Anytime your franchise QB goes down and you're faced with starting 3-years-removed-from-Tampa Byron Leftwich and 2-years-removed-from-spot-starting Charlie Batch against division rivals in successive weeks, the forecast is grim. And the fans want results, an uninterrupted level of play. "Expecting losses" isn't a way to go about a critical injury like we have with Ben Roethlisberger. And yet, "demanding greatness" is just as foolish.
Both last week and yesterday, division foes needed a backup Steelers QB and unlimited Pittsburgh turnovers to win, and while 0-2 over that stretch is no reason to celebrate, a Ben Roethlisberger return from injury can immediately impact this team and the league. So we wait.
Charlie: Charlie played a great 1st Half. 8-15 for 85 yards. A nice scoring drive at the end of the half to take the lead where he had a handful of nice throws. And then his 1st INT of the 2nd Half was his first real mistake, slightly behind Plax, picked. The next INT wasn't on Charlie, Mike Wallace bobbles it straight into the air and into Cleveland possession. And the last INT is on Todd Haley, just an absolute drive-killing long bomb that took forever to come down, ending up as a non-4th Down arm-punt late in a game where the offense had already moved the sticks with a 1st Down. However, Charlie didn't do much aside from those INTs and a few stray 10 yard completions to Manny Sanders and Heath Miller. Charlie played about as Charlie as we could hope Charlie could play, the team had a chance despite his mistakes and it ended up going the other way. 2 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
RBs: We need to re-use a picture from last week's recap:
A truly terrible performance. 5 fumbles, 4 given away, 1 by each Mendy, Redman, Dwyer and Rainey. The Rainey TD was extra-nice, though, so it brings the rating up. 1 of 5 motorcycle helmets. And I'm being nice. Even a total crap game on the ground giving away like a fumble or 2 can still probably win this game with the way the defense played. INCLUDING the picks from Batch. But the ground game went into full shutdown mentally and the Steelers continued to give away field position and potential drives.
Defense: Consecutive games without Ben that the D put on a show worthy of a win. An uptick in either QB or RB play in this game and it's an easy win. Timmons with his first ever defensive TD, Jason Worilds going berserk and taking the team-lead in sacks...even James Harrison with a sack of his own! The Steelers offense gave the first 4 fumbles away inside their own territory, if the Browns aren't already in FG range by the time the Steelers D gets on the field, we're talking about an entirely different game. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Dick LeBeau and the D were under fire earlier this year for poor performances, here's to looking like they were just getting their legs under them. They'll need to continue trending upwards the rest of the way.
The aforementioned Manny Sanders and Heath Miller: I couldn't bail out with only 3 ratings after a 2nd-straight loss. Both caught almost everything that was thrown at them. 3.5 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Whatever.
Ravens in Baltimore at 4:25 PM EST next week. Hopefully that extra 3 hours from the early games to the mid-afternoon games gives Ben enough time to hit 100% health.
(thanks to Doug for the banner pic)