Sunday, November 25, 2012

Steelers' Turnovers Result In 20-14 Loss To Browns; Good News On Big Ben

The Pittsburgh Steelers looked as if they were celebrating the worldly Jewish holiday of Hanukkah a couple of weeks early Sunday as they gave eight gifts to the Cleveland Browns.

In a 20-14 loss in Cleveland, the Steelers turned the ball over eight times (5 fumbles and 3 interceptions), and the Browns capitalized by scoring 17 of their 20 points. The last time that we can remember this many turnovers committed by the Steelers was in 1989...against the Browns.

The Browns' 20 points against the Steelers are their most in a game against them since November of 2007, a 31-28 Steelers win.

Turnovers, however, weren't the only reason the Steelers lost this game. There were essentially three things that can be pointed to as reasons for the loss. The first has been touched on already, and we'll elaborate now.

TURNOVERS: You turn the ball over eight times, especially on the road, and you don't deserve to win. The Steelers division hopes slipped away as easily as did the football did on Sunday. They went into the game having lost seven fumbles this season. They lost five Sunday.

Last week, various Steelers fans blamed the Ravens loss on the Mike Wallace fumble. I'm on record as stating that if a turnover that early in the game is the reason you lose, you're just not a good team. You must overcome adversity. That was just one turnover (of two on the night) and other elements played into that defeat.

This week, however, was different. This was inexcusable. All four running backs fumbled, with Rashard Mendenhall giving it up twice.

Mendenhall had this to say about his fumbles: "That's tough to deal with. Easy at that point to start shadowboxing yourself, I don't really get into that."

It may be tough to deal with, but we've seen it too often now. I've been a supporter of him in the past, but no more. He needs to go. His contract is up at the end of the year as it is. Just wash hands of him and send him on his way.

Although Chris Rainey fumbled also, his went out of bounds and wasn't a turnover. Isaac Redman has shown himself to be charitable during his brief career as well. He needs to truly redeem himself, as does Jonathan Dwyer.

If It Ain't Steel said in the Browns pre-game blog that the running back-by-committee has to end, and it does. Give the ball to one, preferably Dwyer, and ride that one out. How can a player gain confidence and get hot if he constantly is being shuffled around back there? But, they weren't the only culprits.

Charlie Batch threw three interceptions to take it to a total of eight. He looked every bit of 38 years old (actually a week or so short of) from the first snap. He was 20-34 for 199 yards and threw three INTs. Despite a certain amount of clamoring Steeler Nation to put him in ahead of Byron Leftwich last week, Uncle Charlie showed why he was the Steelers third-stringer.

In truth, from turnovers alone it could've been much worse. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, obviously upset at the post-game press conference, said almost as much.

"I'm surprised it was that close given the turnover situation," he said. "We were highly penalized, we turned the ball over, and when you do those things, you are going to lose. I don't care who is playing quarterback." - http://tinyurl.com/d35vvtd

With the offense playing the way they did Sunday, that may be true. Though the Steelers starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, may not have thrown the INTs that Uncle Charlie threw, there were still the fumbles by the running backs and Emmanuel Sanders, who had the fifth and final one.

Speaking of the injured quarterback, that brings us to the second piece of the pie as to why the Steelers lost.

THIRD DOWN: The Steelers were one for nine on third-down conversions Sunday. What was a plus for the Steelers with Big Ben has become a lost cause. One of three specific stats that we covered thoroughly in our 'Big Ben for MVP' blog. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2012/11/making-case-for-ben-roethlisberger-as.html

The Steelers as a team were just over 50% going into the Chiefs game. Before the injury, Big Ben had an NFL QBR of 121.2 on that down. After the injury, the Steelers are only 6-26 on third-down conversions. The two quarterbacks' QBR's on that down? Not worth mentioning.

In the 29 drives the Steelers offense has had without Big Ben, only two have resulted in touchdowns, both being set up by pass interference calls.

There was some good news to come down the pike, however, regarding Ben, Sr.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen relayed encouraging information for Steelers fans everywhere:

"The Steelers QB will begin soft-tossing the football early in the week to test his range of motion and work through the pain of his rare rib and shoulder injury, according to team sources," said Mortensen.

"Roethlisberger slept much better this week, a source said, even with newborn son 'Little Ben' in the house, and doctors have determined his rib has healed enough that he doesn't risk further damage," he continued. "Roethlisberger's pain tolerance and range of motion could determine whether he plays next week."

It's hard to type with fingers crossed...

Tomlin alluded to the third reason the Steelers lost Sunday.

PENALTIES: This has been a problem all season, but this was a day when the Steelers could ill-afford to shoot themselves in the foot.

The team committed nine infractions for 68 yards. The mental errors are ridiculous. Penalties while trying to make a play are easier to excuse, but pre- and post-snap penalties can make the vein in your forehead to become prominent to point of bursting.

Yes, there were ticky-tack and even bad calls again in this game, but you can't blame a loss on those. They happen every week to every team. Control your own mental errors and execute. The Steelers didn't do that Sunday.

Though many Steelers fan are jumping off of the bandwagon, the Steelers players remain optimistic that they can right the ship.

"We're gonna be all right, man. We're mentally tough. Everybody in this room. We gonna be together, we gonna fight for each other," Hampton emphatically stated. "Just like their defense got all the turnovers they got, we gotta do a better job of getting turnovers also."

He continued, "Guys will get healthy, but even if they don't get healthy, we've gotta find a way to win. No question about that."

He's right about that. They have to find a way. Without Big Ben, Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu, all of whom could be back next week, it will be very difficult.

Difficult isn't impossible, though. As was related at the beginning, you must overcome adversity and that seems to be their mentality.

It needs to be the mentality of Steelers fans also.

As Larry S., a fellow Steelers fan and friend, said, "I learned never to give up after 2005. Look at all the teams who got on a roll late with a low seed in recent years. We did in 2005. The Giants did twice. The Packers did. Even the Colts had to win 3 AFC games. I never give up because if we get Ben back by San Diego, we can win the rest of our games. All you need to do is get in the playoffs these days. It's about who is healthy and hot. I don't like to get too high or low."

Well said. Because, is the season over? No. Steelers hold the last wild card spot over the Bengals, Dolphins and the Chargers. Get Big Ben, Troy and AB back and there is plenty of football left.

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TIDBITS: Ankles injuries on Mike Adams and LaMarr Woodley is all that Tomlin said regarding injuries. Woodley said he got rolled up on by an offensive lineman, hence the ankle injury. But he said, "I'll be back next week."

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NFL Network - Steelers-Browns Highlights: http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000100490/Steelers-vs-Browns-highlights

ESPN Sunday Blitz Recap: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8674954&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

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Brandon Weeden suffered a concussion against the Steelers. - http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_/id/59799/weeden-suffers-concussion-against-steelers

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Trent Richardson: "That's the best defense I've played against since I've been in the NFL, hands down. Probably the hardest-hitting team too."