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Old 11-19-2006, 11:20 PM   #1
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Default Game 10 Report Card: Steelers vs. Browns

Monday, November 20, 2006


GERRY DULAC grades the Steelers' effort in the 24-20 win against the Browns yesterday. The report is broken down into defensive and offensive positions, special teams and coaching.

After a poor first half in which he threw three interceptions, Ben Roethlisberger rallied with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter on drives of 87, 79 and 77 yards. His winning touchdown to Willie Parker was vintage improv -- rolling from pressure and shoveling a backhand pass for a 4-yard touchdown. Roethlisberger's first interception, a high pass to Santonio Holmes, was returned 57 yards for a touchdown.

Willie Parker rushed for just 46 yards on 16 carries, but he scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including the winner with 32 seconds remaining. But the Steelers finished with 77 yards on 20 carries against a team that was ranked 30th in the NFL against the run.

Three receivers touched passes that were intercepted in the first half. Holmes had five catches for 75 yards and did a good job to break off his route several times for his first NFL touchdown. He also had a big catch to convert a third-and-20 in the fourth quarter. Hines Ward had seven catches for 81 yards, including a big 21-yarder on the final drive.

The Steelers struggled to run the ball against a weak run defense -- their longest run from scrimmage was 8 yards -- but the offensive line did a good job in pass protection that allowed Roethlisberger to keep hitting his secondary receivers. Roethlisberger was sacked twice, but the protection enabled him to create plays.

Even without Reuben Droughns, the Browns were able to rush for 71 of their 99 yards in the first half. Still, they managed just two field goals on offense and had just 118 yards offense in the second half. Travis Kirschke had a sack and forced fumble and NT Casey Hampton caused a fumble that led to a field goal.

The Steelers got decent pressure on QB Charlie Frye, who was sacked five times, but they let the Browns run twice as many plays (38-19) and gain 184 yards offense in the first half. ILB James Farrior had 12 tackles, a sack and two quarterback pressures, and OLB Joey Porter had a sack and tackle for loss. But another long drive, of 87 yards, has happened too many times this season.

It could have a different outcome if Braylon Edwards caught one of the two desperation passes into the end zone at the end of each half. S Troy Polamalu was all over the field and had a dominating series in the fourth quarter. But his biggest play came when he ran down Edwards after a 63-yard gain and prevented a touchdown.

Big returns at key moments have plagued them all season, and so it was again when Josh Cribbs returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown after the Steelers cut the lead to 13-10. Also, too many penalties, including a holding call against Heath Miller that negated a 49-yard kick return by Najeh Davenport.

The Steelers never panicked when they were down, 13-3 and 20-10, in the fourth quarter, and their ability to rally after they had played so poorly is testament to their resolve. Roethlisberger's ability to improvise can make any coach look good, though offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt did a good job to call a lot of passes underneath Cleveland's zone coverage.

?Jarrad Page, we?re not at UCLA anymore. You need to wrap.? ?an ESPN commentator, on the Chiefs rookie?s weak attempt at tackling the Steelers? Nate Washington in a 45-7 loss.
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