Monday, September 15, 2008

Ah no, Not Quite, Fair Romeo

It was obvious from the start last night that the Cleveland Browns brought all of the determination they could conjure up in facing their old nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers. And while the Browns may have been able to keep it close, in the end it will go in the record books as just another in a long series of losses for the "Dawg Lovers" as the Steelers dispatched the Browns by a 10-6 score.

The Steelers were not spectacular themselves, in part due to an improved Browns defense. But when it got down to rug cutting time and with the score Pittsburgh 10-3 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Browns coach Romeo Crennel managed to infuriate the home crowd by kicking a field goal on 4th and 7 from the 23 yard line. The paying customers apparently were incensed because in their opinion, the Browns were still going to need a touchdown to win and hadn't managed one up until that point all game. After making the chip shot, the Browns, now trailing 10-6 kicked off to the Steelers using an on-sides formation. However they kicked the ball medium depth where Matt Spaeth covered it. In the remaining minutes the Steelers, largely through the efforts of Willie Parker and some inopportune timeouts by Crennel, managed to run the game clock down to just 24 seconds where the Steelers' defense finished suffocating the Browns offense.

The game featured a single touchdown scored by Hines Ward (his third of the year) from Big Ben. Willie Parker also chipped in with 104 yards on 24 carries. Santonio Holmes also contributed with a couple long catches as well.

But on a night where the wind displayed cyclonic tendencies with the constant light rain making life miserable for the ball handlers, the Steelers managed to get through this one turnover-free, a major reason why they won the game. In contrast, the Browns contributed two interceptions, one picked off by Bryant McFadden, the other by Troy Polamalu near the goal line at the end of the first half. The Polamalu interception was truly a back breaker and the Browns left the field to a chorus of boos.

At the game's conclusion and following Crennel's controversial decision and questionable clock management, the crowd was certainly in no better frame of mind. Thus the ongoing Shakespearean tragedy that is Romeo Crennel-style football.

Ben Rothleisberger, it was revealed during the game by the NBC crew, is suffering from a partial shoulder separation. This condition was not helped when he was sacked three times and hit very hard on two other occasions. Big Ben was as evasive as John McCain or Barack Obama as on three occasions he avoided answering NBC's Andrea Kremer when she asked him questions about his ailing shoulder. Ben would respond by giving completely unrelated answers about the offensive line or gushing about his teammates. He flatly refused to even acknowledge the questions which was really something to see. Coach Tomlin is very strict about not discussing injuries with the media. Once again, it's very obvious that Tomlin has his team's complete attention.

Which brings us to next week. The Steelers will be facing a strong Philadelphia Eagles team on the road in Philly, a city reeling from the recent announcement that its' residents were named the worst looking in the United States. In contrast, Miami has the best-looking residents on average (amazingly Pittsburgh did not make either list).

This week will feature thousands of Big Ben shoulder questions. In all probability though, Ben will not practice most of the week but more than likely should play unless the shoulder really flared up after the game. But make no mistake about it, Ben was really hurting after this one. But at least he had the consolation of knowing that he was hurting after a "W", and not an "L".