Around the NFL  

 

Big Ben catches fire as Steelers romp Browns

Print

The Steelers (6-4) have plenty to be happy about heading into their bye. With Ben Roethlisberger stepping in for the injured Landry Jones, Pittsburgh had its way with a wandering Browns club in Sunday's 30-9 win over Cleveland (2-8). Here's what you need to know:

Pro Bowl ballot

1. Ben Roethlisberger's return came sooner than expected. Still nursing a mid-foot sprain, the Steelers quarterback took over on Pittsburgh's third drive in place of Landry Jones, who was carted away with an ankle injury. Big Ben came out slinging, hitting Martavis Bryant right away for 44 yards on a play that set the tone for Pittsburgh's pass-happy offense. Roethlisberger showed no sign of physical discomfort as he repeatedly slung it deep for an outrageous 286 yards passing at the half and 379 on the day. Spraying the ball to seven different receivers at 11.5 yards per throw, Big Ben put up a heroic effort.

2. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported before the game that Browns coach Mike Pettine doesn't believe Johnny Manziel has earned the starting gig. I see a quarterback who needs to keep playing. Why not? Despite clumsily losing the ball for a fumble on his first pass attempt, Manziel rebounded to hook up with Travis Benjamin for a 61-yard gain en route to hitting 19 of his first 23 passes. He generated points on just two of his 11 drives, but Cleveland's dried-up ground game, spotty blocking and endless penalties were no help as Manziel was sacked five times on the day. Finishing 33-of-45 passing for 372 yards with a touchdown and a pick, Manziel made his mistakes, but showed overall growth under center. We don't understand what the Browns are doing if they sit him again. Find out what you have. After all, certain moments from Johnny suggest something special:

3. Coming off his 170-yard rushing explosion against the Raiders, DeAngelo Williams was held to nine yards on his first 10 carries before finishing with 54 yards on the day. The Browns had problems of their own, running for just 15 yards at 1.1 yards per tote. It's become painfully clear that Isaiah Crowell can't handle lead duties. It was troubling to see Cleveland's O-line wholly overwhelmed by the Steelers front seven. Browns first-round lineman Cameron Erving took his lumps filling in for the injured Joel Bitonio at left guard.

4. Martavis Bryant lost a fumble in the first half, but his chemistry with Roethlisberger was a killer for the Browns. Piling up 113 yards in the first 20 minutes of play, the second-year wideout finished with 178 yards off six grabs and gave Pittsburgh a big-play element across from Antonio Brown, who churned out another 139 yards of his own. Sunday was a reminder of just how explosive this passing game can be with Big Ben back in the saddle. When healthy and clicking, this team can beat anyone.

5. Cleveland hasn't knocked off the Steelers in Pittsburgh since 2003, when Tim Couch outdueled Tommy Maddox. How different would the narrative be had the Browns selected Big Ben in that upcoming draft instead of using their 2004 first-round pick on Kellen Winslow?

6. So what's next for the Steelers? Alive and kicking for a playoff berth at 6-4, Pittsburgh comes out of next week's bye with games against the Seahawks, Colts, Bengals, Broncos, Ravens and Browns. Not an easy slate, but we refuse to count this team out because of the way Pittsburgh has overcome a rash of crushing injuries. Mike Tomlin deserves to be in the conversation for Coach of the Year. As for the Browns, they're heat-seeking a top-five pick. It's critical to play Manziel as much as you can and decide if it's time to ride with him or draft another first-round passer.

7. Huge day for Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers linebacker who racked up 10 tackles -- two of them for a loss -- and a sack.

8. We're going to hear a lot of chatter about Mike Pettine's job status after this one.

Print

Fan Discussion