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Week 10 Steelers Vs Browns First Half Notes And Observations

The Pittsburgh Steelers notched their first division win of the season thanks to the performance of backup quarterback Ben Roethlisberger against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Below are my notes and observations from the first half of the game.

  • Of course, it was Landry Jones who started the game at quarterback. And naturally the first play of the game was a pass to fullback Roosevelt Nix.
  • On the second play from scrimmage, rookie nose tackle Danny Shelton drove Cody Wallace back and blew up a running play for a four-yard loss.
  • Right tackle Marcus Gilbert showed off his athleticism on a screen pass two plays later on third and 13, but the play only gained eight.
  • The Steelers defense was obviously fortunate for Johnny Manziel to throw a pass without the ball in his hands, but Steve McLendon driving back the pocket helped, as it bounced off the center’s head and out to the left, right into the hands of Arthur Moats.
  • The following drive wasn’t the best for Gilbert. On first down, he allowed pressure around the right side, but he argued that the defender illegally clubbed him in the head, which does appear to be the case. On third down, with Jones stepping into the pocket in his direction, a late push from the rusher resulted in Gilbert stepping on his quarterback’s ankle and knocking him out of the game.
  • Roosevelt Nix: pure hustle. He made an excellent job of chasing down the returner from the opposite side of the field to make the tackle on the ensuing kickoff after the Steelers’ field goal.
  • Making his second start since returning from injury, Will Allen may have played his best game of the season, in spite of giving up a late touchdown. He was strong against the run, beating a blocker to make the stop on Isaiah Crowell on first down. Unfortunately, he failed to come down with what should have been an interception on the next play.
  • Equally unfortunate was Manziel’s ability to keep the following play alive and find Travis Benjamin streaking open down the field on the run, resulting in a 61-yard gain before Mike Mitchell tracked him down. Allen looked to come forward toward the quarterback.
  • Interestingly, on the next snap, it was Stephon Tuitt given a rest on the next snap, replaced by Cam Thomas.
  • With first and goal from the 10, the defense did a good job of settling down, forcing a third-and-11 on which they allowed just a six-yard reception to hold for a field goal.
  • With Roethlisberger coming into the game, his first two passes were both deep shots intended for Antonio Brown. The first was just a bit too long, while the second hit a defender in the back.
  • On third and 15, however, Roethlisberger found him on a drag route over the middle and was able to negotiate his blocking for a 16-yard gain.
  • Two plays later, he was able to connect on a deep shot with Martavis Bryant, who had little issue hauling it in, which had been a problem the last couple of weeks.
  • On a third and short play, it seems that Roethlisberger and Brown were on their own on a screen pass to try to convert, because Gilbert did not defend Nate Orchard for such a play. The outside linebacker was able to peel off the light chip and get a hand on the pass.
  • Rookie Anthony Chickillo next got his first snaps on defense, playing a full 10-play drive.
  • The Steelers were able to put the Browns in a third and 14, but managed to give that up on a 17-yard pass in front of Ross Cockrell.
  • Early in the second quarter, the Steelers tried to run their counter power play, but David DeCastro got beaten so bad by Paul Kruger that he spilled to the ground face-first and caused Heath Miller to trip over him. Needless to say, the play went for a loss.
  • On the next play, Roethlisberger and Bryant hooked up deep again, with the wide receiver making a nice catch away from his body and hanging on, but his post-catch awareness showed lacking, as he allowed the cornerback to come from behind and knock the ball out while he was occupied with making the safety miss. The Steelers should have had a first down inside the red zone.
  • Nose tackle Steve McLendon easily beat out a reach block to get into the backfield on first and 10, ripping the running back down for a four-yard loss.
  • But Manziel came back with 17- and 18-yard connections on the next two plays to his tight end, Gary Barnidge, taking advantage of Ryan Shazier on the first one.
  • On a second-and-18 play, Arthur Moats got to Manziel and brought him down for a sack and a loss of four yards. The only problem is that he was flagged for nearly turning his head around. So instead of a third and 22, it was first and 10, 19 yards further down the field.
  • But the defense came up with back-to-back hits for losses, first with Allen making a stop for a loss of four, then Lawrence Timmons notching a sack for a loss of 10.
  • After breaching midfield with a 27-yard pass to Miller after escaping pressure, Roethlisberger took a shot to the head on his next pass, a penalty that wasn’t called, but Bryant did draw a penalty for 35 yards for pass interference.
  • That hit was allowed by Alejandro Villanueva, who was beaten on three straight plays, including the next one, in which he was pushed back into the quarterback.
  • After taking a sack on third down, the Steelers got another life when Armonty Bryant was flagged for illegally gaining leverage on the field goal attempt. It was a touchdown to Brown on the next play.
  • The defense came right back with the strip forced by Allen and recovered by Jones, but it’s worth noting that Vince Williams was on the field here in place of Shazier.
  • The Steelers traveled 36 yards all the way down to the 1, where they got two chances on fourth and goal to score, but failed both times. The decision to go for it was obviously partially fueled by field position and the time left on the clock. Mike Tomlin knew if his defense could hold up he would have another chance to score from good field position.
  • On second and goal, DeAngelo Williams fumbled, the first time a Steelers running back has fumbled this year. You would have to go all the way back to LeGarrette Blount’s fumble last year to find the last one. Fortunately, Miller recovered this one.
  • Taking over from the one, the defense held the Browns for no gain and a three-and-out.
  • The offense wasted no time attacking, with Brown getting open 20 yards down the field. Moving quickly, Roethlisberger hit Bryant on a vertical for the 32-yard score, going into the half with a nice lead.
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