The Pittsburgh Steelers had none won a game in 43 days heading into today’s game in Cleveland. The 0-10 hapless Browns turned out to be just the elixir the 4-5 Steelers needed, busting up a four-game losing streak that, were it not for a floundering AFC North as a whole, could have thrown their season into a tailspin.
But after four straight losses, dropping from 4-1 to 4-5, Pittsburgh got back in the win column with a 24-9 victory on the road over the Browns, and they did so with a strong pass rush and some extended offensive drives, even if they didn’t always manage to get the job done.
In the meantime, the Bengals and the Ravens also lost, meaning that the Steelers and Ravens are now tied atop the division with a 5-5 record. The Bengals, meanwhile, are becoming irrelevant, now dropping back to 3-6-1 on the season, which is the equivalent of a 3.5-6.5 record.
But this is about the Steelers, and not the division. Pittsburgh had not lost even three games in a row since the first quarter of the 2013 season. Pittsburgh lost their first four games that year, but went 8-4 over the course of the rest of the season—and 6-2 in the second half.
Of course, that team went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Missing the playoffs is still very much in play for this .500 Steelers team with six games to play, and it’s far from a lock that they actually end this year with a winning record.
But, at the very least, they are back on track now. They began their journey back to relevance by nearly knocking off the Cowboys, who after beating the Ravens today are 9-1 on the season and are riding a nine-game winning streak since losing in their season opener.
The Steelers grabbed a one-point lead with 42 seconds to play, but the defense ended up giving that lead back with a touchdown that came with just nine seconds left. But at the very least, they looked like a team that could compete against anybody.
While the scoreboard was at times close, today’s game was a more or less dominant effort by the Steelers over the Browns. While Ben Roethlisberger actually only threw for 167 yards on 36 pass attempts—an abysmal 4.6 yards per pass attempt—the Steelers didn’t need to control the game through the air with the ground game back on track.
Le’Veon Bell rushed for 146 yards and a rushing touchdown on the day, and he did so on 28 carries. This allowed the offense to control the game methodically, with a time of possession just under 34 minutes. It could have been more if they didn’t have two three-and-outs and a defensive touchdown in the second half.
Up next is an important road game in Indianapolis. The Colts looked good today over the Titans and getting to 6-5, but they have also given up a ton of sack, and the Steelers will need to take advantage of the pass rush.