As I talked about in the preview this game really shouldn’t have been close and even without numerous Pro Bowl players the Rams just weren’t very good and that is exactly what it was in a pretty easy 27-0 win over the Rams on Christmas Eve at Heinz Field. I was fortunate enough to be at the game and if I saw the same thing you did on TV then it was pretty easy to see that the Rams are in bad shape and probably will not win next week when they play the 49ers.
Since it is the holiday weekend here are a few quick points from the game:
-Charlie Batch was called on to start for Ben Roethlisberger and did a pretty nice job overall. I know Ben said that he was going to play and wanted to play but it was more than the right call to sit him for this game and they should sit him again next week. Batch is the “game manager” of the backup quarterbacks and did just that. He was an efficient 15-of-22 for 208 yards but was not able to throw a touchdown pass. He did throw a pick but I am not really sure how much you can blame that on Batch as Antonio Brown slipped and fell down leaving the defensive back as the only person in the area to catch the ball. Other than that Batch was elusive and broke out of a few would be sacks and even hit Mike Wallace for 46 yards that was ruled down at the one yard line.
-While Batch was pretty efficient he wasn’t as good converting third down opportunities as you would like him to be. The Steelers were only 1-of-7 on third down and that is not going to win you very many football games. It didn’t hurt the Steelers in the end and was sort of masked by a great running game and great red zone play (3-of-4) so I guess we can look past it.
-Speaking of the running the game the Steelers got it done again on the ground. They only ran the ball 28 times but went for 169 yards good for a 6.0 yard per carry average. Over the last four games the Steelers have gone for 130 yards or more. Not too shabby for a team that couldn’t run the football. Rashard Mendenhall continues to run the ball well. It seems like I say this every preview and ever recap that he has been running the ball hard the past month, but it has been the truth. He ran the ball 18 times for 116 yards and scored a touchdown which included a 52 yard scamper to set up a touchdown while also catching a 35 yard pass to set up a field goal. He looks confident and poised so I would keep feeding him the ball next week. Ike Redman was pretty good also with 35 yards on eight carries and John Clay got his first professional carry that resulted in a 10 yard touchdown.
-The defense pitched the shutout but it really wasn’t anything too impressive. They did not force a turnover and for the first time in a few games they were able to be run on. While the Rams couldn’t throw the football to save their lives they were able to get the ground game going thanks to Steven Jackson. Jackson ran the ball 24 times for 103 yards while the Rams ran for 164 yards total on the day. Only Ray Rice and Arian Foster have ran for over 100 yards against the Steelers this year and those were both in wins so I guess the idea that the Steelers got a shutout win makes this a little easier to swallow.
-Like I said before the defense didn’t force any turnovers and this was only a shutout because Josh Brown missed two field goals. The Black and Gold did get to Kellen Clemens three times but it would be really great to the Steelers to get a couple of picks or force a few fumbles. As we get ready for the playoffs the Steelers are going to see some good football teams and if they want to get past the Ravens or Patriots the defense is going to need to get on that next level. We have seen them play takeaway before this season so we know they can do that but a strong defensive finish would be huge against the Browns.
-Overall Kellen Clemens was as bad as we thought he was going to be. I think it was a little bit of the Steelers and a little bit of Clemens but it was bad. He only completed nine passes for 91 yards on 24 attempts. If you are pulling out the calculator that is a 3.8 yard per attempt average. That is terrible. Clemens gave the Rams really no chance and if the Steven Jackson wasn’t as good as he was then this could have been much worse. The secondary played a pretty nice game and that is in stark contrast to the way they were looked at last year and even at the beginning of this year.
-The Steelers have the Browns in the final week of the season. It was originally scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. start but has been flexed to a 4:15 p.m. start. Please change your plans accordingly. Right now the worst the Steelers can finish is in the fifth spot of the playoff race. If the Ravens lose to the Bengals and the Steelers win then they can earn a first round bye by being the number two seed. There is a scenario where the Steelers can be the top seed in the AFC but they would need a Ravens loss and a New England loss (against Buffalo) coupled with a Steelers win. Not saying that these scenarios can’t happen but those are the three spots the Steelers will be able to occupy as the playoffs.
The Steelers are now 11-4 and have had a pretty nice season. The Browns aren’t a great team so we should be looking at a 12-4 team when some people thought this wasn’t even a playoff team coming out of the lockout. Should be a wild finish for playoff seeding and hopefully the Steelers can get some help to win the AFC North and get the Wild Card weekend off.