Steelers commit eight turnovers in poorly played 20-14 loss at Cleveland in Week 12

Jason Miller

The Steelers defense played admirably, but they struggled to score a win while facing both the Browns offense as well as their own.

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their Week 12 game against the Cleveland Browns with a slew of injuries leading the list of problems they had.

By the end of the game, that list of problems - and injuries - got a lot bigger.

The reality is easier to grasp right now than the ball was at Cleveland Browns Stadium, as the Steelers lost eight turnovers - five fumbles from four running backs and one wide receiver and three interceptions - and with them, their second consecutive game - this one, 20-14 to the previously 2-8 Cleveland Browns.

The Cincinnati Bengals moved into a tie for the AFC's last wild card position, leaving the Steelers as the sixth seed of the AFC playoffs by virtue of a win over the Bengals in Week 7.

What a win that was, and what a long time ago that was. The victory at Cincinnati spurned a four-game winning streak in which the Steelers were a dominant ground team with a suffocating defense. In their last two games, the Steelers offense has looked downright abysmal, suffering hugely through the loss of injured QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown.

Sunday was no different. It was just significantly worse.

In a poor game played by both teams (18 combined penalties, four interceptions and 480 yards combined between them), the Browns scored three times on short field, and the one scoring drive not starting in Pittsburgh's territory began at Cleveland's 46 yard line.

Steelers QB Charlie Batch looked bad enough to suggest he may have played his final game as a Steeler. Roethlisberger has been rumored to be playing next week when the Steelers take on the division-leading Ravens, and that can pretty much be moved into a sure thing, considering the Steelers' dying playoff hopes hinge on winning the rest of their games. All five of their losses have come within the AFC, meaning they won't have the advantage of tiebreakers against anyone other than the Bengals - whom they would have to beat when they play each other in Week 16.

As for the Steelers running backs, who were the prized possessions of the team just two weeks ago, all four of them - Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey - fumbled at least once, with Mendenhall and Rainey fumbling twice.

If Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wished to discipline his running backs by removing them from the game for committing the sin, it lost all its teeth by the third quarter when all four of them had put the ball on the ground.

All of this with a Steelers defensive effort that was certainly good enough to win. DE Brett Keisel tipped a Brandon Weeden pass that Lawrence Timmons intercepted and returned 53 yards for a touchdown on the game's fourth play.

They ended up holding Cleveland to just 238 yards, and that was without OLB LaMarr Woodley, who missed most of the game with an ankle injury.

His replacement, Jason Worilds, had two sacks in his absence.

The defense wasn't the problem in this game. They held Cleveland to just 20 points despite the Browns starting on their side of the field much of this game. Offensively, it was another high-target (seven) low-production (one catch, nine yards) day from WR Mike Wallace. Some of that can be attributed to a nowhere-close-to-adequate throwing arm from Batch, but his lack of ability to make plays despite it has anchored this offense, and will continue to do so as long as he is as heavily targeted as he has been over the last three games.

The signing of Plaxico Burress was supposed to help alleviate some of the pressure on Wallace caused by the absences of Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery, and while Burress drew pass interference in the end zone that set up a touchdown, his inexcusably lazy route led to one of Batch's three interceptions. He dropped another catchable ball in his two targets.

No position group deserves more criticism than the Steelers' running backs, though. In what had to be the most hideous rushing performance in years, they fumbled, dropped passes, missed holes and appeared to be running in sand throughout this entire game.

Clearly, something needs to be done if the Steelers wish to hang onto their current playoff position.


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