8 Steelers Sacks Power Pittsburgh Over Cleveland Browns, 24-9

8 Steelers sacks power Pittsburgh’s 24-9 win over the Cleveland Browns….

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their game against the Cleveland Browns with one simple objective: Win. Winning is of course Mike Tomlin’s objective every weekend, but it is an objective the Steelers have failed to accomplish in 4 separate attempts over the last 42 days.

  • The Steelers defeated the Browns to the tune of 24 to 9, snapping their 4-game losing streak.

Let’s be honest, the game was closer than the score indicates, the Steelers were far from flawless, and several of their weaknesses were still apparent despite the win. But the Steelers accomplished something important in Cleveland: They broke the self-destructive spiral that saw them find creative ways to lose games.

In doing so they took a first step towards learning to win again.

Steelers vs. Browns 2016, Cody Kessler, Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons, 8 Steelers Sacks

Cody Kessler feels the crunch of Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune Review

Steelers Bend Until Breaking Offense

Seven years ago, the Steelers took a four game losing streak into Cleveland on a cold windy night that saw Bruce Arians rollout a pass-centric game plan on a night when Ben Roethlisberger would give up 8 sacks.

  • Regardless of whether he studied those tapes or not, Todd Haley clearly had no intention of making the same mistake.

The Steelers offensive M.O. was to get the ball to Le’Veon Bell early and often. And it worked. Aside from their 3 and out to open the second half, the first four offensive possessions went like this:

  • 16 plays, 82 yards, 9:18 burned off the clock for 3 points
  • 16 plays, 68 yards, 9:28 burned off the clock for 3 points
  • 11 plays, 59 yards, 1:51 burned off the clock for 7 points
  • 15 plays, 71 yards, 8:02 burned off the clock for 3 points

Somewhere the late Ron Erhardt is smiling. The Steelers intended to control time of possession and they dominated it by controlling the ball 33:58 to 26:02. While those are all positives, the reality is that the Steelers struggled in the Red Zone, largely because neither Eli Rogers nor Cobi Hamilton is capable of taking heat off of Antonio Brown. Likewise, Ladarius Green has struggled in goal-line situations for two weeks now.

While no one should overlook the Steelers Red Zone struggles in Cleveland, Mike Tomlin refused to bat an eye at the end of the first half, and the Steelers ultimately punched it into the end zone.

8 Steelers Sacks Power Pittsburgh’s Defense

The bigger question heading into the game for the Steelers was how Keith Butler’s defense would respond after a horrendous performance vs. the Dallas Cowboys.

  • An offense scoring two touchdowns inside of the two minute warning can permanently break a defense’s will.

Arite Burns started things off right for the Steelers by ending the Browns first drive with an interception. Burns would get his hands on 3 more passes before the game ended, with Michael Mitchell defensing two more, while Ryan Shazier and Sean Davis each getting their hands on another.

But pressure on the quarterback is a primary component of quality secondary play, and for the first time since the win over Kansas City, the Steelers defense delivered.

  • The Steelers sacked Cody Kessler and Josh McCown on each and every one of the Browns possessions except their 1st and last.

There’s no way you can measure the devastating impact that has on a quarterback, and an offense, especially when a defense has completely taken the run away from a team as the Steelers neutralized the Browns running attack.

  • Stephon Tuitt and Jarvon Hargrave’s bookended the Browns second possession with sacks, forcing their first punt
  • Arthur Moats first sack came on 2nd and 10 and leading to 3rd and long and another punt
  • James Harrison’s record breaking sack helped force the Browns to settle for a field goal

The Browns did score on the drive that saw Stephon Tuitt and Arthur Moats sack Josh McCown. But on their next drive Tuitt and Lawrence Timmons both sacked McCown, helping force a punt. And of course Ryan Shazier’s strip sack set up Javon Hargrave’s fumble recovery for a touchdown, which put the Browns away.

Suffice to say, 8 Steelers sacks for a franchise that came into the game with a partly total of 13 sack on the season was a sight for sore eyes. More importantly, instead of finding creative ways to lose, the Steelers defense went back to basics and rediscovered  a way to win – by putting the quarterback on his back.

Keeping the Steelers Win Over the Browns in Perspective

When team is beginning to learn to lose, a process the Steelers began during their 4-game winless streak, a head coach’s first task is to stop the bleeding. Mike Tomlin accomplished that objective in the 8 Steelers sack attack over the Browns. Unlike the last time Pittsburgh brought an 0-4 streak to Cleveland, they stuck to the fundamentals, executed, and snapped out of their losing ways.

  • That’s a small, but important step in the right direction.

But the Steelers defense will not enjoy such good fortune going up against Andrew Luck on Thanksgiving, nor will the offense have the luxury of kicking 3 field goals and scoring 1 touchdown on four trips to the Red Zone.

But the Steelers went into Cleveland needing a win, and the left the Mistake by the Lake having accomplished their goal.

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