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From the Notebook of a Sportswriter ...

SCI publisher Jim Wexell's bullet-point and big-picture commentary on the Steelers' 27-24 OT win over the Cleveland Browns.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who just watched a miserable Steelers run defense but who doesn't have to knock it all that much as the team heads into the playoffs:

* "Missed tackles, the scheme," was how Lawrence Timmons explained away the season-high 231 rushing yards put up by the 1-15 Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

* The first part -- if I know Timmons, and I think I do -- was his humility speaking. He's the inside linebacker and he probably wanted to include himself as part of the problem.

* The second part -- if I know Timmons, and I think I do -- was an accidental blurt. Not that he deep down should feel critical of the Steelers defensive coaches, but that nickel defense without James Harrison, Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward is an absolute sieve against a team that remains committed to running the ball.

* Of course, Heyward has been on IR since midseason. Tuitt was sitting out his second game and should be expected to return for Sunday's playoff game. Harrison, though, in my opinion, was the critical missing piece against the Browns and he was merely being rested.

* It's not that Harrison brings more than the other two, but for his position -- linebacker-playing-DE in a spot I have no doubt will become a personnel argument at draft time -- Harrison brings 265 pounds of DE-like power and strength to a spot that requires someone to drop into coverage like a linebacker.

* Good luck finding that in your 3-4 OLB prototype, which everyone just assumes will be their first-round draft preference.

* Harrison., at 38, can't be expected to give them much in coverage, athletically, but he does because of his savvy.

* All of this on what may have been Jarvis Jones' finest day as a Steeler.

* As a replacement for Harrison, Jones had his first sack of the season (against the great Joe Thomas, no less), forced a fumble inside the Pittsburgh 5 with a minute remaining in a tie game, and batted a pass at the line in overtime. It was a performance that likely saved Jones' career.

* But not in Pittsburgh. He can't play that defensive end position. Not with another 3-4 OLB prototype playing the other DE spot in what isn't a 3-4 defense anymore.

* While that other OLB, Bud Dupree, did beat a tackle for a sack for the first time in his brief career, he did so out of the 3-4 alignment that the Steelers use less than 25 percent of the time. He was angled wide and his "bend" around the corner really didn't take all that much turn and leverage.

* Not that Dupree is a problem. It's just that the Steelers can't have two of these run-deficient linebackers playing DE in four-man fronts 75 percent of the time.

* I only harp on this because this was a meaningless game that made me think more about the big picture.

* And also because the 231 they allowed on the ground broke the season high of 222 set by the very same Miami Dolphins whom the Steelers will face Sunday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the playoffs.

* The differences are that this game will be played at Heinz Field, Harrison will be back at defensive end and the Dolphins will be without center Mike Pouncey. The three-time Pro Bowler has been on IR since Dec. 13. He played only five games all season, and one of them -- one of the few in which the Dolphins' preferred OL was in place -- came against the Steelers.

* I believe the other Jones, Landry, did extend his Pittsburgh career with his performance against the Browns. Like Jarvis', Landry's contract is up at the end of this season. It's my belief the Steelers should extend him and perhaps draft another QB.

* I would not be averse to drafting one rather high, either. It all depends on value, value, value in any round.

* Need, of course, directs the pick when the value is tied or close, and QB isn't an immediate need. But it is the most important position in all of sports.

* Ben Roethlisberger said several weeks ago that the team which will win this season's Super Bowl has most likely lost its last game. One of the reporters questioned Ben's math, said that this wasn't true of the Steelers in 2005, and it ticked off the QB. I remember this because I thought Roethlisberger nailed the prediction at that time.

* I'll have the exact time of the prediction and which teams qualify under the Roethlisberger Rule later in the week.

* And also, there was the Roethlisberger "Follow Me" command that's standing out in my mind at this time.

* The improbable win did keep the Steelers' win streak alive and it's now at seven games. Cobi Hamilton's catch made sure of that, in spite of all of the opportunities the Browns had been given Sunday.

* That may have been Cobi's most memorable NFL catch, but it may not have been his best of the game. "Combat Catch Cobi" made a 17-yard reception in the third quarter and held on after taking a brutal blast from a DB.

* Darrius Heyward-Bey, though, was the best development for the Steelers on this day. After having missed seven games with a mid-foot injury, the guy who could return a deep threat opposite Antonio Brown, and divert some of the attention of safeties, showed that he could once again be a threat for Roethlisberger.

* DHB showed speed early Sunday by having a step on an underthrown bomb, but he also showed a rounded off out-route that made me wonder whether his foot was able to make sharp cuts. I still wonder about it a bit, but he showed off his deep skills in the middle of the fourth quarter when his 46-yard combat catch set up a go-ahead touchdown pass to Demarcus Ayers.

* It was more important to the big picture than was DHB's Play of the Game, a hustling forced-fumble on what was surely a game-clinching 68-yard interception return for a touchdown by Briean Boddy-Calhoun late in the third quarter. Of course, the return only went 67 yards because Heyward-Bey ran Boddy-Calhoun down from behind and forced a fumble into the end zone from the 1-yard line. Landry Jones scooped the ball, cradled it in the end zone and no doubt said, "Welcome back to daddy."

* We've all known that DHB has that kind of heart, so, yawn, what else you got?

* Well, I've got DeAngelo Williams, who also returned after missing seven games -- and only 1 carry in nine games -- and we all had to wonder what the meniscus trim did to the career of the 33-year-old running back.

* Williams started slow, as the replacement for Le'Veon Bell, but that may have been more about the lack of a Steelers passing threat than any physical weakness in Williams. And after an 8-carry, 7-yard first half, Williams began looking like the Williams of the first half of the season with runs of 12, 10 and 8 yards late in the third quarter. He finished with 67 yards on 23 carries and 94 yards of total offense. It was another critical development for the playoff-bound Steelers.

* On the Mike Tomlin front, I read some grousing about his time management late in the first half. I didn't remember the specifics, so I looked it up: timeout after a fourth-and-1 conversion with 1:08 left at the Cleveland 28. This specific complainant wanted a spike, which I never want unless there are 13 seconds left and you're racing to the line without any timeouts left.

* I just think people are conditioned to accepting that whatever clock decision is being made by Tomlin is the wrong one, because it's generally accepted that he doesn't know math. I really haven't questioned one clock-management decision this year, and for that I'm labeled an apologist because -- let's see, how did the last guy put it? -- "Tomlin makes me feel good about myself."

* BTW, the Steelers scored their first touchdown of the game 37 seconds later.

* While "feeling good about myself" at practices, I get to watch Zach Mettenberger play pert near every day. And while perusing the aforementioned social media, I was asked frequently if I wanted to see Mettenberger play in this game while Jones was struggling at QB.

* "No, I don't," I answered again and again. "No, I don't."


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