The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their 2012 season finale with the Cleveland Browns carrying a unique distinction – for the first time in the Mike Tomlin era, the men in Black and Gold would play a game with zero playoff implications.
- How would the Steelers respond?
In defeating the Browns 24-10 and evening their season to 8-8 the Steelers fittingly offered Steelers Nation glimpses of both what was and what could have been.
2012 The Way It Was
Disappointment was in no short supply for the Steelers in 2012, and the first half of their game vs. the Browns showed why.
Through the first 28 minutes the Steelers managed to:
- Punt the ball way 4 times
- Secure zero first downs
- Fail to convert a turnover into any points whatsoever
- Give up a long punt return (which was mercifully called back on a penalty)
Nor does the stat sheet take into account the interception that safety er um, tight end David Paulson broke up. And of course there were the injuries. A 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers game would not be complete without the loss of at least one starter to injury.
And the Fates were not about to choose Week 17 to disappoint. During the course of the game the Steelers lost:
- Kelvin Beachum to a concussion resulting for a cheap shot
- Keenan Lewis re-injured his knee and was lost for the game
- Brett Keisel injured his MCL
- David DeCastro suffered a stinger and left the game.
That’s 3 starters for those of you taking notes at home, leaving the Steelers with their 4th string offensive tackle, their 2nd string defensive lineman, their 4th string guard and their 5th or 6th string cornerback.
If you’re a member of Steelers Nation who was holed up at the South Pole and only now are catching up on the 2012 season, the 203 words written below the subtitle provide a concise summary.
Yes, for most of the first half it looked as if Mike Tomlin was going suffer his first losing season. But then the Steelers offered a peek at what could have been.
2012 The Way It Could Have Been
With 3:48 left in the first half the Steelers got the ball and, after making their first down of the half, proceeded to do what they’d done all day so far – go three and out.
Cleveland, playing under second year player Thaddeus Lewis, had looked like the team that wanted it more, and had an excellent shot at getting into the end zone with just two minutes remaining.
But then the Steelers defense went and did something it only began doing with any regularity a week ago – they caused a turnover.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has been consistent at anything this season, it has been at scoring in the final minutes on the first half. And week 17 was no exception.
Isaac Redman set the tone with a bruising 11 yard run, and two plays later Ben Roethlisberger was connecting with Leonard Pope for the Steelers first touchdown.
It would be poetic to say that from this point on, the Steelers controlled the game. Alas, that was not to be.
The Steelers defense did its part, stalling Cleveland at their own 25 on 4th and 5, but for the second time in a four games, the Steelers special teams got caught with their pants down on a fake punt as Raymond Ventrone scampered for 35 yards.
An inane pass interference penalty on Joshua Victorian gave the Browns 1st and goal at the 1, and they only needed two plays to tie the score.
But Jonathan Dwyer answered immediately with the frist of two 12 yard runs on an 12 play 6:24 drive that ended with Ben Roethlisberger hooking up with Antonio Brown in the end zone.
- The Steelers were ahead, but could they stay there?
The Steelers would stay there on the strength of:
- A tag team sack by Steve McLendon and Cameron Hewyard
- Cortez Allen’s forced fumble, recovery and 21 yard return
- Plaxico Burress’ first regular season touchdown as a Pittsburgh Steeler since December 2004
- Back to back, lightning quick sacks Lawrence Timmons, including a forced fumble and recovery by Ziggy Hood
Steelers Finish 8-8, Face a Long Off Season
The win over the Browns evened the Steelers 2012 regular season record to 8-8. While missing the playoffs disappointing, this year it is particularly poignant in Pittsburgh.
As discussed here on Steel Curtain Rising this morning, aging, free agency, and looming salary cap complications will likely force the Steelers to retool their roster considerably.
Max Starks, Casey Hampton, Larry Foote, and Mike Wallace are all free agents, Brett Keisel and James Harrison will both be 35 and Deebo may very well be carrying a cost-prohibitive salary cap number.
But they’ll be plenty of time to sort those issues out in the months to come, and Steel Curtain Rising will be there to comment on it all.
In the mean time, thanks to all of for visiting this sight and taking time to share in its insights.
For any number of reasons — some good, some bad, some on my shoulders, some out of my control — traffic was down this season, but Google Analytics tells me that we did retain a core of loyal followers, and for that you have my deepest appreciation.
Thanks for visiting. Click here to check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising. Or… Follow @SteelCurtainRis