Eight fumbles, eight turnovers and nine penalties were just part of the story in the crushing loss.
The Browns scored 17 of their 20 points off of the turnovers, while the Steelers offense couldn’t move the ball in the air or on the ground.
Now sitting at 6-5, the Steelers will likely have to win four of their final five games to have a good chance at the playoffs. Anything less and they may be on the outside looking in.
So who was most to blame for the Steelers’ devastating loss?
The odds were stacked against Charlie Batch, as he was without his top receiver in Antonio Brown and left guard Willie Colon.
An injury to Mike Adams left the offensive line in even worse shape, as they were never able to generate any push in the ground game, though they did provide decent pass protection.
But even short-handed, Batch needed to do more with what he had. Generating only seven points as an offense against the Browns is not good enough.
Batch missed several open throws, as he completed only 18 of 31 passes for 175 yards, but it was his three interceptions that really hurt the Steelers’ chances.
When the Steelers had the ball late in the game, down by six, Batch forced a deep pass to Mike Wallace in double coverage that was intercepted by Joe Haden.
Though the other interceptions could be blamed on a poor route by Plaxico Burress and a dropped pass by Wallace, respectively, it was still not enough from Batch.
Pittsburgh’s running backs combined for 20 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown, but that was not the story.
Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Rainey each fumbled the ball twice (losing two of them) and Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer each lost one fumble.
The fumbles resulted in points for the Browns and killed numerous drives for the Steelers, including their last-ditch effort at the end of the game.
It is impossible to win games when you turn the ball over four times on fumbles.
The offensive game plan from the outset was embarrassing, and the complete lack of discipline, with nine penalties, falls squarely on the shoulders of the head coach.
Cleveland did nothing special except capitalize on Pittsburgh’s countless errors. Even with all of the mistakes, the Steelers still were in position to win the game.
Tomlin and Todd Haley had a complete lack of faith in Batch’s abilities to throw the ball, and this was reflected in the ultraconservative play-calling at the beginning of the game.
But the most curious decision by Tomlin was to bench his running backs one-by-one as they fumbled the ball.
Not only did that not stop the fumbling, but it does not breed much confidence moving forward with his backfield.
Even though the Steelers were without many of their starters and were playing on the road, to lose to a team like the Browns is inexcusable, and this loss may have been the breaking point in the race to the playoffs.
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