In his first game of the season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got off to a shaky start when he threw an interception to the Browns' Joe Haden. Haden returned the ball 62 yards to set up a Phil Dawson field goal, giving the Browns a 3-0 advantage.
Unfortunately, for the remainder of the game, Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense had their way with the Browns' defense. Cleveland consistently blitzed, and Roethlisberger would simply drop back and throw the ball up to an open receiver. And, when the blitz did work, you have a player like Eric Wright going for the football on third-and-goal rather than the tackle to force a field goal.
Despite the shortcomings of our defense, Cleveland was still "somewhat" in the game during the second half. That's where a few "helmet to helmet" plays at the hands of James Harrison come into play...
I don't want to initiate another 1,000+ comment discussion on whether Harrison's blows to Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi were legal, but both plays hurt our offensive gameplan early on. Cribbs had been used several times in the first quarter by Brian Daboll, but was taken out on a hit that might have been borderline.
The one that Harrison put on Massaquoi was the very definition of the defenseless receiver rule though, and yet a 15-yard penalty wasn't even called on the play. How much do you want to bet that after T.J. Ward was bashed by many members of the media that the hit by Harrison won't even be mentioned? It's a clear double standard.
Not having Cribbs in the ball game hurt the Browns later on. Chansi Stuckey looked uncomfortable on punt returns, and sure enough, he fumbled in the fourth quarter on a play that officially "sealed" the game for Pittsburgh.
The other big story for the game was how rookie Colt McCoy would do in his debut. Overall, he wasn't as bad as outsiders projected him to be. He had two interceptions and might have taken off a little too early here and there, but he took some hits and delivered some accurate balls when asked to.
Offensively, the Browns played a great job playing the field position game -- they pinned Pittsburgh back inside the four-yard line twice. What happened on the first play both times? A 25-yard run by Rashard Mendenhall, and a 50-yard pass to Mike Wallace. Our offense played the part, but the defense took a big step back today in a game that meant so much.