By Christina Rivers
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin may have said it best in his post-game press conference when he called Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns a “failure”. After weeks four and five, the Steelers were supposedly addressing concerns and consistency in order to move forward, something that coach Tomlin has stressed time and time again this season. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the Steelers have been able to move forward – they’ve regressed. After suffering a 21-point battering with no response in the second quarter, Pittsburgh falls to .500 on the season and to the bottom of the AFC North.
There is trouble in Pittsburgh when even the die-hard faithfuls are calling for heads to roll. Coach Tomlin, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and even defensive legend Dick LeBeau have been on the hot seat since the 2014 regular season began. That heat just got turned up to a volatile level. Tomlin has called each loss the Steelers have suffered this season a “learning experience”, but the only lesson that seems to be understood is how to be inadequate on the football field. The Steelers are facing dark, dark times the remainder of this season if they do not find an immediate answer. The loss to the Browns put an exclamation point on the most obvious of issues – a breakdown across the board.
The Steelers were able to come out in the first quarter and put an effective rushing game into play that marched them down the field. Although they were once again stopped in the red zone, they put the first three points on the scoreboard. Despite the offense being able to move the ball throughout the game, the Steelers were not able to convert necessary third downs and looked stagnant when it came to receiving. Too many dropped passes and miscommunications between Ben Roethlisberger and his teammates resulted in a lack of further points on the scoreboard until the final minutes of the game. By that time, Lance Moore’s touchdown catch was just a go-for-broke moment.
Le’Veon Bell and Dri Archer were the main rushers while Antonio Brown handled receiving duties. The game was that one-sided. The lack of production from the remaining receivers and LeGarrette Blount was puzzling and disappointing.
It is never a good sign when you see teams like the Cleveland Browns find wide open spaces the size of the state of Montana in your defensive backfield, and Brian Hoyer took advantage of every opportunity he was given. The Steelers presented very little up-front pressure on Hoyer, allowing him to pick apart the defensive backfield. When defensive end Brett Keisel had to run down the field to keep a Browns receiver from getting into the end zone, it put an exclamation mark on just how poorly Pittsburgh was playing. The Steelers defense spent most of the time on the field yet again this week, resulting in injuries and missed opportunities to contain the Browns. Perhaps teams do have Dick LeBeau’s number.
Shaun Suisham should have earned the team MVP award this week for his first quarter field goal and a PAT. He could nearly be the team’s most effective weapon at this point. The special teams defense did a nice job of keeping the Browns from being able to garner many yards on returns and Brad Wing had a decent day of punting. Ross Ventrone, brought up from the practice squad for this week’s game, had a big open-field hit to keep a return from being moved on.
Once again, the Pittsburgh Steelers got in their own way. The penalty numbers were down in week six, but many of the penalties that were called went against the Steelers. Regardless of some questionable calls, including an interception of a tipped Roethlisberger pass, Pittsburgh looked lifeless through three quarters of play. Teams never like bad press, and it’s never fun to write a bad grade for a team that you have loved to follow, but it’s time to take off the gloves. This team was ill-prepared and continues to flounder against teams it should be able to beat handily. Until they do some housekeeping, this team may continue to see failure.
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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on