Here is a quick recap:
-There really wasn't much. Starting on the offensive side the good was only two players and they were Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller. With the receiving core broken down with a ton of injuries and having two guys dress (out of the four) who haven't been on field at all this season. Sanders has been very good since Antonio Brown went out and Jerricho Cotchery did the same. Sanders led the team with 75 yards receiving and when Charlie Batch couldn't get anything going he was able to adjust routes and make the plays. In the same way that Sanders was making plays Heath Miller was the security blanket for Batch and made a team-best six catches for 63 yards. he would have almost had 100 yards receiving on the day if it weren't for a negated 33 yard grab in the fourth quarter. Interesting that the Steelers didn't try to utilize Miller more and if they did I think they could have had a much better shot of moving up and down the field.
-The entire defense was outstanding. You can look at the final score and see that the Browns scored 20 points but nearly all those points were scored on short fields where the defense really had no chance to make a stop. Lawrence Timmons continues to play some really good football with a pick-6 on the Browns first possession and continually gave the Browns no lanes in either the run or pass game. Cleveland finished the game with only 238 total yards and a mere 130 passing yards. The Browns scored on three different possessions that went 33, 10 and 31 yards. You can't ask for a ton more from a defense. The only criticism you could remotely come up with is that they let a few picks go through their hands but other than that it was another great game for the defense. They forced the Browns to punt the ball ten (!) times and if the offense wasn't giving it back to Cleveland every possession they probably win this game easy. Individually you have to give a shout out to James Harrison. At the start of the season he wasn't on the field and when he did come back on the field he looked liked he lost a few steps. The past couple of games looks like he found his stride and he was one of the best defensive players on the field on Sunday. It is sure a good sight to see.
-The specials teams were pretty good, especially punter Drew Butler. He hasn't been completely consistent this year but Butler was very good at flipping the field position and with the help of some good coverage units limited the Browns to some pretty shoddy field position. Butler finished the game with six punts that averaged nearly 46 yards per punt with a long of 55. The Steelers won the special teams battle but it didn't really mean all that much in the end.
-Yup, there were really only three positives in the game. It was that bad.
-The Steelers turned the ball over eight times. Eight. They tallied five lost fumbles and three interceptions. As bad as that sounds they actually fumbled the ball eight times but had enough dumb luck to have three either go out of play or recover them. Each of the four running backs fumbled at least once while Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Rainey and Sanders each fumbled a pair of times. I literally have no idea how the Steelers only lost by six.
-Batch wasn't nearly the only reason that the Steelers lost but man he was pretty brutal. He was consistently missing receivers and wasn't able to push the ball down field and was picked on three different passes that weren't very good throws. He had Mike Wallace open down the middle of the field on a deep ball and under threw him pretty bad and just didn't have the arm strength on it to get the ball to his receivers on out routes. I guess there was a reason he wasn't brought in against Baltimore. I like Chuck, but, man, it was bad.
-The offensive line was pretty decent in pass blocking but the run blocking was pretty brutal. Sure, the running back couldn't hold on to the football but they were getting hit at or behind the line of scrimmage and that resulted in only 49 rushing yards on 20 carries between about a million backs. With the inability of Batch to throw the ball really at all the Browns were able to stack the line of scrimmage and stuff the run.
-The Steelers have had a really tough time with penalties all season and that portion came up again. The Steelers were penalized nine times for 68 yards and a majority of those were holding penalties that wiped out positive gaining plays and put the Steelers in a bunch of 1st-and-20 situation where they weren't able to have success. I would say that they can have this cleaned up and that it is something that is changeable but at this point in the season I am not sure how much change can happen.
-The injury bug was bad before the game and it got much worse against the Browns. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley and tackle Mike Adams were both lost due to ankle injuries and that just added to the loss of Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu just for a start. Earlier on Monday Marcus Gilbert was placed on the IR which ended his season. While Adams looks like he is going to miss a few weeks it seems as if most of the other walking wounded could play on Sunday afternoon but as it sits right now the injury situation is a huge reason the Steelers fell in back-to-back games.
-I could go through a lot of other negative things but the fact remains that the Steelers still lost to the Browns, which stings.
The Steelers are now in an interesting position. At 6-5 they still sit in the playoffs as they hold the tiebreaker over the Bengals. Basically this is a three team race for the final two spots between Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Miami Dolphins still have only six losses but they have a brutal finish to the season and the Chargers are all but out of it with seven losses. I know there isn't much substance to this but the last playoff spot is really going to come down to the December 23rd Steelers/Bengals game. Winner probably gets in. I know a ton of people are really down on the Steelers right now but barring a huge collapse or the Steelers just not getting healthy I still think this is a playoff team. If they get healthy this team can still be really good, especially with how well the defense has played. Oh yea, and having Big Ben.