There was a sense of relief in the Steelers' locker room following the team’s 30-27 victory Sunday over the Cleveland Browns.
This team knew the gravity of the situation it faced in the fourth quarter of this game, especially after seeing a 27-3 halftime lead erased in less than a quarter.
The players in that locker room knew that had the Steelers blown this game, it might have been something from which they might not have recovered.
“We don’t want to be in this situation often,” said defensive end Cameron Heyward. “But if it happens, we’ll take the W. We can sit here and talk about stats and mistakes, but at the end of the day, we get the win.”
You can do that when you win. Had the Steelers lost, it would have been the biggest collapse in team history against a once-hated rival that is trying to get up off the mat following years of ineptitude.
@ Despite the negatives, and there were many, there also was plenty to like in this game, particularly from the offense in the first half.
Ben Roethlisberger looked sharp – save an ill-advised forced throw to running back Le’Veon Bell that was intercepted – and Bell was decisive in his running and showed off some great moves in the passing game.
“I thought this was a game where everyone got to see what he can do,” said Roethlisberger of Bell, who had 109 yards rushing and six receptions for 88 yards. “He did a little bit of everything.”
Bell got 27 touches in this game, accounting for 197 total yards and a touchdown.
It’s a heavy load, but Roethlisberger said he and Bell have an agreement to keep Bell fresh.
“I told him this year that when you’re winded, instead of running off the field for a substitute, just let me know and I’ll call a play that lets you line up out wide or not do as much. To his credit, I think it happened once.”
The Steelers had just 34 sacks all of last season and need to get pressure. They had just six games last season in which they recorded three or more sacks.
“We got pressure when we needed to,” said Heyward, whose sack came on Cleveland’s final possession. “We can do better, but we made plays when we needed to.”
@ Cleveland gashed the Steelers in the second half with a fast-paced no-huddle that had the defense gasping for air at times, unable to make substitutions.
Cleveland’s first scoring drive of the second half covered 80 yards in six plays in just 1:33. The second, a six-play, 59-yard drive, took just 2:33 off the clock. The Browns also had a 12-play, 75-yard field goal drive in just 4:45 and a seven-play, 51-yard touchdown drive that took 2:35 to complete.
“We talked about changing the tempo,” said Cleveland coach Mike Pettine, “forcing teams to think a little faster, getting lined up, getting some first downs. It gets them tired. It keeps you on the field.”
It’s a concept that anyone who watched the Steelers against Philadelphia in the preseason knows this team can’t handle defensively at this point. And after seeing the Steelers struggle with it Sunday, you can bet they will see it again and again until they stop it.
“We’ve got to be able to adjust to that,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “Those things are going to continue to come. We’ve got to address that and work on it.”
But his personal foul for unnecessary roughness negated a big play and could wind up getting him fined.
“I had my mind made up that he was going under me,” said Brown. “I tried to go over him. (I had) no intent to hurt him. I was just a bad outcome of a play.”
It was also unnecessary. It appeared that if Brown, who had only the punter to beat, had cut back to the outside, he would have scored.
Instead, the ball went back to the 50 and Bell scored on nifty 38-yard run two plays later.
@ Brad Wing acquitted himself well in his first official NFL game.
Wing punted six times for an average of 43.7 yards, one touchback and two punts downed inside the 20. His net average was 40.3 yards.
If he can do that kind of work every week, the Steelers won't have to worry any longer about the punting job.