Well, it's an away game, so I've set up camp here in the Bietz Underground Newsroom and Sports Bar to try to ramble through another one. My wife has sort of put her foot down about me being typing crazily on a computer during the games, so there will probably be more missing bits in this one than usual.
I'm nervous, I'm twitchy, and I've got that nervous feeling in the the pit of the beer repository. There's CBS types waxing poetic about the Browns who were ripping on them a couple of weeks ago. Blah. Shut up people. WTAM doesn't come in well in the underground sports bar, so we have to suffer with the nitwits. At least there's no Brent Jones.
Time to dial up the chat room and get this going. First good sign... three out of the four talking heads picked the Steelers. I like our chances better now. GO BROWNS!!!
The Steelers kick off and it bounces into the end zone. Holcomb leads the Browns onto the field. He now has a offensive line operating as a unit and running game to help him. On first down, Holcomb immediately throws into the short zone to Green coming out of the backfield. It's a one-yard gain, but I like the call. The Browns are in the no-huddle and the Steelers get flummoxed and have to call a timeout. Anyone hoping that Arians would be aggressive is getting their wish. There were four wides in against a weak Pittsburgh secondary. Nice.
The Pittsburgh crowd, stoked up on cheap beer and toxic chemical in the air, is making primate-like noises and threw off Holcomb. Delay of game, five yard penalty. Holcomb goes up under center this time, snaps, and launches a 21-yard pass to Kevin Johnson.
The primates in Pittsburgh just got a message on the scoreboard that Condiment Park has run out of bananas, so they start booing. Cowher gets caught up in it, and tosses in the red flag for the review. Cowher wins the review, and the Browns are back in a 3 and 14. Not good.
This time Holcomb throws it long to KJ again and he BREAKS FREE!!! JOHNSON IS SINGLE COVERED AND BREAKS LOOSE DOWN THE SIDELINE!!! He's down at the two yard line. William Green gets the ball on first and goal, cuts back outside the left tackle and it's TOUCHDOWN BROWNS!!! TOUCHDOWN BROWNS!!! Browns 7, Steelers 0
Dawson kicks it down to about the ten, per usual, and Randle El runs it back to the 29 yard line. Tommy Maddox comes out against the Browns defense. Right off the bat, the Squeelers go to the run and they grab about three yards. When they run, they're going up against two ex-Steelers who need to have good days: Roye and Holmes. They run it again on second, and they have a third and five. I'm wondering if Mike Mularky doesn't go to his bag of tricks now. But it's a five-step drop and KENARD LANG BLOWS PAST THE ROOKIE KENDALL SIMMONS AND MADDOX IS SACKED! It's punting time! Northcutt takes it at the 39 and returns it up to the 50. That field position doesn't suck. Great start!
Four wides as Holcomb comes out and bounces one off of Morgan's fingers. But there's offsides on Pittspuke (Gildon) so we're on a second and five. No huddle... Holcomb hands off to Green who is wrapped up by Townsend. Green struggles to get the ball back to the line of scrimmage. Arians is mixing it up. On second down, Holcomb hands off to Green on a draw, who gets four yards to create a third-and-one. Arians play-calling so far is very smart, in my opinion. Green gets the ball on third down and the deathly injured (yeah right) Kendrell Bell gets him in the backfield. Gardocki takes the ball and pins the Steelers back on the five.
A fat Steeler fan in a Batman suit is shown (.... I'm.... Fatman) and Maddox drops and bonces one off the ground. But Amos Zereoue gets the ball on second down and runs right up the middle for ten yards and a first down. Steelers have the ball on the 17. One first down, the Stooges go back to the run, and Dwayne Rudd (continuing his solid play of late) stuffs them a yard deep.
On second-and-eleven, Maddox has all day and connects with Burress on the 39 after he seperates from Cutch. Maddox does straight back to it, and tosses it again to Burress on the left-hand side for a first down at mid-field. Famous Amos gets the ball again on first down and gets four yards. The try the same play with Fu on second down and Holmes wraps him up for no gain. Third and five. Maddox again has all day from the shotgun but overthrows Randle El. Punting time again!
Browns take over after a mediocre punt. Holcomb takes over on the 17. Play action to #31. Green gets a little space and gets it up to the 25. Green gets it on second and three, and the massive Casey Hampton wraps him up two yards deep. Man, these guys are tough to run against. This wakes up the Stooges crowd. Holcomb out of the shotgun... COMPLETE! Dennis Northcutt! First down Browns!
Pitch to Green going right on first down. One yard. Holcomb seven step drop... sacked by Farrior. Third and sixteen. Holcomb tosses it off to Mark Campbell on the right but it's not enough to get a first down. Steelers are getting a better rush.
Randle El proves tough to wrap up on the return and Heiden hits him late. Stupid play! That gives them another 15 up to the Browns 45. Crap. That sort of play will kill us.
So will Zereoue running up the middle for about forty yards like he does now on first down. Holmes got schooled. Maddox tosses it into the end zone for Ward, but CUTCH INTERCEPTS IT! COMES RIGHT UNDER AND GRABS THE BALL!! RUNS IT UP TO THE 30!! That was CLUTCH, right when we needed it!
Browns back on offense. Short run up the middle. Then Green runs left and has to cut back across the field to try to make something of it. The injured Kendrell Bell hobbles over at 50 MPH to cut him down after a yard. Going with a silent snap, Holcomb runs out of time. One quarter down, and the Browns are winning.
Snow. Third and thirteen. Mud. Noise. Holcomb steps up against the blitz. Davis can't hold on to the low pass. Now Randle El FUMBLES THE BALL ON THE RETURN!!! LEWIS SANDERS SMACKS HIM HARD! AKINS GRABS IT!! The crowd boos but they're clueless. It's a good play bu Sanders and a stupid decision by Randle El. Now HOLCOMB GOES DEEP TO NORTHCUTT ON THE FADE COMPLETE!!!! TOUCHDOWN!!!! WOOOOOOOO HOOOOO!! Browns 14, Steelers 0
After the ridiculous Randle El gets smashed, we learn of a fifteen yard face mask against the Browns. I didn't see it. Maddox makes a nice throw to Ward who is covered like a blanket by Fuller. Good execution on that one. Steelers are now on the Browns 48. Zereous gets the ball on first down and is wrapped up immediately. Second down Amos up the middle for four. Third and six on the Browns 45. Four receiver set and Maddox connects to Ward over the middle. Nice catch by the Stooge after the high throw bounces off his face mask.
Steelers on the Browns 25. Zereoue on first down gets nothing. Then Maddox goes to the air again, and MCKINLEY GETS PENETRATION AND TIPS IT!! CUTCH PICKS IT OFF AND RUNS IT BACK!! BROWNS BALL!!
The Browns go to the run on first down from the 30. Nothing. Again on second down. Again, nothing. Arians is getting conservative now, it seems. Throw the ball, dummy. It works. Holcomb in the shotgun in an obvious passing situation. Lots of pressure and Holcomb overthrows KJ on the sideline. Punt time. Randle El, after acting injured before when he fumbled, runs back the kick for a TD. Browns 14, Steelers 7.
Bad kickoff by Reed, which Campbell catches off the bounce and takes to the Browns 40. First down, and Holcomb aims for Campbell. Despite being on death's door, Kendrell Bell nearly runs in front of it and picks it off. But he doesn't. Second down. Then Holcomb unleashes a bullet to Quincy Morgan across the middle. Holcomb takes a nasty hit by Farrior, but bounces right back up.
On first down, Joey Porter - who is sort of Pittsburgh's version of Dwayne Rudd - grabs William Green with one hand and drags him down. Loss of five. Second and fifteen. Holcomb gets 14 of it quickly to KJ who scoops it up off the ground. Third and one. The hand-off to Green going left is stuffed by medical miracle Kendrell Bell, who limps at 40 MPH on his busted ankle to hit Green five yards deep. Gardocki punts it into the end zone and the Squeelers take over.
Alvin McKinley is doing well at the DT spot and sacks Maddox five yards deep. Maddox has all day on second down and hits Ward at the 25 to make it third and five. Roye gets pressure on Maddox on the pass play and the ex-XFLer tosses it high where it falls incomplete. Browns get the ball back on their own 40.
Wow. Green is standing seven yards deep behind Holcomb under center. Holcomb pump fakes and Townsend bites on a KJ move inside. KJ gets space and CATCHES THE BALL ON THE PITTSPUKE SIDELINE!! First down onthe thirty.
First down, throw into the end zone incomplete. Second down, draw to Green which works for six yards. Arians calls run when they're thinking pass. That's the way to make it work against these guys. Little shovel pass to Northcutt. It looks like he's short, but he keeps his legs moving and squirts forward for a FIRST DOWN BROWNS!!
Holcomb has all day but has to go to Darnell Sanders, who makes a nice catch for all of two yards. Second and eight and a PERFECT throw by Holcomb which White catches over his shoulder inside the TWO YARD LINE! Beautiful!
It's tough to be William Green today. He gets the ball about the same time as Lee Flowers stops talking for a second and hits him at the seven. Green manages to get up to the four through his own effort. The Steelers run defense is NOT overrated. They have a lot of impact players. Wow.
Arians tries a trick play. Holcomb hands off to KJ, who is going to throw back to Holcomb. It gets blown up big time by Porter and didn't fly. We lose ground back to the 20. Arians goes to the screen against the blitzing Stooges and it works pretty well, as Jamel White makes it up inside the 15. Dawson nails the field goal and the Browns extend their lead to ten. Browns 17, Squeelers 7
Plaxico Burress, who has avoided the cops during the season, is wide open on first down and grabs a chunk of yardage. Maddox goes back to him on the second down, but it's broken up. Thirty seven seconds left. Maddox connects to ancient Terry Mathis and he manages to get out of bounds onthe Browns 37. 28 seconds. He tries it again, but Mathis can't catch it. 23 seconds from the Browns 37. Underneath to Ward at the 30. Maddox spikes the ball with seven seconds left, and Jeff Reed will have a long field goal in the muck. He misses it!! HA! The Browns are now going to run out the clock and go in up 10 at the half. BOOYAH!! There are some scattered boos as the Squeelers jog off the field
The Steelers start the quarter with the ball around their 30. Zereoue for five. Ward around end for four yards. Announcers prattle on about the Steelers weapons while they're down ten. Apparently that's what they prepared to talk about. Zereoue crushed by Rudd and Griffith for a loss. Three. And. Out.
Northcutt gets the punt on his thirty and squirts up the middle and BREAKS FREE!! HE HEADS TO THE SIDELINES AND TAKES IT TO THE STEELERS 14!! A block by Henry was key!
Maddox goes to Cutt on the fade and doesn't connect. Green gets a handoff on second down and gets nothing. Third and eleven. Holcomb back and TOSSES TO NORTHCUTT ON THE OTHER LEFT SIDE FOR A TOUCHDOWN!!!!! WOO HOO!! He had lots of time and his throw was right on the money. Very nice! WE ARE WINNING BY 17!!! CAN YOU SAY UPSET!! Browns 24, Steelers 7
The Steelers get the ball back and and seem to be melting down. We'll see. Maddox is forced to throw under a blitz and it's incomplete. Boos in Condiment Park. End run by Famous Amos. Doesn't get squat. Griffith blitzes on third down and Maddox steps around it. He overthrows Mathis and it is... THREE. AND. OUT. Again. Browns ball.
Browns go after the jugular to Q, deep. Amazing attempt for the ball, but he's out of bounds. Second and 10. Holcombs finds Campbell in a seam by the right hash mark and there's 20 yards. Nice touch on that ball. Four Steelers bolt across the line before the play. They point madly at the Browns offensive line, but get called for offsides. Green gets the ball and gets hit again five yards in the backfield. Again, Holcomb hits Morgan up the middle for another quick 20 yards. The Browns had WRs running up the sidelines all day and now Arians and Holcomb are exploiting the middle of the zone.
Holcomb tries to go deep again, but before that he's speared by Mike Logan who goes after him with his helmet to the quarterback's neck. Logan jumps around like an angry 2-year-old when being called for the penalty and fans react to the demonstration by booing.
But then Holcomb makes a mistake. He presses the ball to the short zone, and Logan steps up to snag and interception. This stops the Browns from putting the game away but Logan is hurt. The Steelers get it back on the 29.
Pass to the tight end. Complete. Second and 1. Another. First down. A Zereoue run and a Maddox scramble and it's third and two. Maddox out of the shotgun. Complete to Randle El for five yards and first down. Out of the shotgun on first down. Complete for eight. Steelers are moving. Three yard pass to Randle El and a fist down. The fans are waking up again. On the Browns 30. Randle El wide open over the middle for 25, down to the Browns 5. First and goal.
First down. Throws again to Randle El, but incomplete. Word puts pressure on Maddox on second down, but he hits Burress at back of the end zone for a touchdown. Down ten points, Squeeler fans are chanting "Cleveland Sucks". Pffft. It was a nice drive, boys, but it only counts for 7. Not 17. Scoreboard still looks good to me. Browns 24, Squeelers 14
On the first play, Holcomb rolls out and finds Davis going against the safety one on one. It's COMPLETE FOR 44 YARDS and it shuts up drunken Steelerfan. Browns on the Steelers 30. First down. Complete pass for five. Pitch to Green gets one. Little pass outside to White. First down on the 15!! Holcomb drops again and gets good protection.... rolls outside for four. That makes me nervous, but we keep moving. Holcomb and White are confused on second down, and Holcomb calls a time out. End-around to Northcutt makes it a third-and-one within the shadow of the Steelers goalpost.
The first play of the fourth quarter is an incomplete pass into the end zone, making it fourth and one. Davis plays it safe and has Dawson kick a gimme field goal. Browns 27, Squeelers 14
The Steelers get back to work. Maddox to Mathis for 25... they're already on the Browns 45. The Browns are on their heels against the no-huddle spread offense. Again. Bomb to Randle El on the 15. Short run and the Browns need another turnover. Maddox to Randle El on the three. It looks like a fumble for a second, and is called that way, but then they ruled it down by contact. The Raiders have to be watching this and salivating. Maddox and Faneca bounce the ball around but keep it. Then a Maddox pass is bounced around like a volleyball but soemehow it falls into the hands of their tight ends. Pretty lucky play, but it counts like a good one. Browns 27, Squeelers 21
As we return to Corporate Condiment Coliseum, they are playing a bad Styx song from the 70s. Seems appropriate. Holcomb throws long on first down... BANG!!... Northcutt pulls it down on the 45 of Pittspuke. Now, Green POPS FREE through the middle on an odd two tight-end formation for the Browns. Browns have it on the 20! Same formation, but this time it doesn't work. Second and 12 from the 22. Holcomb's pocket collapses on him and he throws it away. Third and 12. Holcomb rolls right and THROWS TO WIDE OPEN ANDRE DAVIS IN THE END ZONE. TOUCHDOWN!!! PUT THEM AWFUL HANKIES AWAY!!! The Browns go for two but don't get it, making the score Browns 33, Steelers 21
Steelers get the ball back on their 27,and the Browns defense cannot let the Steelers fly down the field on them again. Handoff to Zereoue is screwed up by Roye. Second and ten. 9:40 left. Short pass to Fhooey-Mooey and the Stooges get an ultra-generous spot to get the first down. On first down, though, Orpheus Roye BLASTS up the middle and drops Maddox ten yards deep! CLUTCH!! Maddox drops and throws incomplete. Third and 20. Maddox drops a screen to Ward and Brant slows it down enough to hold them from a first down. Punt back to the Browns.
Hand off to Green goes nowhere. Clock keeps ticking. 8:00. Another handoff nets two. 7:15. Complete pass to White up to middle. Steelers defense is dropping back to cover the four WRs and White can just go into the middle for the first down. 6:35. Another run to Green, this time for four yards. Tick, tick, tick. 6:00. Handoff to Green for two. Third and three. 5:44. Steelers take a timeout. This gives my wife and I time to ponder how the heck a white handprint wound up on Holcomb's helmet. No matter. Deep drop by Holcomb, throws high to KJ, and it falls incomplete. Holcomb is about an inch deep in the mud. Gotta love it. Gardocki blasts it to the Stooge 20 and Lewis Sanders is again right there to stop Randle El.
Now the pressure is on the Steelers. 5:30. Holcomb drops and misses the dump to Fooey-Mafafala. Roye is blowing up the middle causing trouble again. Maddox in the shotgun again, and Burress bobbles it and it falls incomplete. Third and 10. Maddox in the shotgun and he has enough time to ponder his next contract. Complete to Mathis at the 37. A little dump pass to Foompa-Loompa gets about five. Now Maddox tosses to Randle El and Earl Little CLOCKS HIM and knocks the ball out. That brought tears to my eyes. Another ten yards up the middle to Mathis... it keeps the clock running. 3:52. Rogers grabs MADDOX IN THE BACKFIELD and Word wraps him up! Rudd blows it, though, holding Ward and the Steelers get the call. Steelers on the 37, and Maddox almost ends it by forcing the ball down the middle of the field. Henry NEARLY picks it off but it falls incomplete. Maddox tosses to Mathis for a completion. Lewis Sanders pushes Burress out of bounds and gets called for interference. Then, on the next play, the Steelers get another call. A helmet to helmet hit on Ward called on Griffith. Sheesh.
After a pass to Ward, running all over the field, the Steelers have a first and goal. 3:15. Maddox tries to throw to Burress who is blanketed by Fuller. Lots of pushing back and forth. Second and goal. Maddox fires a bullet to Hines Ward and gets a touchdown. Browns 33, Squeelers 28
An Andre Davis return takes it to our own 23 and a crucial drive begins. 3:00 remaining. Green gets three against the Pittspuke D. The Stooges take their second time out. 2:52. Kendrell Bell is hurt now, as opposed to earlier, and hobbles off the field. Holcomb goes long to Morgan, and he can't hold on. Third and seven. 2:49. Delay of game makes it a third and twelve. Holcombs third down toss to Dennis Northcutt was very good, but he doesn't pull it in and the Browns are forced to punt.
Steelers have the ball on their own 39. 2:35 with one timeout. Complete in the seam to the Browns 37. The Steelers can really take their time now. An incomplete pass on first down takes us down to the two minute warning, and the Squeelers are threatening, as well as malodorous.
Second down. Complete to Hines Ward. Third and one. 1:48. Maddox drops back again. Complete to Burress at the eight. Clock is ticking. 1:20. First and goal. Maddox with forever to throw gets it to Ward on the five. 0:58. Stooges take their last time out. Second and goal. Handoff to Fooey-Moomoo. Touchdown. Two point conversion si good. Steelers 36, Browns 33
Same old, same old. A miracle is required. Yawn. Andre Davis takes the ball to the Browns 23 and is hurt. He's helped off the field. Holcomb in the shotgun. 13 yards to KJ at the Browns 36. 0:44 seconds. Ball is hit as he releases it. Incomplete. 0:39. Complete to White in the middle. Third and three. 0:20. First down to Northcutt at the Pittspuke 45 with seven seconds. Andre King caught the ball and got out of bounds, but the clock had expired. Steelers win. I'm damn proud of this team. Damn proud. Let's regroup and win the Super Bowl next year. We can do it. Great game for both teams.
FINAL SCORE: Steelers 36, Browns 33