons
Offense: With the Steelers going into halftime with only a 7-3 lead there was plenty to keep the Steelers faithful on the edge of their seats. The play calling on the offensive side of the ball swung like a pendulum between too conservative and occasionally very aggressive.
Despite their record, the Browns have been in every game this year and in what could have easily been a trap game, the Steelers came out with an 18 point victory. Going forward it would be nice to see more of the two back look, a draw play or two, and more shots at crossing routes over the middle, but hey a win is a win.
Final Grade: B+
Defense: Here's hoping the playing not to lose on defense comes to an end soon. Sending even five pass rushers isn't leaving the kitchen empty in the secondary. The defense got some breaks today, but there is also a saying that you make your own luck.
Final Grade: B-
These grades probably come across as harsh to some, but the Steelers let the Browns hang around way to long for my comfort level. Keep in mind this is play calling and not the effort or results by the players, which for another week was excellent.
Player of the Game: Rashard Mendenhall
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