The Pittsburgh Steelers secured for themselves a 24-7 lead by halftime in yesterday’s victory over the Cleveland Browns, a 17-point margin that they also had last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. The only difference this week is that the Steelers were able to keep pouring it on in the second half and prevent the Browns from adding to their lead.
When all was said and done, Pittsburgh added another two scores in the second half, and the Browns were shut out, losing by 31 points, the largest margin of victory the team has had since week 10 of the 2018 season, when they also won by 31 points, 52-21, over the Carolina Panthers.
Ben Roethlisberger only attempted five passes in the second half, and two of them were completions that were negated by penalties, including an impressive 18-yard connection to Eric Ebron on third and 13, on which the tight end was flagged for a push-off.
The sparseness of the passing game was not a coincidence, according to Roethlisberger, as they intended to go run-heavy and control the clock, which he told reporters after the game, saying “that was the plan”.
“In the second half, come out with field position and really just start running the ball and pound it and grind it”, he said. “Kind of our four-minute offense with a lot of time left. We’ve really excelled in that area of football so far this year, and that really is the five guys up front. Throw J.C. in there, plus Hawk coming in there as a big guy at tight end”.
The Steelers ran the ball heavily in the second half and were able to make conversions on possession downs, with James Conner capping off his 20-carry day with 101 yards by the end. With the commanding lead, he and Roethlisberger and others finished the game watching on the sidelines.
“We didn’t have to throw much in the second half when you’ve got a lead like that. It felt like an old Bill Cowher offense”, the 38-year old who played his first three seasons under the Hall of Fame former coach told the media.
One of the keys to the Steelers’ 5-0 start so far this year has been the offense’s ability to close out games when they have had to. Their victories haven’t been flawless by any means, and they haven’t always been pretty either—even this game, despite the scoreboard, lacked a certain efficiency—but they’ve been enough to keep rolling out the wins.
They face their toughest two-game stretch of the season up next, however, two road contests against the undefeated Tennessee Titans and a 5-1 Baltimore Ravens team that is heading into a bye week. I don’t think an extended two-minute offense is going to work on them.