Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Browns are Clowns

Following one of the most rousing renditions of the National Anthem by singer Robert Roundlee, the Steelers put on a pretty rousing performance themselves, led by Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, and the Cleveland Browns were, well, particularly Browns-like.

They were Brown as Browns can be, with Johnny Manziel's early squirt-up fumble setting the tone, followed by numerous other Keystone Kops-like moments en route to a thorough pummeling that was maybe closer than the score indicated but sure didn't feel like it.

Johnny Manziel somehow passed for 372 yards and one touchdown despite his early pop-up fumble, a later interception, and enduring six sacks.  He did some good things, but the Browns as a whole did some very Browns-like things:  Lots of penalties (12 of 'em, to be precise, for a whopping 188 yards), some of them stupid (two on the same play, twice) and utterly Browns-like -- including back-to-back pass interference penalties for 39 and 38 yards -- and numerous other unforced mistakes. They had an unbelievable 173 more penalty yards than rushing yards (15). And, of course, there was that preposterous sequence in the fourth quarter when the Browns had a first-and-goal from inside the Pittsburgh one-yard-line. What followed were a holding penalty, a sack, an illegal formation penalty and an interception. Quintessential Browns.

The Steelers have defeated the Browns 28 of 34 times since Cleveland re-entered the NFL in 1999.  With Cleveland having lost five straight and now just 2-13 in its last 15 games under head coach Mike Pettine, could Browns owner Jimmy Haslam be contemplating change in the coaching ranks?  Haslam denies it, but anything's possible in that mess of an organization.


  • Something to worry about, possibly: Manziel's 372 yards passing make us wonder about the Steelers' pass defense, especially in the wake of Derek Carr's 300+ yard performance last week.  
  • Ben Roethlisberger is now 19-2 vs. the Browns.
  • Jacoby Jones was less than effective, to be kind, in his handling of punts and kickoffs. Zero punt-return yards, zero kick return yards, and a fumble. Most definitely not an improvement over his lackluster showing last week vs. Oakland.
  • After all the talk about poor clock management the last few many weeks, it should not go overlooked that Mike Tomlin actually handled the clock masterfully in the final two minutes of the first half.

Next Up: The Bye Week, and then a 4:30 p.m. (EDT) game in Seattle on Sunday, Nov. 29th in Seattle. After three consecutive 1 p.m. home games, the Steelers get the bye week next weekend, and then just two more 1 p.m. starts the rest of the way, both on the road (at Cincinnati, Dec. 13th, and at Cleveland, Jan. 3rd).

Game 10: Browns at Pittsburgh

First, a shout-out to our friends, 

It's Browns Week. Always reason to get up for this one.

Cleveland Browns quarterback 
Johnny Manziel
With the 2-7 Browns coming to Heinz Field, we'll see if Mike Tomlin continues his penchant for losing to bad teams quarterbacked by crummy QBs led by lousy coaches.

Make no mistake about it: The Browns are a bad team, just as they were last season, when Mike Pettine's squad embarrassed Tomlin's team in Cleveland, 31-10.

Johnny Manziel
Cleveland's Defense is Awful
This year, Cleveland ranks dead last (32nd) in rushing defense, surrendering a whopping 147.6 yards rushing per game, including 11 runs of 20 yards per more and four runs of at least 40 yards. Cleveland has yielded nine touchdowns on the ground.  By comparison, the middling Steelers' run defense, ranked 12th in the NFL, has surrendered 101.7 yards per game on the ground and three touchdowns.

Bigger picture, Cleveland's defense has surrendered 401.6 total yards per game (29th in the NFL) and 27.4 points per game (26th). They've allowed at least 30 points to five of their nine opponents.

Nine games into the season, Cleveland has allowed 18 passing TDs but  tallied just 15 sacks, seven of which were put down in just one game, vs. the woeful Titans.

With just five interceptions (and just two INTs over the past seven weeks), the Browns' secondary today will be without their star cornerback (Joe Haden) and most experienced, hardest-hitting safety (Donte Whitner). Their secondary has allowed nine pass plays of more than 40 yards. The Browns have been outscored by 53 points their last three games.

It's a bad defense. 
Johnny Manziel, on the right, partying
with Floyd Mayweather, Justin Bieber.
It's almost as bad on offense. Their running game has been limp, ranking 31st in the NFL at just 82.3 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry, with only two rushing touchdowns but four fumbles. Twice as many fumbles as rushing touchdowns.

Granted, Cleveland's 15th-rated passing offense out-ranks Pittsburgh's 19th ranked passing offense, but ... much of Cleveland's success was due to the surprisingly effective Josh McCown, who likely won't play today.

Instead, the Steelers will face the reckless, feckless and immature party boy, Johnny Manziel, who, on the field, is skittish, manic, diminutive and inaccurate. Johnny Manziel? Puh-lease.

If Mike Tomlin's Steelers lose today, at home, to this edition of the Cleveland Browns ... no, that just cannot happen. Can it?