The Pittsburgh Steelers, as a whole, played their best game in over a month, a statement that should be made obvious by the fact that they actually came out of the game with a victory. It was still far from perfect, to be sure—in particular, the red-zone offense was a major disappointment—but there were fewer mistakes than there has been in weeks.
Steelers veteran outside linebacker Arthur Moats, who authored a sack and a half among the team’s collection of eight on the day, a league-high mark on the season, doesn’t seem to think that that was a coincidence, but rather a product of what he has been seeing out of his teammates over the course of the past week.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Moats told him that he “sensed more urgency from his team during the week, including players showing up early to meetings”. No doubt the observations stems from much more than simply taking attendance, but that is the example that was provided.
“Guys operated at a higher level today than in previous weeks when guys were trying to do too much or we weren’t being accountable as a whole”, Moats told Fowler. He said that those issues were better “across the board” yesterday, but added that “it wasn’t anything formally that needed to be said”.
For Moats, it was just about “guys just being more on the details”, adding, “any time you’re going on the scale we have over the last four games, you have to look at what you can do to make yourself better”.
Defensively, in particular, it did seem as though several players, Moats among them, played their best game of the season, if not one of the best. The Steelers defense limited the Browns to just nine points after giving up 35 to the Cowboys at home a week earlier. Of course, the disparity in talent between the two is significant.
Part of the success came in bottling up the running game, as the Browns’ backs gained just 20 yards on 10 carries. The two quarterbacks added 13 yards and three scrambles, but even including those, Cleveland put up 33 rushing yards on the day on 13 carries, which is, it is safe to say, abysmal.
That left the game in the hands of rookie Cody Kessler, who completed just seven of 14 passes for 128 yards and an interception before he was knocked out of the game. The Browns offense did move more efficiently once Josh McCown entered for one drive, but ultimately, he threw for only 118 yards on 27 pass attempts, even if one was a touchdown.
The Browns ran 62 offensive plays on the day, officially, and produced just 209 yards, averaging a woeful 3.4 yards per carry. While the Steelers’ passing offense was not efficient on the day, it was not necessary, as the running game supplied the firepower necessary for the win—another area of the team that was in dire need of a turnaround performance.