I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the fact that the Browns did some good things, played hard, and hung in for most of the game, they lost. Some of the same areas of concern were exposed as in the previous five games. Yet, for starting a rookie quarterback and losing two important receivers, the Browns did manage to be competitive for three quarters.
Here are some random thoughts about what I saw:
- While the defense gave up 14 points (I'll hang 7 on special teams and another 7 on the offense), they gave up way too many cheap yards. In a close game, allowing the Steelers to dig out of a deep hole with back-to-back plays that gained 85 yards is inexcusable. It could have been worse without Joe Haden's interception early on. These situations kept the Browns from capitalizing on some good punting.
- I was worried the Browns would go ultra-conservative with Colt McCoy in the game. It was a great move to let him throw. He had several completions of over 20 yards. I will grant that the two interceptions hurt, and both were tipped. His worst throw wasn't intercepted by should have been. Despite his tendency to run when maybe he didn't need to, I liked his poise under heavy fire.
- While I will give kudos to Reggie Hodges for his best game to date, he was aided by some lucky bounces. Still, he placed four punts inside the 10 and that's a big improvement over the first five games.
- It was very disappointing to see Joshua Cribbs leave the game. He had a good kickoff return and it would have been nice to see what the Browns could have done out of the wildcat. When the Browns got behind, Cribbs could have been an important asset as a receiver, too.
- Both Eric Wright and Sheldon Brown got burned again. Both missed tackles in the running game. I'm concerned how many times Wright appears to be getting turned around. To be fair, both players did make big tackles.
- Joe Haden not only had a great interception and return, but he also made some nice special teams plays. It looks to me like Haden continues to improve each game.
- The safety play in the passing game was a disaster. I know the Browns blitzed on the 50-yard pass play, but leaving TJ Ward and Abe Elam to cover a receiver was suicide. That was a huge game-changing play. Abe Elam also was schooled on yet another run. I know the Browns don't have a lot of options at this point, but Elam is a tremendous liability.
- I thought the offensive line held up decently against a tough Pittsburgh front. It was tough going trying to run inside, and the Steelers were well prepared for some of what the Browns did. McCoy ran more than a veteran quarterback would have, but the line did OK enough.
- Last week I called out the defense for bad tackling. It was better this week, but there were some lapses against the run, especially early and late.
- Welcome to the game Brian Shaeferring and Derrick Robinson. Both played well and made impact plays. If Robaire Smith is indeed injured enough to miss significant time, the Browns need these guys to continue to make plays.
- Brian Robiske caught the first pass of the game, then disappeared for most of it. He probably needs more of a presence at the other receiver positions to help him be effective, and with Mohammed Massaqoui out, it hurt. But still, get open and make a catch. At least Chansi Stuckey made some plays.
- Speaking of Stuckey, find another punt return guy. Too many adventures back there even before the fumble. And given how shaky Stuckey was, having the Steelers punt three times in a row was a risky call.
- Thank you, thank you, thank you for getting Evan Moore in the game more. The kid makes plays. Get him on the field.
- Ben Watson also made six catches, but an end around? Really?
- I know he hasn't even been around a week, but Mike Bell looked Jerome Harrison-like.
The Quarterback Conundrum
Add my voice to those calling for Colt McCoy to get an extended look. The kid did not embarrass himself and played well enough to keep the Browns in the game. He made some nice throws and moved well when he had to. The Browns have to find out if he can play. It's way too early to anoint McCoy as the franchise quarterback, but he got off to a solid start. Experience will help, and let's face it - the Browns aren't going anywhere in 2010.
That's not to say that Wallace can't play a role in the wildcat or scenarios where his running style would match up well with an opponent. But I think the Browns need to see if McCoy will continue to grow once teams get some film on him. I repeat what I said last week, I think the Browns have to move on from Delhomme. He can continue to be a high-priced coach.
I am stunned that a league that has made so many rule changes to protect players can overlook the hit on Cribbs and the clothesline tackle on Joe Haden after his interception. At least they are willing to look at the hit on Massaquoi. I am fed up with certain teams getting away with every trick in the book. The Steelers lined up offside numerous times and did not get called. The NFL loses its credibility when teams like the Steelers and other media darlings get away with infractions of the rules while the rest of the teams get the letter of the law.
I am old school when it comes to football. James Harrison is perhaps the dirtiest player in the NFL. For him to make these hits and gloat over them is one thing. But to make the comments afterward that he doesn't mind hurting someone needs to be addressed, or the NFL needs to stop all the talk about player safety because it is just lip service. Read the rule, both of those hits were infractions. The first one deserved a penalty, the second deserved an ejection. If the NFL is serious about these issues, than show it. Let's see someone get suspended for remarks like these.
In the old days, Browns players would have taken care of business after someone did that to one of their own. I guess those days are gone. Where is the passion? Do these guys even care that a player that is the heart and soul of this team got laid out? At least stand up for your teammate -- without maiming anyone.
By the way, NFL, I am waiting for your apology to TJ Ward then.
All in all, it looked to me like the Browns had a decent game plan going in. Without Cribbs, we only got to see part of it. But in the end, the wounded Browns didn't have the horses to close out a game like this one on the road. You can't make the mistakes they made against a good team and win.
While I realize that Eric Mangini has to be concerned about his job and trying to win, the Browns have once again reached the point where there will be tension between winning games and looking to the future. I am very curious to see what will happen with young players seeing the field. I am wondering if the front office will give Mangini more of a free pass if he plays the young pups.
At this point, the Browns need to regroup, get as healthy as they can, and look to win some games starting in November. It will be tough to go to New Orleans, but that team is not invincible. On the other hand, the defense had better make some adjustments or Drew Brees will carve them up.
The Browns travel to New Orleans to face the defending Super Bowl champs.
The season is short. Bark hard!