I wanted to take a look back at the two contests last year between the Browns and the Steelers. Of course, the result was the same in both games - a Pittsburgh W - but the two games certainly had different dynamics despite the similar outcomes.
Game 1: Week 1 @ Cleveland: 34-7 Pittsburgh
Last year, to start the season, the Browns went with Charlie Frye at QB. That didn't last long, but it certainly played a big role in the Steelers thumping of Cleveland on opening weekend of last year. The Steelers steamrolled their long-time rivals 34-7. Big Ben threw for 4 TDs, Willie Parker had the first of many 100+ yard games, and both Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Heath Miller caught TDs. The defense was just as good, limiting Jamaal Lewis to just 35 yards, while turning over the Cleveland offense five times!
Some other observations from the first game:
* The Steelers possessed the ball for over 36 minutes.
* Of the Steelers 66 total offensive plays, 44 were rushes.
* If you take a look at the play-by-play from the game, you'll notice the Steelers went to the air after turning Cleveland over early in the game. Then, with a lead in their back pocket, the Steelers pounded the ball mercylessly for most all of the 2nd half.
* It certainly helped that we were 7-12 on 3rd down.
* And finally, while not great, our special teams coverage units did not put us in jeopardy, as they would on many occasions later in the year.
Game 2: Week 10 @ Heinz: 31-28 Pittsburgh
This one was nothing like the blowout in Week 1. Cleveland came to play early, taking leads of 7-0, 14-3 and 21-6 by halftime. Big Ben would ultimately will us to victory, but it wasn't easy. We had to overcome a monster first half from Derek Anderson, Joshua Cribbs left his mark all over the game in the return department, and there's no way we win without the heroics of Ben Roethlisberger in the 4th quarter, when he led the team back from a 15 point deficit. The highlight of course, was the 30 yard TD scramble that exemplified the grit of Ben's play last year.
Some other notes from last year's game that accentuate the difference in the two ballgames:
* The Steelers D created only one turnover, compared to five in the first game.
* The Steelers finished the day with a respectable 3rd down % of 50 (8 of 16), but in the first half, they were only 3 of 7, and even worse, 0 of 3 on situations of 3rd down and 5 yards or fewer.
* It was tough to find and maintain much of an offensive rhythm in the first half partly because KR Joshau Cribbs went off. Following our first FG of the game, Cribbs took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to the Pittsburgh 3. Then, following a very impressive TD drive by Pittsburgh in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters, Joshau Cribbs took one the distance, pushing the Cleveland lead back to 10 after Pittsburgh had cut it to 24-21. In case you had forgot, check this f'n return out. Sick moves by Cribbs, undeniably. But absolutely abhorrent coverage by Pittsburgh:
* Pittsbugh sacked Derek Anderson 0 times that day. Cleveland sacked Big Ben 4 times. And remember, that number could have been much higher. That's quite the difference between Week 1, when Pittsburgh had 6 sacks to Cleveland's one.
Here's hoping this coming Sunday is more like Week 1 of 2007 than Week 11. I doubt it will be, but I'll be fine with something in between. Above all else, I really don't want to see Joshua Cribbs have a big impact on this game. One big return? Fine. Absolutely not multiple important runbacks though. And finally, the second thing I'd be most dissapointed in seeing is a skewed disparity in the amount of pressure the two QBs face. The difference between last year's games was truly remarkable. I'm not saying we need to record 6 sacks and give up just one. But if Anderson's going to throw the ball 30+ times, which he likely will, we better get to him at least once, something we failed to do in November of last year.
Gametime's getting closer. T-minus three days and change.