By Danny Cox
As expected, most of the starters for the Pittsburgh Steelers sat out of the season finale against the Cleveland Browns since their playoff positioning was already determined. They were not going to risk an injury to anyone with the postseason right around the corner, but there may be concern regarding their backups since their play was not impressive.
The Steelers picked up a 27-24 victory, but it took overtime to lock in a win over a team that won just a single game all season. With that, the regular season is over for the Steelers and the Browns locked up the number one pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Landry Jones had a pretty good day filling in for Ben Roethlisberger, as he completed 24-of-37 for 277 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception. The pass and run protection were big-time issues for the Steelers, though, and it shows in a number of statistical categories including the four sacks that Jones took.
DeAngelo Williams got the start at running back and he made it into the end zone once, but he was only able to rack up 67 yards on 23 carries. The line gave Jones and the running backs no time to get anything going and it took some late desperation and hurry-up offense for the Steelers to get back into the game.
It is kind of hard to judge this performance, but again, it was a mixed bag. RG3 ended up being picked off once and sacked four times by the Steelers, as all receivers but Terrelle Pryor Sr. were held in check. On the other hand, the Steelers run defense was absolutely awful and it showed.
Isaiah Crowell had his best game of the season with 152 yards on 19 carries, which included a big-time run of 67 yards during the game.
Making matters worse for the Steelers is that defensive end Ricardo Mathews suffered an ankle injury during the game and didn’t return. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrove also left the game due to a concussion, but he made it through the league’s protocol and returned for one more series.
Special Teams: C
Jordan Berry was extremely busy today, as he punted eight times for an average of 46-yards-per-boot and he pinned the Browns inside their own 20 on two occasions. Chris Boswell hit all three of his extra point tries, but didn’t have a single field goal attempt in the game.
Cobi Hamilton and Eli Rogers didn’t help the offense much in the field position game and special teams gave up a couple of big returns to Mario Alford of the Browns.
There wasn’t much expected from Sunday’s game, as the majority of those playing were backups for the Steelers. Still, it isn’t very promising to see how many of the supporting players on the Steelers’ roster ended up playing. Nothing looked like it was working and the offense couldn’t do much against a Browns’ defense that has hardly been able to stop anyone this season.
It was a sub-par game all the way around and even though it meant nothing for the Steelers, there has to be some concern regarding what would happen if a serious injury were to occur to a starter. Now, it’s time to get to work and prepare for their playoff game against the Miami Dolphins next week.