Steelers beat Browns…but fall short of the playoffs!

January 8th, 2023
by admin

It was a valiant try and there is a lot to build on…but the Steelers late season surge falls short of playoff contention.

Punishing defense, a strong running game and cautious passing was what the formula was supposed to be all season, and though it was only executed for half the season, the Steelers pummeled their oldest rival the Cleveland Browns 28-14 and turned what was a dismal season into the distinct feeling of hope.

The defense led the way registering seven sacks and picking off two Deshaun Watson passes. Cam Heyward anchored the defense and registered two sacks, Alex Highsmith chipped in with two and a half sacks and finished the season with 14.5 total. T.J. Watt had a half sack and one thing to note the defense plays noticeably better when he is in the lineup, even with him playing the entire second half banged up.

Larry Ogunjobi had a great day clogging the middle and registered a sack. Nick Chubb who torched the Steelers for 113 yards in the first meeting was held to 77 yards yesterday. The Browns finished with 171 yards in the first meeting and only 134 yesterday. Those numbers are deceiving because 44 of it came when Deshaun Watson was running for his life. The front seven did a good job stopping the run and attacking Watson.

When Watson was forced to go to the air he struggled and the secondary did a good job bottling the Browns up. Levi Wallace and Damontae Kazee both had interceptions. Watson was held to 173 yards passing with two touchdowns, one of which came after a VERY questionable personal foul call against Heyward.

It was an outstanding effort by the defense who held teams to under 20 points in 11 games this season.

The offense had an uneven day again. The good news is the running game finally looks like it is rock solid with Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris. They combined for 120 yards between them and with all the jet sweeps and inside handoffs, seven different players ran the ball and Derek Watt had his first rushing touchdown. Over all the Steelers combined for 148 yards on the ground. A tremendous performance. That starts up front with solid work by the offensive line who showed dramatic improvement in the second half of the season.

Kenny Pickett once again made the big throws when needed. His stats are mediocre but when the Steelers needed to make plays, he delivered. Pickett finished with 195 yards and a touchdown. He never forced anything and most importantly protected the football with no turnovers again. After his early struggles he seemed to settle into the role, and he looks like the future of the franchise.

The special teams were respectable yesterday, albeit with a few gaffes. Next to Pickett the most improved Steeler must be Pressley Harvin III, who became a bona fide weapon the last few weeks. He averaged 48 yards per kick and pinned the Browns down yesterday. Chris Boswell nailed his kicks hitting both his field goals including a 49-yarder. Steven Sims was scary on punt returns; he recovered his own fumble and the Browns did have a 35-yard kickoff return but for the most part they did well.

The coaching staff had a very solid game plan and they executed it. When things started going sideways, they kept the team on track and got them refocused and ready to play. Eventually they outlasted the Browns and sent them into the abyss. Coach Tomlin deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround, because despite the QB distraction and being a humiliating 2-6 they never gave up and stayed on track.

Losing to the Dolphins, the Jets and Patriots doomed the season, but despite that the Steelers were still in the hunt the last day of the year, surviving through adversity is the definition of good leadership.


My “GAME BEER” goes to: Cam Heyward… who was absolutely dominant and in the Browns backfield all day. He also was absolutely hosed on a questionable call. Honorable Mention: Larry Ogunjobi who was Heyward’s counterpart dominating up front, also Dan Moore Jr. who contained Myles Garrett for most of the day.

Beer of the Game: Modello, Went back to the original case that I didn’t finish, as they say it captures the fighting spirit of Pittsburgh!

“Steel the Snacks”: We went with traditional “Pigs in a blanket” with spicy mustard. A solid no nonsense snack, nothing extravagant on the last week of play.

My Stat of the week:  Pretty simple one and you knew it was coming, Mike Tomlin who half the fanbase wants fired for some idiotic reason just completed his 16th non-losing season. To put that in perspective Mike Tomlin matched George Halas for the 3rd-longest streak of seasons finishing over .500 or better by a head coach in NFL history with 16.

While 9-8 is mediocre, this team looked like an 8 or 9-win team at most and they did it, recovering from a disastrous start to go 7-2 down the stretch. It was a masterful coaching job for one of the NFL’s greatest coaches. He also now has 163 wins good for second in Franchise history and only 30 behind Chuck Noll.

Also considered for stat of the week, the Steelers manhandling Deshaun Foster for SEVEN sacks! How about the Steelers led the league in interceptions with 20! Both great stats to be proud of.

My Thoughts on next week: It is going to be a very long offseason, but one of hope. I can write this with 100% confidence, NO ONE wanted to see the Steelers in the first round. While this team is limited, they are dangerous, and they beat you up. Miami is going to get run down by whoever they get first after fading badly down the stretch.

Jersey of the Week: Jack Ham #59, Throwback, “The Bumble Bee” had to make sure this made an appearance. One thing I try and do during the season is wear a Steelers jersey to church. It reminds me of Pittsburgh, and I like to support the team. Two comments that were passed to me at mass on Sunday, “You look like you escaped prison,” and “Ham is what you eat for breakfast,” So had that going for me!


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