After eight turnovers, Browns hold off Steelers
NOV 25, 2012 6:38p ET
It was a win after all, and any win -- much less a win over the Steelers -- is welcome in Cleveland.
So it might be time to be happy about the win.
But this is not the win to cause bravado.
Because for the Browns to win their third game in 11 tries this season, they needed every one of an historic total of Pittsburgh turnovers.
Count each and every one of them: Pittsburgh turned the ball over eight times.
The Steelers become the first team in 11 years to have eight in a game, and it was the most by the Steelers and most caused by the Browns since Sept. 10, 1989, in a game between the two -- won by Cleveland 51-0.
This time the Browns won 20-14, and needed every last bit of effort to hang on to the win.
And it came with eight turnovers and with the Steelers playing a third quarterback and with the Steelers missing their best defensive player and best receiver. It took all the Browns had to win.
Credit the Browns for causing the turnovers. The defense was active, and limited Pittsburgh to an impressive 49 yards rushing. That deserves legitimate bows.
"We had seven sacks last week, and we had eight turnovers this week," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We held Pittsburgh to 1-for-9 on third down, and that's outstanding stuff. We can talk about how the game was played, but our guys stepped up and did an outstanding job defensively."
But blame the Steelers for being lackadaisical with the ball, and for not treating the Browns as if they were a real NFL team. It seemed like everyone on Pittsburgh contributed.
-- Mike Wallace had about the laziest game imaginable. He dropped a slant that turned into an interception, then stood and watched as two deep throws were from Charlie Batch were tipped away or intercepted. Asked if he could have done more to come back to the ball on those throws, Wallace said: "I don't know. Maybe." Wallace clearly seems like a different player since he refused to report to training camp in a contract squabble.
--Quarterback Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh's third-teamer, actually completed 20-of-34 throws, but also had three interceptions. One was especially costly, as it set up the Browns touchdown that turned a 14-13 Steelers lead into a Trent Richardson 15-yard touchdown run, which gave the Browns the final margin of victory. In the fourth quarter, Batch saw single coverage on Wallace on the sideline and tried to hit him deep, but underthrew the ball. As Wallace watched, Joe Haden intercepted, effectively ending the Steelers last real threat.
--As a group, the Steelers running backs did more to lose the game than anyone. Somewhere Jerome Bettis was shuddering. First Rashard Mendenhall, then Isaac Redman, then Jonathan Dwyer fumbled the ball to the Browns. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin benched them all, then went to Chris Rainey, who fumbled a swing pass out of bounds and added another with 2:25 left and Pittsburgh basically out of chances.
"We are going to play people that can secure the football," Tomlin said. "But after everybody does it obviously there aren't many choices left."
No there aren't.
Credit the Browns for playing aggressive defense. For the second week in a row, they faced a team that started the game without an offensive line starter and lost another during the game, and they took advantage.
They played hard, and fast, and physical.
But the Steelers played lazy.
"You know, that was an ugly performance," Tomlin said. "As ours, we own it. If you turn the ball over the way we did today, you're not going to beat anybody."
"We let our team down," Dwyer said of the running backs. "We didn't do what we were supposed to do. We didn't do our job."
Because of it the Steelers lost for just the second time in 18 games to the Browns, and saw their playoff hopes diminish as they fell to 6-5. This season, Pittsburgh has lost to Oakland, Tennessee and Cleveland -- which are a combined 10-23.
The Browns and their beleaguered fans, meanwhile, fully enjoyed their third win in six games and first over the Steelers since 2009. That win on a frigid Thursday night three years ago started a five-game end-of-the-season winning streak that led to new president Mike Holmgren giving Eric Mangini one more year as coach.
Things came full circle, as the team confirmed that Sunday's win over the Steelers was the last game in which Holmgren would be involved with the team. He will discuss his departure today.
That, though, will be a sideshow. Because for one night, the Browns and their fans could be happy.
"I told our rookies," Shurmur said, "‘You're 1-0 against Pittsburgh.'"
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