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Insider Only Week 1: Steelers – Browns What We Learned

Week 1: Steelers – Browns What we Learned

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns played to a 21-21 tie on Sunday afternoon.

Of course to the Steelers who have Super Bowl aspirations, if felt like a loss. For the Browns who still haven’t won a game in 625 days and counting, the tie is being looked at a lot differently in those circles.

Pittsburgh had won 80 straight games when leading by 14 or more points to start the fourth quarter, according to ESPN stats and information.

You could write a book to go through the squandered opportunities the Steelers had in somehow not winning this game.

Instead of rehashing how neither team deserved to win, here’s a big picture look at the Steelers coming out of week 1:

1. Another season, same lack of discipline issues are going to continue it appears.

To go with a minus-5 turnover differential, Pittsburgh was penalized 12 times for 116 yards. When you combine those two factors, it shows how bad the Browns still are that Pittsburgh had a 14 point 4th quarter lead and multiple opportunities in OT to get the ‘W’.

There were so many turning points in this game but here’s an underrated one.

The Browns 10 play, 86 yard touchdown drive to open the 3rd quarter that was self-inflicted by the Steelers.

What happened:

Tyrod Taylor was sacked for a 10-yard loss to setup a 2nd and 20 at the Cleveland 4.

Pittsburgh has themselves in position to get a short field with the Browns backed up and what happens next is Javon Hargrave getting a defensive holding penalty on a Carlos Hyde short-run, giving the Browns an automatic first down.

Just an inexcusable penalty from Hargrove when Pittsburgh had Cleveland backed up and then Artie Burns happens…….

Burns loses his mind on the next play, takes his helmet off, gets an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Cleveland goes from being at their own 4 yard line to the 31 because of bonehead mental mistakes.

2. Ben Roethlisberger Home/Road Splits:

Home Stats since start of 2016 season: 68.3 Completion %, 36 touchdowns/13 interceptions
Road Stats since start of 2016 season: 60.2 Completion %, 22 touchdowns/17 interceptions

Road Big Ben is a thing that is also not likely going away in 2018.

Roethlisberger had some brilliant throws vs the Browns but from the start he was airing balls throughout and most concerning was the lack of feel from Big Ben when the pocket was closing in.

Roethlisberger never having a great feel of the pocket was much more surprising than his accuracy issues or forcing throws.

Few would be surprised if Roethlisberger comes out in week 2 at home with a great game but the drop off in play on the road has been going on for two years now.

It’s going to continue…….

Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" 3. Against a defense that Ben Roethlisberger called maybe the best defense they’ll see all year, James Conner rushed for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns to go with 5 catches for 57 yards.

Conner had a long-run of 22 yards (TD) and a long catch of 19 yards. The splash plays were there in a big way.

What we’ve now learned from Conner since training camp is that he can ball and in this system, he’s more than capable of holding down the No. 1 running back job until Le’Veon Bell decides to show up.

One thing that can’t get overlooked with the Bell drama is that this system is built for running backs to put up big numbers.

The costly Conner fumble shouldn’t be pushed aside but this offense had opportunity after opportunity to close out the Browns. There was a lot more blame to go around than Conner’s fumble.

Pittsburgh’s last six drives in regulation when leading 21-7.

Punt (12 plays, 52 Yds)
Punt (4 plays, -3 Yds)
Lost Fumble (1 play, -1 Yard)
Lost Fumble (2 players, 9 Yds)
Punt (6 plays, 14 Yds)
Punt (3 plays, -1 Yard)

“It’s just frustrating that you can’t make the plays down the stretch,” Ben Roethlisberger said afterwards. “We didn’t make them.”

Assuming the Le’Veon Bell holdout drags on a couple more weeks, what has to emerge is the coaching staff showing a willingness to spell Conner to keep him fresh late in games.

Conner’s effectiveness in the running game hit a roadblock in the 4th quarter/overtime.

4. JuJu Smith-Schuster had 5 catches for 119 yards, including a catch of 67 yards. Antonio Brown got his numbers with 9 catches for 93 yards, though, Roethlisberger/Brown weren’t in-sync as they normally are, but one glaring issue with the offense throughout was the lack of a third option to stretch the field.

Vance McDonald who is always injured was badly missed and if the overcoaching towards a rookie of not playing James Washington continues over the next little while, the Steelers are going to continue to lack that needed presence.

Where Le’Veon Bell was mostly missed and will continue to be is his sheer presence. Conner was great, can get the job done, but no Bell also saw the Browns play a lot more cover-2 that saw Roethlisberger throwing into a lot of bodies.

Have to think that continues…..

5. T.J. Watt 11 tackles (8 solo), 4 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, blocked field goal. This was a J.J. Watt in his heyday type performance from the younger brother T.J.

Watt surely took advantage of some poor tackle play from the Browns but the Steelers have believed Watt is primed for a pro-bowl type season and hard to get off to a better start than he did.

The rest of the linebacker crew also had a stats day.

Bud Dupree 1 sack, Vince Williams 12 tackles, Jon Bostic 9 tackles, 1 sack.

Dupree was his usual hit or miss self met with aggressiveness that worked at times and also was a detriment in over- pursuing against a mobile quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. Dupree is still looking to find that even ground of when to go all out and when not too.

Bostic had a surprise performance. He was so bad in training camp and the preseason that he warranted being cut if the Steelers had any resemblance of ILB depth, some on the inside feel.

Bostic had a positive game and Vince Williams was aggressive at the line of scrimmage.

However, don’t expect this to be a sign of things to come for the insidebacker group. Much different animal next week against the Chiefs.

6. Mike Hilton has turned into a player who is built for today’s game to cover in the slot. He’s trending into a player to get excited about with this secondary that is implementing young upside defensive backs in Hilton, Terrell Edmunds, Sean Davis and Cam Sutton.

At the safety position, it remains to be seen where Morgan Burnett falls into everything moving forward.

Burnett played just 40 snaps (45%) compared to Edmunds, 74 snaps (84%), and Davis who played all 100% of the defensive snaps.

How important is Joe Haden’s health to this defense?

All you had to do was watch the Browns 4th quarter comeback.

Haden might not be the player he used to be but is still Pittsburgh’s best go-to cover corner and how important Haden is to this team showed already in week 1.

A badly coached Cleveland today even figured out to immediately target Cam Sutton when Haden exited with a hamstring injury.

Andy Reid and the Chiefs will be licking their chops if Haden is out.

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About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at