It was a good game. If someone would have told me the Browns-Steelers game would come down to a game-tying field goal attempt by Phil Dawson, I would have taken that in a second. The Browns played tough, played hard and had their chance to finally beat those bastards from Pittsburgh, but in the end, it was really the same old Cleveland-Pittsburgh game. Down the stretch Pittsburgh made plays; Cleveland didn’t.
I had said I just wanted it to be a good game and the Browns not get blown out like they have in most other Pittsburgh games. At least that part came true. But that’s what makes it hurt even more. The Browns could have, should have won. Being so close only makes it worse. When Dawson’s kick fell short, in a room of 15 people, there was complete silence for a good three minutes.
You can point to so many things that add up to the L. No first downs in the second half until the final drive; the wasted time out and horrible challenge on Heath Miller’s touchdown catch; the phantom holding call on Cribbs punt return which would have given the Browns the ball on the final possession in field goal range but instead it was 29 yard penalty; Pittsburgh getting first down after first down by one yard on third down time after time; Jamal Lewis playing like a typical Browns running back highlighted by his fourth quarter fumble (with Lewis struggling, why not give Wright and Harrison some carries? Each played pretty well with Lewis was wasn’t playing and it didn’t really appear Lewis was playing in this game either.); the Browns taking no shots down the field instead settling for dump off passes as they looked like they were playing uptight and not to lose other than to win; the spike on third-and-seven on the final drive that meant the Browns had to kick the field goal right then (I guess the reason was Joe Jurevicius got hurt on his three-yard catch on second down and was saying “I can’t go, I can’t go.” My question is, why was he running a three-yard pattern in the middle of the field with 20 seconds left and no time outs? If you’re going to run across the middle, at least make it for a considerable gain. Even if he runs a 5 or 6-yard route, Dawson makes the field goal. Joe should have never even caught the ball. Just bat it to the ground and you can take your time on a third down play.); and finally, Dawson’s kick falling three feet short.
There was lots of good too, like Josh Cribbs being amazing (still should have used him on offense); the offensive line giving up no sacks; Eric Wright playing like an All-Pro cornerback; the defense holding Pittsburgh to field goals on three first half trips inside the red zone; the defense getting four sack when they only had seven all year; and the defense playing well for every down except third down. But all that was canceled out with everything that went wrong.
I guess you can call this game a stepping stone. At least Cleveland competed with Pittsburgh. But that’s the loser mentality. The old cliché saying goes something like “there’s no moral victories in football.” In the second half, the Browns just didn’t look like they thought they could win. Let me rephrase that. They looked like the thought they couldn’t beat Pittsburgh. They played way too conservative. They had a chance to take the opening kickoff and put their foot on Pittsburgh’s throat. If they score, even a field goal, it would have sent a message that Cleveland is for real. Instead, they go three-and-out five times in a row, with a fumble in there, and sent a message that said, Cleveland is a better football team but we still have no idea how to beat Pittsburgh.
Hopefully, at the very lease, the Browns can learn from this. If all goes according to plan, there’s a good chance the two will meet again in the first round of the playoffs. Pittsburgh will more than likely be the three seed (behind Indy and New England, although if Indy plays like they did last night, Pittsburgh could get the second spot) and Cleveland should get at least the sixth seed (every game left is very winnable). It’s hard to be at team three times in one year (although the Steelers did it to the Browns the last time they made the playoffs).
I guess when you’ve lost 15-out-of-16 and nine in a row in a rivalry, you can’t just start winning. You have to take baby steps. But I hate saying at least it was a good game. That’s loser talk. Only losers can be happy with a loss. As happy as I was to see the Browns play the Steelers tight, I was equally disappointed to see them lose.