Week 16 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 41, Cleveland Browns 0
What you need to know
After one quarter, the Steelers out gained the Browns by 196 yards. By halftime the margin was 251 to 22, 386-120 after three quarters and 457-178 by games end to complete its first shutout since week eight of the 2000 season (22-0 also over the Browns). The Steelers began its clinic by scoring on four of its first five drives and finished with three touchdowns out of its final four. The Steelers had 209 rushing yards, 130 by Willie Parker, 57 by Verron Haynes and 24 by Jerome Bettis. Each of them hit pay dirt as Bettis blasted one in from two yards in the first quarter, Parker dashed for an 80 yard score early in the third quarter and Haynes had a 15 yarder for good measure just eight minutes later.
Ben Roethlisberger was sharp completing 13 of 20 passes for 257 yards and a seven yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward late in the first quarter. He spread his completions out over six different receivers, including seven to Ward who led the team with 105 yards receiving. Four receivers averaged 20 or more yards per catch, including Cedrick Wilson’s two grabs for 63 yards. Even Charlie Batch got into the mix as he found Quincy Morgan for a 31 yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers defense was relentless from start to finish as it sacked quarterback Charlie Frye eight times, caused five fumbles (recovering one) and capped the day by stopping the Browns from the three yard line to end the game. Pittsburgh forced Cleveland to punt on its first eight drives, created a turnover, held the Browns on downs three times and stopped them for six three and outs. Joey Porter had three sacks and a forced fumble, and Larry Foote led the team with eight solo tackles plus a sack.
It’s hard to draw the line between how bad Charlie Frye played, how badly his receivers neglected him or how much better the Steelers defense played than the Browns offense – Most likely all of the above. No matter, Frye was flat out ineffective after showing potential in his previous two games. He completed two of his first ten passes and five of 15 by the end of the first half, before rounding out the day with 183 yards on 20 completions in 39 attempts. Granted the amount of time he had to find an open receiver was limited, but more often than not he was off target on even the most simple play calls. He also had seven passes defended, a few of which were dropped interceptions. On a positive note, Frye technically did not throw an interception and finished with 141 second half yards.
The Browns receivers dropped three passes in the first half alone. Aaron Shea and Dennis Northcutt lead the team with five receptions each, but they were for 27 and 23 yards respectively. Antonio Bryant had a team high 50 yards on four catches
The running game was worse, statistically anyway, as Reuben Droughns had 36 yards on ten carries. Despite his poor totals, Droughns was probably the most effective player for Cleveland as he gave just as much effort on his first carry as he did on his last one.
After yielding 256 total yards to the Raiders last week, Cleveland’s defense gave up 251 to the Steelers in the first half and 457 total, including 209 rushing. They gave up 58% of Pittsburgh third down conversions (7-12) and allowed an average of 18.4 yards per pass completion. DT Alvin McKinley had seven total tackles and a sack.
What you ought to know
Another typical 13 of 20 day for Roethlisberger, which means of course the running game was clicking making an easy day for the passing attack. The difference was that Roethlisberger threw down field, did if often and did it well. He averaged 10.4 yards a pass and did most of his damage in the first half as he went ten of 15 for 193 yards. On Pittsburgh’s first scoring drive, he threw an incomplete pass to Antwaan Randle El only because it was dropped. He then completed his next six passes, the first three to Randle El, Cedrick Wilson and Heath Miller for 20, 17 and 21 yards respectively setting up Jerome Bettis’ touchdown. On their next he found Ward three times for 19, 32 yards followed by a needle-threading seven yarder for a touchdown. In fact Roethlisberger’s worst pass was actually a 46 yard completion thrown short to Wilson in the second quarter that would have been good for six points had he hit his receiver in stride.
Batch came in the early fourth quarter to close out the game and was forced to throw one pass on third and eight with over six minutes remaining. He tossed a 31 yard strike to Quincy Morgan for a touchdown giving him a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on the day.
As noted before, it usually takes Parker a little while to warm up for various reasons. Sometimes it’s his decision making, others it’s the opposing defense and sometimes he’s too fast for his own good, hitting the hole before it has a chance to open up. This game was none of the above as he earned every yard possible due to his patience and quick thinking as well as his quick feet. Most of his 44 first half yards were gained after cut backs when he found little room initially. And when he wasn’t able to create more space for himself, he accepted his three yard carries for what they were, positive yardage. But at 9:14 of the third quarter, Parker put an end to the nickel and dime runs and blew up for an 80 yard touchdown run giving the Steelers a 27-0 lead. He started left of center to follow his blockers, but just as LB Andre Davis left his gap to pursue the left side of the line, Parker cut back and darted up the wide open hole in the middle and past the equally over-pursuing safeties leaving a cloud of dust. He was promptly given the rest of the afternoon off. Parker is the first Steelers’ running back not named Jerome Bettis to rush for over 1,000 yards since Barry Foster had 1,690 yards in 1992.
After Parker and Bettis had their fun, Haynes did more than just mop up. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry including runs of 16 and his 15 yard touchdown run, where he went untouched for the first ten yards before bouncing off a tackler into the end zone. He also had a reception for 13 yards.
Bettis made his presence felt in the trenches with seven bruising runs and 24 yards, each one ending with him winning the momentum battle over his tackler. His two yard first quarter touchdown run began with him taking the pitch five yards deep at the seven yard line. He then gained a full head of steam and ran right through LB Ben Taylor and into the end zone, “like a tractor with a plow,” noted commentator Steve Tasker.
Ward didn’t see a pass thrown his way during the first scoring drive, but saw the only three during the next drive to the tune of 58 yards and a touchdown. His second catch was on a play action where he ran through the line posing as a blocker before he curled out to the sideline for the catch with plenty of daylight in front of him for a 32 yard gain. Two plays later, Ward snagged a Roethlisberger pass just past the reach of CB Ray Mickens for a touchdown. His best effort came in the third quarter on a third down and eight when he made a sliding catch short of the marker, but just like a base runner sliding into second base, Ward immediately picked himself up before the tag and leaned backwards for an additional four yards and the first down.
Wilson caught long balls of 17 and 46 yards. The first he fought off tight coverage by CB Leigh Bodden on third and two. The second reception he had his coverage beat for the home run ball, but the pass was under thrown and he was tackled soon afterwards. Wilson had another reception ruled incomplete even after a Pittsburgh replay challenge showed that he had two knees and an elbow down before the ball was bobbled loose and rolled out of bounds.
If anyone had his ups and downs it was Randle El, who after ripping off a 36 yard punt return, fumbled the ball while trying to hurdle a tackle. He also dropped an easy pass in his lap over the middle on the first play of the game and had the shortest run for the Steelers, a minus two yard end around on third and two. He had 20 yards receiving and 49 punt return yards.
Morgan got revenge on his former team by hauling in a 31 yard touchdown pass from Charlie Batch late in the game. He added one kick return for 22 yards.
Miller caught a play action pass for 21 yards on the teams first drive to help set up Bettis’ two yard score.
Reed hit field goals of 26 and 31 as well as all five extra point attempts.
After pushing Cleveland back for negative one yard rushing in the first half, the Steelers limited the Browns to 55 yards rushing and 2.9 yards per carry. That included a long of 21, which gave the Browns a 1.89 average on their remaining 18 carries.
Pittsburgh swarmed the rookie Charlie Frye all day sacking him eight times, including three from Joey Porter. The DBs were sitting on just about every pass pattern waiting to break up Frye’s throws and the pass rush caused him to fumble four times (recovering one). Brett Keisel added two sacks while Larry Foote, Clark Haggans and Deshea Townsend each had one. It was the defense’s first shutout since a 22-0 win over Cleveland in 2000 and their third shutout against the Browns since they welcomed them back into the league with a 43-0 win in 1999.
|QB Charlie Frye, Pass: 20 - 39 - 183 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 9 - 0|
To sum up, Frye was all over the place. Passes sailed high, low, behind and out in front of their targets. Much of which can be blamed on the Steelers pass rush, which caused him to fumble four times, and he rarely had time to sit in the pocket and wait. But plenty of blame can be placed on the rookie’s shoulders as well. When time was given, he typically waited too long to get rid of the ball, allowing Pittsburgh’s DBs to break up the play. On rare occasions Frye showed some of the athleticism that he has sporadically displayed late this season, including a few scrambles/completions, one of which a 29 yard improvised pass to Antonio Bryant followed by a 12 yard run after being flushed from the pocket on the next play. Those flashes, however, were extremely brief as he was sacked once every 4.88 pass attempts, killing whatever little confidence he may have gained on previous plays.
If a game ball had to be given out to a Cleveland player, Droughns would receive one for simply not giving up. Droughns had seven yards on four carries in the first half and only finished with 36 yards on ten carries, but his three longest gains were nearly the plays of the game had Pittsburgh not scored 41 points. He caught a screen pass on a third and eight in the second quarter and used his blocks to muster 29 yards on play. In the fourth quarter and a few plays after Droughns had his long of 21 yards, he converted a fourth down and three situation by running for 43 yards while gaining nine total yards. He was hit seven yards deep after taking the handoff, spun around by a tackler, whereupon he reversed field and back tracked 16 yards from the line of scrimmage before turning the corner and racing up the right hash marks for the first down and then some.
Suggs had a very limited role, even with the team getting blown out.
Northcutt had five receptions for 23 yards with a long gain of six and an average of 4.6 yards per catch. It certainly wasn’t because of a lack of trying as he had a game high 12 targets.
Bryant tied for team’s longest reception when he pulled in a 29 yard pass from a scrambling Charlie Frye. He also made a nice stab at a 12 yard pass for a first down with his outstretched arms on third and ten. However Bryant also dropped an easy out pattern pass and gained no yards on a WR screen play when he slipped while trying to cut away from a tackler.
Jackson was second on the Browns in receiving yards with 41 and had a long gain of 29 yards. His best catch was a 15 yarder while just getting his feet in bounds to put the Browns deep in the red zone for their first and only time with 36 seconds left in the game.
Shea was targeted eight times (all in the second half) and twice in the end zone deep down the middle seam, but both were broken up by the safety. His five receptions were the most since week five when he had six versus Chicago.
Heiden’s two catches had very little impact on the game.
Dawson had zero scoring opportunities.
The Browns fared well enough in the first half containing the Steelers to 3.1 yards a carry and Willie Parker to 44 yards. Despite being out-muscled on the line, they had yet to give up a big play…. That is until Parker’s 80 yard third quarter touchdown run and Verron Haynes 57 second half yards put the Steelers over 200 rushing yards.
Cleveland gave up chunks of yards at a time to seven different receivers. The Browns allowed six receivers to average 13 or more yards a reception, five at 15 yards or more and four at 20 and up. They scraped together two sacks and the special teams managed to force a fumble, but it was after allowing a 36 yard punt return, effectively giving Cleveland the ball back near their original line of scrimmage prior to the punt. Bottom line = 41 points.