Steelers 34, Browns 21
Divisional record: 0-3
Why are we upset this morning? Why are legions of fans calling up radio talk shows and grumbling about a loss to the Steelers?
We knew this was coming. We knew the Browns weren't going to win this game. Yet, somehow, we watched, we hoped that logic wouldn't prevail, that Charlie Batch would be so bad that it would compromise the fact the Steelers still trotted Duce Staley, Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward.
It's like buying a toxic waste dumping ground and hoping that one day the toxic waste would magically disapppear, levaing you with a slice of paradise.
Pittsburgh is just a little more talented than the Browns at the moment. They are a bit more organized as a team. It was best illustrated when somebody missed a blocking assignment and allowed a blitzing Troy Palomalu to blindside Trent Dilfer in the second quarter.
The Browns made mistakes, dropped passes, committed penalties and stalled their drives. Batch, before he broke his hand and was forced to leave the game, pulled completions out his earhole, most of the time to Ward.
Ward, by the way, is pound for pound the best receiver in the league in my book. He's not big, he's not fast, but he has a one-two punch few receivers possess: fly-paper hands and no fear of getting hit.
Ward almost welcomes contact. You could drill him head on, even spear tackle him, and he'll pop up with that trademark smirk on his face, ready for more.
The appproaching footsteps of defenders have no effect on Ward. As such, he can devote all his concentration to catching the ball, which he's pretty good at, if you didn't notice last night.
Compare that with the Cleveland tandem of Dennis Northcutt and Antonio Bryant, who seem to let every little distraction affct their concentration.
Northcutt dropped a key third-down pass in the second half last night, which allowed Pittsburgh to take the ensuing punt and drive in for a touchdown. Bryant coughed up the ball in the second half, resulting in another Pittsburgh score.
Northcutt had several drops Sunday. At least one wasn't totally his fault. In an asinine play call, offense coordinatior Maurice Carthon had the featherweight Northcutt run a crossing route in front of the Steelers' linebackers. When he reached for the ball, Northcutt promptly had his clock cleaned by the much bigger Joey Porter. The ball landed at least five yards away. It's a wonder Northcutt's head didn't travel farther.
It reeked of Metcalf up the middle, a prime example of a coaching staff outsmarting themselves by attempting to use a player in a role he is ill-suited for.
Seven years into this "new era" of Browns football, and their most sure-handed receiver is still Kevin Johnson, who hasn't even played for the Browns in two years.
The Browns have now dropped to 0-3 in the division, halfway to my prediction of an 0-6 divisional record.
Up next: Miami, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET