About three weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were believed to probably sneak pass the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North, and were thought to be a Super Bowl contender after their slow start as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the way while certain players got healthy. Well, time reveals all things, and a man can make a difference. The Steeler’s loss to the Cleveland Browns Sunday, 20-14, helped set in motion and painted a reality that the Steelers’ chance of getting to the playoffs is, apparently, over.
“You know that was an ugly performance,” said Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin after the game. “As ours, we own it. But if you turn the ball over the way we did today, you’re not going to beat anybody, that’s just the reality in the National Football League. I’m surprised it was that close given the turnover situation. We are not looking for comfort.
“We understand that we’re not going to have much support after a performance like that, but we probably deserve that,” he added. “We’ve got to go back to work, and get back to playing fundamental football. We were highly penalized, we turned the ball over, and when you do those things you are going to lose.”
The one thing, other than the defense, the Steelers needed to carry them until Roethlisberger returns was their running game. The running game failed the Steelers in the game they could not afford to lose, knowing how tight the AFC playoff race is.
Eight turnovers for the Steelers are unacceptable and unheard of.
“That’s something that is unheard of, its not really there, but for me it’s not even about that,” said Steelers’ running back Jonathan Dwyer. “I contributed to that as well. We turned over the football with us being in position to win the football game. It’s not solely on one position. With us being in that situation, I put the game on my shoulders to try and go down and put my team in the end zone and I wasn’t able to do that.
“We have to take a hard look at it tomorrow,” he continued. “Anytime you turn the football over the way that we did today…our defense played well. Defense and special teams, they played well. Offensively we weren’t able to complement them. We knew coming into the game that turnovers were going to be critical and for whatever reason we were turning the football over.”
The Steelers (6-5) are, frankly, out of sync without Roethlisberger, who suffered a right shoulder injury two weeks ago against the Kansas City Chiefs and his timetable to return is up in the air. Against the Browns (3-8), the Steelers had eight turnovers and Cleveland told advantage of those opportunities.
The Steelers’ defense is holding up the best they could. However, Pittsburgh need to make plays down field and that is where they are, now, ineffective – where about three weeks ago, that was their strength.
The Steelers are mathematically not out of the playoff picture, and after they face the Baltimore Ravens (9-2) next Sunday, their schedule gets a little lighter as they will face the Browns again, the Cincinnati Bengals and the struggling Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers.
Nevertheless, their lost to the Browns will haunt them, especially if they don’t get better.
“You just have to keep grinding,” said Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton. “We have to do what we have been doing. We aren’t that type of team, trying to do that any different and try to do this and do that. We have to keep on grinding; keep on doing what we have been doing and just get better.”