Sunday’s 24-22 Steelers loss to Cleveland really didn’t matter. The two teams are just going to play again this weekend in the playoffs anyway. And the Festivus season has come and gone.
But we continue with our weekly “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength” into 2021. As, of course, is tradition.
It wasn’t all bad for the Steelers. Credit Mason Rudolph for a gutty outing. He totaled 315 yards and two touchdowns. He did so without a full complement of offensive help against a team playing for its postseason life, too.
Chase Claypool flashed. He had five catches for 101 yards and a score. The pass rush still managed four sacks without T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. And Myles Garrett was limited to three tackles, no sacks, and one pass defensed.
So consider those our “Feats of Strength.” But we have plenty of grievances to air even if the Steelers didn’t have a ton to play for on Sunday.
Grinding it ‘aht!: Sure, Heyward, Watt and Terrell Edmunds didn’t play. Vince Williams didn’t get a lot of snaps in the second half. That can’t be overlooked.
But the Browns can still run with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt regardless of who they face. And the likes of Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Alex Highsmith, Avery Williamson and Minkah Fitzpatrick did play a lot. Yet Cleveland ran all over the Steelers, to the tune of 192 yards.
Is that why Steelers defensive linemen were fighting among themselves on the sideline?
Chubb did the most damage with 108 yards on the ground on 14 carries, including a 47-yard touchdown scamper.
Nicholas Jamaal Chubb.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 3, 2021
As you can see, Fitzpatrick’s tackling was an issue, as it was on a later run by Hunt. And Jarvis Landry rolled over him into the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
.@God_Son80 RUSHING touchdown ❗️
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 3, 2021
The Steelers defense will be better equipped to stop Cleveland’s ground attack next week. And it better be. Because, at 6.2 yards per carry, the Browns could make short work of the Steelers at Heinz Field.
Mayfield on the move: Part of the issue for the Steelers containing the Cleveland’s rush yards was the result of Baker Mayfield’s efforts.
The Cleveland quarterback had a 28-yard scramble which set up a touchdown pass to Austin Hooper. And he closed out the game with this 3-yard run on a third down with just over one minute remaining.
— NFL (@NFL) January 3, 2021
Mayfield wound up with 44 yards rushing. Maybe if Heyward and Watt were on the field, he wouldn’t have escaped for those long runs. Regardless, the Steelers have to be more efficient at keeping him in the pocket next week.
Sound familiar?: Meanwhile, when it comes to the ground game, it was more of the same for the Steelers offense. Only 85 total yards rushing.
Should I even bother bringing it up?
Furthermore, keep in mind that 20 of those yards were runs by Josh Dobbs. That likely won’t be a part of the game plan in the rematch unless Mike Tomlin has a change of heart in his approach for using Dobbs.
Or better said, not using him.
I mean, NFL officials are bad. We all know that. But they were particularly terrible in this game.
As has become the trend recently, it was missed blatant non-calls that were more problematic than poor flags from the zebras.
On Mason Rudolph’s interception, he was hit in the helmet. That’s not supposed to be allowed on a quarterback. Certainly not the first time a blow to the head happened to Rudolph in that stadium, though. Was it?
Henry Mondeaux was blatantly held in the middle of the line in the second half with no call. Ola Adeniyi got some of that treatment, too. James Washington absorbed an obvious pass interference call in the end zone with no penalty as well.
I wasn’t bent out of shape about the two-point conversion. Was Claypool hooked in the end zone? Yeah. Probably. But Rudolph still gunned it over his head.
That doesn’t excuse the other missed calls, though.
The Wright Stuff: Backup kicker Matthew Wright made all three of his field goals, including a pair from 46 yards out.
Why is that a grievance to air instead of a “Feats of Strength”?
Oh, for Wright, it absolutely is.
Because if he could make two 46-yard kicks in Cleveland, do you think that maybe — just maybe — he could’ve made that 45-yard attempt Mike Tomlin didn’t bother trying versus Washington back in Week 13?
Nah. Pumping a deep ball on fourth-and-1 to a third-string rookie running back was probably a better choice.
Never mind. My bad for even asking.
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