By Danny Cox
Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play in the first game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns this season. His absence may actually have been a big part of the reason that the Steelers ended up losing that game and taking a season nosedive out of the playoffs. He was back for the season finale though, and pretty much helped defeat the Browns 24-10 on his own.
The victory helped the Steelers avoid their first losing season in almost a decade, and the first season sweep at the hands of Cleveland in almost two. Even though Pittsburgh went out on a high note, there are a number of things that will need to be addressed and changed in the offseason.
One of those things has to be a defense that is starting to show its age, and it was evidenced by far too many injuries in 2012. Player after player was on the sideline for the Steelers and it caused them a number of victories due to there simply not being enough talent on the field. Players realize that too.
“It’s a disappointing season just as far as the talent we have,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “We’re 8-8, that’s who we are. We’ve got to own it. A lot of letdowns, a lot of pluses too. We just didn’t get it done.”
Pittsburgh really didn’t do a whole lot offensively so it is hard to determine what type of game plan they may have had in place. Roethlisberger threw for less than 140 yards and the running game was virtually nonexistent yet again, but there was still a good balance between the two.
Coach Mike Tomlin was finally able to get more out of his defense as they caused four turnovers, and that’s pretty much why the offense seemed so anemic for the Steelers. They didn’t have far to go whenever they did get the ball in their hands.
It was a decent enough job all around, but there are some changes coming for 2013, and they’re needed.
Putting 24 points on the board is an impressive feat, but when looking at it from a statistic point of view, it’s not that impressive on 212 total yards. Big Ben had 134 passing yards and three touchdowns, but his longest scoring pass was a 12-yarder to Plaxico Burress in garbage time.
While holding onto a lead, the Steelers wanted to pound the ball with the running game, and they did just that. Only, it still didn’t amount to much. Three different players had at least six carries, but Jonathan Dwyer led the way with 52 yards on 11.
The bright spot of the game for both teams was that of the Steelers’ defense. Pittsburgh managed to cause three Cleveland fumbles and recover all of them. They got Thad Lewis, making his first ever start, to throw an interception, and they also sacked him four times for a total loss of 22 yards.
Holding the Browns to 320 total yards isn’t bad at all, and considering there are still a number of injuries being tended to, it makes it even better. Not a bad day at all by the Steelers defense. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t get more performances like this throughout the rest of the season.
Shaun Suisham hit his lone field goal attempt and that was from 41-yards out. He also connected on all three extra points.
Punter Drew Butler booted the ball six times for an average of 41.8 yards, but he did have a boomer of 60 yards. He also pinned Cleveland inside their own 20-yard-line on one occasion.
Antonio Brown returned one punt for 10 yards. Chris Rainey had two chances to return kickoffs and did so for 46 yards. Nothing special in either case there.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.