Refreshing Steelers notes are always a contender: Crisp and cold, just like the bracing Cleveland air yesterday! Shame about the smell...
*It’s not time to clear space for Lombardi No. 7 just yet. Yesterday’s win was more about Cleveland’s stench than the Steelers’ excellence. But, at 5-6, all the Steelers can do is live to fight another day. They did. Baltimore looms large. CAN'T WAIT!
*Except for a disaster against New England, S Troy Polamalu is having an excellent season. He’s healthy, and he ravaged the Browns by forcing two fumbles and recovering one. He’s not quite as dynamic as he once was. But Polamalu is still more dynamic than any other Steelers defensive player.
*DE Cam Heyward: One sack, one fumble recovery and one hellacious stiff-arm. His late father, Ironhead, would be proud. Heyward isn’t a Pro Bowler yet. Yet.
*Yesterday on CBS, announcers Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots desperately tried to sell the Browns-Steelers rivalry. But it doesn’t exist anymore. Part of it moved to Baltimore with the real Browns. The rest got beaten to death by Steelers dominance (25-5 since the Browns re-entered the NFL in 1999).
*QB Ben Roethlisberger is 16-1 against Cleveland. He’s a one-man rivalry killer. Roethlisberger is the windshield, the Browns are the bug. Ain’t no rivalry.
*Is Antonio Brown a true No. 1 receiver? I don’t think so. Click HERE to read why. But Brown certainly got the best of highly-regarded Cleveland CB Joe Haden. The Steelers’ offense still dinks and dunks too much for my liking. But Roethlisberger is making it work. The more no-huddle, the better.
*Brown nearly dropped his 41-yard TD catch. One extra bobble, and Brown goes from hero to having had an ordinary day. The Steelers still win, though.
*Roethlisberger’s left-footed pooch punt that pinned Cleveland at its 1-yard line was nifty. So much so that WR Emmanuel Sanders celebrated downing it like he’d cured herpes. At least the No-Ring Mafia has something legit to crow about.
*Check out this tweet by yours truly immediately after CB Willie Gay’s 21-yard interception return for a touchdown:
THINGS JUST GOT GAY.— Mark Madden (@MarkMaddenX) November 24, 2013
*Yesterday was a big day for Gay: One pick-six, one sack, one forced fumble. NT Al Woods had two sacks. LB Jason Worilds nearly broke Browns QB Jason Campbell in two. Rookie RB Le’Veon Bell rushed for 80 yards, his second-best output. The Browns’ incompetence was a cure for a variety of ills, including those of the Steelers’ D as a collective: Five sacks, four takeaways and a TD.
*One thing the Browns can do is rush the passer: 31 sacks before yesterday, ninth-most in the NFL. But they got zero sacks vs. the Steelers. C Fernando Velasco has become a glue guy in the absence of the injured Maurkice Pouncey. Velasco may be playing better this year than Pouncey did last year.
*S Will Allen got a pick last week against Detroit, then returned a fumble 49 yards to set up a touchdown yesterday. Allen is making the most of his role in the absence of injured Shamarko Thomas, and is even outplaying starter Ryan Clark.
*The quick turnaround before Thursday’s game at Baltimore might help the Steelers. After three straight victories, better to play again quickly. Perhaps Baltimore feels the same after defeating the New York Jets yesterday, 19-3.
*Six AFC teams are now 5-6. It’s too early to worry about tiebreakers, who beat who, or who plays who. The Ravens game will tell a tale, sure. It’s huge. But when you’re in a six-team cluster with five games left, you might as well pick the winner out of a hat. The Steelers must keep winning – and they must keep improving.
*If the Steelers deserve credit for anything, it’s keeping focus. At 0-4, the season was a good bet to fall apart. It didn’t. Players and coaches should be proud of that.
*The Steelers will not make the playoffs.
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