What an opening week it was for the NFL. There was promising performances from young players, and an incredible comeback by Aaron Rodgers which you can read about here. But over the weekend, there was also… a tie! That’s right, the 0-16 Cleveland Browns took on a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now I want to preface this post by saying that I absolutely LOATHE the NFL overtime rules. I hate the idea that a professional football game can end in a tie. College overtime is 1,000,000,000 times better and provides a much better experience for the players, coaches, and most importantly the fans.
That’s out of the way, so let’s get into it. This game was sloppy in every regard possible. It rained for the entirety of the game, which can be blamed in part for the lack of passing success we saw from both sides. While that was a factor, 6 turnovers is absolutely inexcusable for a team looking to win a championship. 3 of these were interceptions from Ben Rothlisburger. As well as losing 2 fumbles, Rothlisburger had one of the worst games of his career. RB James Conner however had an incredible debut with 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. Conner lost a fumble which allowed the Browns a key score in the 4th, but had an otherwise flawless game.
The real stars of this game were the Cleveland Browns defense. DE Myles Garrett had the best game of his young career, racking up 5 solo tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He was also a huge problem for the Steelers O-Line for the whole game, pressuring Rothlisburger nearly every attempt. On the opposite side, Steelers LB T.J Watt was unstoppable. He was able to pick up 8 solo tackles, 4 sacks, and even blocked the kick to save the game for the Pittsburgh in OT. A strong performance from Browns CB Denzel Ward was also key during the teams’ 14 point comeback in the second half.
The surprise for me was how bad the Browns offense was in this game. Tyrod Taylor was held to less than 200 yards passing, and had only 1 TD passing. Despite having 2 of the most talented receivers in the league in Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, he only targeted Gordon 3 times with 1 completion. Granted, that 1 completion was a TD at the end of the game, it was a HUGE mistake to not involve a weapon as dangerous as Gordon.
The running game was also abysmal for the Browns, with Tyrod Taylor as the leading rusher. Any time your QB is the top rusher on a team, you have a problem. RB1 Carlos Hyde averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on 22 carries. This is a big problem that could be detrimental to the team going forward if not fixed immediately.
I’m still very much a part of the “Browns to the playoffs” train, but the offense must pick up their production. The Steelers on the other hand are very concerning, as turnovers plagued the team in week 1, and I saw nothing from Big Ben that indicates a change anytime soon.