Sunday, November 25, 2012

Season Over

Pee-yoo!  What a stinker.  Embarrassing and utterly inept.

"Ugly" doesn't even begin to describe the crapfest the Steelers displayed on Sunday in Cleveland. Eight turnovers, including five fumbles lost (eight fumbles altogether), three horrific interceptions, penalties, dropped passes, off-target throws, 20 rushes for 49 yards, and one-for-nine on third down?  Yecch.

Charlie Batch was awful. Ditto Mike Wallace. Rashard Mendehall. Jonathan Dwyer. Isaac Redman. For that matter, Cleveland's Brandon Weeden was awful.  Charlie Batch was awful. Oh, we said that already? Well, then, Charlie Batch's 38.7 passer rating was awful. Awful, awful and awful.

And that final interception late in the fourth quarter, with 3:09 remaining? The one on first-and-10 from the Steelers' 42? Whose bright idea was it to have Batch heave a long downfield bomb into the wind and, of course, intercepted?

Willie Colon didn't play, and injuries to Lamarr Woodley, Mike Adams and Chris Rainey didn't help.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, immediately after the game ended, fans watching on TV had to endure watching one of the Steelers' offensive linemen jocularly smiling and laughing with one of the Browns' players. It was at that point the TV went out the window. The fans take these losses harder than the players.

The Steelers may not win another game, not if they play even half as bad as they did in Cleveland.

Good luck in Baltimore next week. The Ravens found a way to win in San Diego, converting a crucial 4th and 29 late in the fourth quarter on a game-tying drive. Fourth and 29.

Cleheaveland Game Day Notes & Tidbits

Nothing Beats the Terrible Towel
Today, the Browns will be doing something positively Piratesesque: Handing out white flags for fans to wave during the game. Unbelievable.

Apparently, the morons who came up with this horrendous idea never heard the phrase "Waving the white flag," which indicates surrender and has been used as a practical application through centuries of military history. And, apparently, the simpletons behind this gimmick (no doubt sponsored) ... apparently these geniuses not only fail to appreciate this rich symbolism, but they also seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that the 2-8 Browns have lost 16 of 17 games to the Steelers.  If you're trying to rally the troops, there's one thing you don't want your fans to do in this situation, and that is to wave the white flag.

Myron Cope
"I'm not a fan of the white flags. I'm not a fan of it whatsoever. It's just not a message I like," said Cleveland linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, and who can blame him?  Couldn't the Browns have come up with little brown-and-orange pieces of cloth?  Honestly, since the late, great Myron Cope conjured the Terrible Towel, many franchises have tried to simulate its magic. All have failed. There is only Terrible Towel, and it reigns supreme.

Dick LeBeau's Still Got It, and Always Has
Some people have questioned whether Dick LeBeau, the Steelers' 75-year-old defensive coordinator, has lost his fastball, so to speak.

Dick LeBeau in his playing days
Despite injuries and average talent at some positions, the defense remains strong, although, of course, everybody would like to see it produce more turnovers and sacks. For all that, the defense played exceptionally well last Sunday against a Baltimore team that notched 55 points the previous week and is rated highly in various statistical categories..

Looking at the long view, consider this:  Since 2007, the Steelers' defense has allowed fewer points than any other team, and it's not even close. The Steelers have allowed 1,465 points since the 2007.  The next-closest team, Baltimore, has allowed 1,631 points.

A Curious Quote
Here's a quote this week from Cleveland's rookie running back Trent Richardson:

"Whatever they need me to do, whether it’s blocking, running or catching, I am trying to make up for Brandon Weeden so he isn’t put in a tough position, as far as being a quarterback," Richardson said.

Trying to make up for quarterback Brandon Weeden?  What is that?  Not exactly a ringing endorsement, that's for sure.

Special Teams Conundrum and a Few Words on Baron Batch
Today's test: Josh Cribbs, returner extraordinaire. Cribbs has burned Pittsburgh, badly, in past years, and this year's Steelers' team has allowed two punt returns for touchdowns.

Allegheny Valley School kids.
Ever since Mike Tomlin abruptly fired special teams coach Al Everest shortly before the season began, we've kept a wary eye on the play of the various special teams units. Their performance has been episodic, sporadic and spasmodic: up, down and in between.

The team's units played well vs. Cincinnati and Washington, but numerous gaffes have hurt badly throughout the season.  Penalties nullified several long returns by Antonio Brown and dogged the Steelers all year. Rookie Drew Butler had a punt blocked by Tennessee, after a missed block by Baron Batch, who had been named special teams captain earlier that week.

Maybe worst of all, this year's Steelers team has allowed two punt returns for touchdowns. Jacoby Jones's TD return last Sunday won the game for Baltimore. A few days later, the Steelers released Batch but then apparently signed him to the team's practice squad, a definite demotion. Maybe he will return to the active roster at some point.

Maybe Batch's release had something to do with the performance of the special teams. Or, considering the Steelers' injuries and need to sign a receiver (Plaxico Burress) and backup quarterback (Brian Hoyer), maybe Batch's release was simply a factor of roster numbers.

We've been rooting for Batch to succeed even before he joined the Steelers, ever since we discovered his blog, which we stumbled upon before he was even drafted. He seems to be an easy guy to root for, despite having gotten himself into some nasty, acrimonious, rude and totally unnecessary snit-exchanges with some of his fans and followers on Twitter, which is stupid and petty in any case.  When will athletes ever learn?

Again, though, we wish Baron Batch all future success and hope it's with the Steelers -- never mind, the blocked punt, the missed holes on a few run opportunities, and the spectacularly dropped catch of a nearly perfectly thrown would-be touchdown pass from Antonio Brown, of all people, on national television, in Cincinnati on Oct. 21.  We're still rooting for you, Baron Batch.