The Steelers finished up the 2011 regular season with what seems to be a typical Browns/Steelers game that was played in some bad weather and it was low scoring but just like always the Steelers came out on top 13-9 and with a Baltimore win over Cincinnati they will be traveling to Denver as the number five seed for wildcard weekend.
Overall this game just had a really weird feeling to it and for most of it there really wasn’t much flow and it seemed as if a Steelers player was getting hurt every other play. Bad times for injuries. Ben Roethlisberger played after missing last week and he was rusty for much of the first half and couldn’t get the offense going as they were only 1-of-4 in the red zone. The defense came to play, yet again, and gave this team the chance it needed. This is the same defense that has given up 10 points or less seven times this season and only given up 48 points in the last six games. As I have said before there are zero style points in the NFL and a win is a win so I don’t care. 12-4 is a pretty damn good season and the Steelers are going to the postseason, again.
Here are some quick points from the game:
-Roethlisberger played for the first time since the Monday Night game against the 49ers and you could tell that he missed some action. He was off his mark and didn’t have any flow to his game at the beginning but by the time the second half rolled around it looked as if he got his legs under him and started looking more like the old Ben Roethlisberger. To be honest I don’t think there was much to notice about his high ankle sprain and he was moving around pretty well. Before the game he said he was only about 65% (not really sure how you get that number) but he was able to avoid the pressure and make plays out of the pocket. He should rest it a good bit of the week and be even better. He was still a bit tentative to run with the football, as he had a few chances to, so hopefully some more rest will help that out. Overall Ben was 23-of-40 for 221 yards today. That 5.5 YPA is pretty low for Ben so it clearly wasn’t his best game.
-I talked about injuries in the opening and there were a few of them and almost all of them were minor except for running back Rashard Mendenhall. In the second quarter he took the ball off the right tackle and as he was reaching the sideline he fell down without being hit and immediately grabbed his knee and it doesn’t look good. Word from the Steelers is that they fear it is his ACL and that would put him out for the playoffs and a question mark to start the 2012 season. Nothing is confirmed until he gets an MRI tomorrow morning but it doesn’t look good.
-The Steelers are now going to now turn to Isaac Redman which is what they also did today. He was pretty good running the ball 19 times for 92 yards (4.8 average) and scored a touchdown but gave away two fumbles in the fourth quarter. Now, the fumbles lost didn’t hurt the Steelers but you can’t do that stuff and you have to hold onto the football when you have the lead in the fourth quarter. He was strong though running the ball and while it is going to hurt big time to miss Mendenhall I think this might not be as terrible. Mendenhall is the best back on this team but Redman has ran the ball well this season and today. It will be interesting to see how he can handle the full workload against a better defense but I am not worried. I am also not sweating the two fumbles as Redman hasn’t shown me that he is prone to putting the ball on the ground. Stuff like this happens and he will most likely pass closer attention to it next time.
-Antonio Brown continues to be outstanding for this team. Right now he is the best receiver on the team and he was targeted 10 times and made six catches for 90 yards and was sure handed all day. Brown was named the team MVP earlier in the week and he did not let that go to his head and was outstanding again today.
-In what might have been the last regular season game as a Steelers receiver he became the eighth player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes. He needed to catch five passes and he caught exactly that many. While the 1,000th catch was on a shuffle pass that lost three yards it is truly a great accomplishment for a guy that will probably find himself in the Hall of Fame. I said about it in the preview and in the 2011 reflection post I did last night but I hope people don’t remember Hines for just this year alone but for entire career. He is arguably the best Steelers receiver ever and he has had an unreal career.
-What might be the most encouraging thing about the game today was that Troy Polamalu looks dominating and healthy and that is going to be key as we go into the playoffs. Troy takes the defense from decent to great and the things he can do on the field are stuff that no other player can do. He had three passes defended and a pick today and tackled Senaca Wallace before he was able to hand off the ball to Peyton Hillis. Unreal stuff he can do.
-Lawrence Timmons also had a really nice game today. I didn’t get a chance to rewatch any of the game and am only going off of what I saw live but it was a pretty nice performance from LT. He led the team with six tackles, all solo, had a sack and a pass defended. He was pretty good in coverage and really improved his play as he has struggled for much of the year.
-Ryan Clark was very good, again, for the Steelers. Most people talk about Troy when they talk about Steelers safeties but Clark has really played a nice season and really let’s Troy freelance and do what he needs to do. Typically it is not a good thing to have your safeties making a ton of tackles but Clark is leading the team in tackles and had a sack and a quarterback hit and just was an all around good game for Clark. It is going to be interesting in the coming days to see if Clark is going to play in Denver. Clark had a near death experience in Denver when he was diagnosed with the sickle cell trait that caused him to lose some organs and 30 pounds, ending his season. He did not play the last time they were in Denver in 2009 but did practice in the elevations and Mike Tomlin will sit down with doctors to see if he will be able to participate. I personally think that Clark will play since he was cleared to do so the last time but I would more than understand if he decided to sit out.
-Will Gay didn’t play a particularly good game. They really picked on Gay and his coverage wasn’t that great even though he did have a couple passes defended he just wasn’t he normal self. He also had a chance to make a tackle in the backfield late in the game and completely whiffed. Gay is typically a very good tackler it just seemed to be one of those games. He will be alright.
-How Ike Taylor didn’t make the Pro Bowl is beyond me. Greg Little came into the game as the Browns top threat and that meant that Ike Taylor spent much of the game shadowing him and once Little went to Taylor Island he wasn’t seen again. Little was targeted five times in the game and didn’t catch a single pass. Taylor was outstanding as he has been all season and him not being in the Pro Bowl is a true travesty.
-The Steelers might not have put up a bunch of points but they dominated the Browns from a statistical standpoint. The Steelers held the ball for just over 39 minutes and outgained the Browns 360-240. The Browns didn’t pick up its initial first down until the second quarter and only chalked up 72 yards on the ground and 44 of those were from quarterback Seneca Wallace. The Steelers also converted half of their third downs (8-of-16) and held the Browns to only 58 total plays and 4-of-14 on third down. It was a really great job by the defense and if they could have converted a few more times in the red zone this could have been really ugly.
Well it was a great regular season and get ready for the post season. The Steelers will travel to Denver to play the Broncos on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Get ready.
Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments.