Steelers-Browns Week 6 postgame: “Subpar performance”

 

cribbs_browns_steelers_300Steelers 27, Browns 14

▪ Not that they have much control over it, but the combined record of the opponents the Steelers have beaten this year is 4-18, and they haven’t looked all that impressive doing it.  It’s worth noting that the same 0-6 Titans team who lost by 59 points to the Patriots yesterday took the Steelers into overtime in Heinz Field, that the Lions were marching for a game tying touchdown in the 4th quarter, and that the Browns had the score at 17-14 in the 3rd quarter yesterday.  A few NFL observers have praised Ben Roethlisberger’s attitude for saying the offense put up a “subpar performance” on a day when he threw for 400 yards.  But I don’t think there’s a trace of phony sports humility in that at all.  I think he realizes– in the midst of a 4-2 record and a personal career year– exactly how bad the Steelers competition has been and how much work still needs to be done.

▪ There should be some concern that Joshua Cribbs averaged 7.5 yards a carry out of the Wildcat formation.  The Steelers aggressive run defense was biting on fakes and over-pursuing east to west all day, and that might be a problem when the Dolphins come to town in Week 17 (assuming that game is meaningful).  Might be a problem next week if the Vikings use Percy Harvin in that role.  But what in the world was Eric Mangini thinking letting Cribbs throw?

▪ There should be a little less concern over Cribbs’ 98-yard kickoff return.  He returned two touchdowns in Heinz Field last year, so just the one this time is an improvement.  Also, Steelers special teams coverage has been generally solid.

▪ I thought Troy Polamalu was done for another few weeks when he came up limping after that interception.  He was supposed to play with a knee brace but ditched it in pregame warm-ups.

▪ I’m kind of conflicted as to whether Hines Ward’s touchdown catch that was overturned was actually a catch.  By the letter of the rule, the call was correct.  He caught the ball in bounds, rolled out of bounds, and lost control of the ball halfway through his roll.  Forcing receivers to control the ball all the way to the ground– even when they’re out of bounds– is generally a good rule.  On the other hand, forcing receivers to control the ball after catching it, getting both knees down, going out of bounds, and executing a complete 360 degree roll is a little extra.  Sometimes refs need to just look at the play and ask themselves, did he catch the football or not?

▪ The one call I do have a gripe with is Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble.  He was lying on his back for a good two seconds before one of the Browns linebackers came over and ripped the ball out.  Whether he was lying on top of other players or not is irrelevant.  What ever happened to blowing the whistle after forward progress has been stopped?

▪ One thing that’s not going to show up in the stats sheet is that Mendenhall is doing a lot of little things right.  He did an outstanding job picking up the corner blitz on Roethlisberger’s 52-yard touchdown pass to Ward.  I bet Mike Tomlin was more impressed with that block than he was with Mendenhall’s 77 yards and a touchdown.

▪ And somebody please tell CBS announcer Solomon Wilcots the name is pronounced Mendenhall, not “Mendinghall.”  You could tell it was driving his booth-mate Kevin Harlan nuts, because he kept emphasizing the second syllable (“MenDENhall takes the handoff…”), hoping Wilcots would eventually catch on.  He never did.

Mike Wallace is really, really fast.  I’m curious as to why he’s not back there with Stefan Logan returning kicks.

▪ The fact that Pro Bowl voters don’t take blocking into account when picking tight ends is stupid, considering that it’s half the job.  There are a few tight ends who are basically fat wide receivers who can’t block, but they put up numbers and make the Pro Bowl.  Heath Miller is more like an offensive lineman who can catch, get open, and run people over with or without the ball.  He’s also second in the league among tight ends in receptions and touchdowns.  He won’t make the Pro Bowl, but he should.

Lawrence Timmons had two sacks and he forced fumbles on both of them.  I know it’s just the Browns, but those are the kind of impact plays the defense hadn’t been making this season.  On the first fumble, the Steelers had 7 guys in the box, all standing up and in no particular position.  They rushed 5, dropped 2, and Timmons came free on the corner for the sack.  Credit to Dick LeBeau; there’s really no good way to defend against that.

▪ Oh, and the Browns didn’t score the last 26 minutes of the game.  That’s how you close it out.  Still too much throwing with a lead for my taste though.

▪ The next three weeks are the Vikings (6-0) at home, a bye, and the Broncos (5-0) in Denver.  Basically, it’s the equivalent of a playoff run in the middle of the season.  Should be a good barometer of exactly how good the Steelers are compared to the elite level teams of both conferences.

Related posts:

  1. Steelers-Bengals Week 3 postgame: Two-minute drilled
  2. Steelers-Lions Week 5 postgame: Getting a little greedy
  3. Steelers-Chargers Week 4 postgame: First-round knockout
  4. Steelers-Vikings Week 7 postgame: Drinking Brett Favre’s milkshake
  5. Steelers-Bears Week 2 postgame: Wide left

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