New Castle News

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November 26, 2012

Steve Treu: Steelers’ ‘standard’ was spectacularly substandard against Browns

NEW CASTLE — No Ben Roethlisberger, no Antonio Brown, no Troy Polamalu, no LaMarr Woodley.

Third-string offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum and fourth-string running back Chris Rainey were featured prominently.

With fumbles and interceptions and penalties galore, there was more slop out there than Thanksgiving dinner at Porky Pig’s.

There was replacement ref-caliber officiating on perhaps the most important play of the afternoon.

And apparently junior high kids were doing the play-calling in crucial situations.

What was this, a mid-August preseason game?

Pittsburgh’s nauseating 20-14 loss at Cleveland yesterday would have been even more vomitous had it not been so painfully obvious that these were not the Steelers playing the Browns.

Sure, they were wearing black and gold, but those weren’t the Steelers.

Coach Mike Tomlin loves to say, “The standard is the standard.”

C’mon, man!

Even Tomlin wouldn’t dare utter those words yesterday.

The wheels certainly came off on this one, no doubt. Five fumbles, three interceptions, nine penalties and an 11 percent (1 for 9) conversion rate on third downs added up to their second loss to Cleveland in 18 games.

The Steelers turned the ball over eight times, for the love of Art Rooney. Each of their four running backs fumbled it away. Charlie Batch threw with the accuracy of a Civil War pistol. (And somehow this was a one-score game?)

But is there any doubt that the Steelers win this one with Big Ben in there? Is there any doubt that this would have been a rout if all of their stars were healthy? If they hadn’t lost two more offensive linemen yesterday?

Oh sure, let’s hear the cliche: “Every team is dealing with injuries at this time of year.”

Child, please!

No other team in the NFL was missing arguably their four best players yesterday. Not only does that take a ton of talent off the field, it removes so many intangibles such that it practically makes the game a joke.

T’was a joke.

There are few, if any, “rivalries” in this league where one team has such an aura of invincibility over another quite like the Steelers over the Browns. Sans four Pro Bowlers, goodbye aura.

It doesn’t help when the coaches don’t put their players in a position to win, either. With the ball and down by six points late in the game, what was Charlie Batch doing being asked to throw deep to Mike Wallace? Into double coverage?

Interception. Shocking.

Didn’t Tomlin and Todd Haley notice how well Batch to Heath Miller over the middle was working? That Batch to Wallace in that situation was a Hail Mary?

As for Larry Foote’s strip of Trent Richardson and fumble recovery just before the two-minute warning, don’t sweat it. The officials probably spared a fifth running back like Will Johnson the indignity of fumbling away the victory moments later.

Criticize all you want, and there will sure be plenty of that this week, all of it deserved, but that game was a theater of the absurd. We can extrapolate nothing from it.

The primary question to debate today is, is the postseason gone?

At 6-5, the Steelers would be the No. 6 seed if the playoffs were to start today. Assuming road losses to Baltimore and Dallas — unless you think Miami is going to catch fire — the Steelers will likely only need to beat San Diego, Cincinnati and Cleveland at Heinz Field in order to play in January.

That shouldn’t be a problem if Roethlisberger and friends return to action soon.

Their injuries are not an excuse for losing these last two games.

Just the reason.

(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)

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