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Steelers playoff hopes sacked by lowly Browns

Steelers lose fifth straight game
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin promised changes following the Steelers embarrassing 27-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders in week 13 but Thursday night it was more of the same as the Steelers playoff hopes were dashed by the 2-11 Cleveland Browns.
The Browns handed the Super Bowl champions their fifth straight loss, defeating the Steelers 13-6 for their first win against Pittsburgh since 2003. The win for Cleveland was their Super Bowl, while barring an foreseen miracle, the Steelers title defense is all but over before the playoffs even started.
After a 6-2 start, the Steelers stunning collapse in the second half of the season has happened at the hands of three of the worst teams {Oakland, Cleveland, Kansas City} in the AFC, who have a combined record of 9-28.
“We’ve found new and different ways to not rise up at critical moments and we’re losing football games because of it,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “This one happened in all three phases.”

Offensively the Steelers had no answers for an aggressive Browns defense that out-schemed the Steelers offense.
The Browns kept Pittsburgh’s running game in check, limiting running back Rashard Mendenhall to 53 yards rushing and sacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger 8 times on night.
Cleveland was able to get pressure to Roethlisberger with a number of blitz packages and were aggressive against Pittsburgh’s wide outs, limiting their space off the line of scrimmage.
Cleveland out gained Pittsburgh 255 to 216 and the most disappointing aspect of the loss is that Pittsburgh was over-matched and out-coached in all three phases of the game.
To be over-matched against Cleveland is inexcusable.
“To lose five straight coming off a Super Bowl from last year is embarrassing,” wide receiver Hines Ward said.
Ward played despite suffering a grade-1 hamstring strain against Oakland. Ward had 4 receptions for 21 yards and was clearly not 100% as Ward could not create any space in the open field.
“To lose five straight is despicable”, safety Ryan Clark said. The Steelers defense held Browns quarterback Brady Quinn under 100 yards passing, however, Pittsburgh struggled against the Browns wildcat package as Josh Cribbs rushed 87 yards on 8 carries.
A bright spot for Pittsburgh was the performance of Santonio Holmes who had 6 receptions for 93 yards to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career.
Holmes like many of his teammates is shocked at the Steelers second half collapse. “I never thought I’d be losing five games in a row, ” Holmes said. “I know those guys will continue to fight these last three games. Hopefully we can get back in the lab this summer, regroup and start all over.”
At 6-7, how the Steelers finish this season is anyone’s guess. This team has lacked desperation for two straight weeks and Thursday night was a gut check for the Steelers and they failed miserably.
With three games left, you’re going to see who really wants to go out here and play for the pride of this organization and this city and who doesn’t want to be around here, ” Hines Ward said.
The heat is on the Steelers coaching staff just to get their team to play with some kind of fight in the remaining three games. With the playoffs likely an afterthought, it’s a difficult task.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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