But since a tie actually isn’t a loss (as others have pointed out, it’s half of a win), in the interest of fairness and equal time, I’d like to highlight some positive moments from the Steelers’ first regular season game of 2018.
Two such moments were back-to-back touchdown drives by Pittsburgh right after the Browns tied the score at 7-7 early in the third quarter.
After Cleveland opened the second half and marched 86 yards on a 10-play touchdown drive that was aided greatly by ill-timed and ill-advised penalties by Pittsburgh defenders, one might have wondered if the game would end in a 7-7 tie (Freudian slip), given the offensive struggles by the Steelers in a first half in which they turned the football over three times, including two TOs on potential scoring drives.
But despite the passing game looking disjointed during the first 30 minutes, just one play after the 20-yard touchdown run by Browns’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a score that had FirstEnergy Stadium rocking and rolling, Ben Roethlisberger found JuJu Smith-Schuster on a short slant-pass, and the second-year receiver raced 67 yards down to Cleveland’s 7-yard line.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article or two, I spent the latter portion of the summer watching a lot of classic Steelers’ games from the 1970s on streaming TV, so seeing Smith-Schuster race down the sideline was reminiscent of John Stallworth doing the same to an inferior Browns’ defense at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
A few plays after back-to-back penalties on Steelers’ offensive linemen, not only wiping out back-to-back touchdowns but making it 2nd-and-goal from the 22, Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown, who looked very Lynn Swann-like as he displayed great body control while corralling a 22-yard touchdown in the right side of the end zone.
After a quick and unsuccessful drive by Cleveland, Ryan Switzer hauled in a punt by Britton Colquitt (to continue the 1970s theme) and raced 20 yards to the Browns’ 39.
Two plays later, running back James Conner did his finest Franco Harris impression, galloping 22 yards for a touchdown that put the Steelers up 21-7 before three quarters were in the books.
What those two touchdowns showed me is that, despite struggling mightily up to that point, the offense was still capable of imposing its will at any time, in all facets, and from anywhere on the field.
At that point, it was a reminder to everyone in the AFC North that the Steelers may have their problems and their struggles, but they’re still the class of the division.
Had the Steelers been able to hold their water down the stretch, that quick and forceful third-quarter response would have been something to build on moving forward.
I suppose it’s still something to build on, but just a little harder to do after that same offense committed six turnovers.
That’s probably why most players and fans are feeling more like the “half-a-loss” portion of Sunday’s tie.