Steelers vs Browns: Looking Back At The Numbers
The Steelers didn't just put themselves behind the eight ball early-on in their playoff loss to the Browns, they put themselves behind every other ball and the pool table as well.
Spotting opponents 28-points and then having only three quarters to come back is a certain recipe for losing football games. That is what the Steelers were up against in their playoff loss to the Browns.
When it was all said and done the game turned-out to be closer than it appeared it would be after the Browns' 4th unanswered touchdown.
Looking back at the numbers, there's only one reason I can come-up with that could be pointed at as the main reason the Steelers lost - Turnovers.
It's been preached by every coach since the sport of football was given birth - don't turn the ball over. It's been the reason for many teams' demise, and on Sunday night in Pittsburgh the ole prophecy was heeded by only one team.
It took one offensive snap and 14-seconds of game-play for the Steelers to begin tempting fate. After the Steelers' Ray Ray McCloud returned the opening kickoff to his own 22-yardline, Ben Roethlisberger and the offense took the field for the first time. Center Maurkice Pouncey then air-mailed the first snap 4-feet over Big Ben's head and eventually into the Steelers own end-zone, where the Browns would recover for a TD and their first defensive turnover.
Certainly not a good start for the Steelers, but they had been there before many times, and a 7-point deficit with just about the whole game to be played was nothing to be too concerned with.
It only took seven more offensive plays for the Steelers before they probably started to get concerned. On their next possession, after picking-up a couple first downs and moving the ball out to mid-field, Roethlisberger tried to avoid pressure while flipping the ball over the middle for a little dump-off pass to Benny Snell. The problem was that the ball was over the middle and over the head of Snell and found its way into the waiting arms of Browns' defensive back M.J. Stewart Jr. He returned the interception to the Steelers 46-yardline, and the Browns were only three Baker Mayfield passes away from a 40-yard TD strike to Jarvis Landry.
Two turnovers, two Browns touchdowns. 14-point deficit.
The Steelers would go 3-and-out on their next possession and the Steelers defense would then yield to a Browns offense that seemed to be just as jacked-up as the
Six plays later Kareem Hunt would score on a 11-yard run and the Steelers were in a 21-0 hole with 4:47 still to play in the opening quarter.
On the next drive, the Steelers picked-up one first down before facing a 2nd-and-20 due to a holding penalty on a previous play.
Roethlisberger then threw an off-target pass to Dionte Johnson that deflected off of his hands and into those of Cleveland's Sheldrick Redwine, who returned it 30-yards to the Steelers 15-yardline.
Three players later Kareem Hunt would have his second touchdown and the Browns would have a 28-0 lead with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
Three Steelers turnovers. Three Browns touchdowns.
At that point the game was pretty much decided. The turnovers had relegated them to one-dimensional play on offense and the clock was no longer something they could ignore. The writing was on the wall.
Big Ben would go on to throw an NFL-playoff record 68 passes and connect on 47 of them for 501-yards and four touchdowns.
Just for good measure he would throw his 4th interception with 3:16 left in the game. Codey Parkey would convert that into three more points.
Four Steelers turnovers. 24 points for the Browns.
The Steelers were 8-for-15 on 3rd-down for a 53% conversion rate. The browns were 6-for-14 for a 43% conversion rate.
The Steelers were 3-for-3 on 4th-downs.
They only had four penalties for a total of 25-yards.
They had a perfect redzone efficiency rate on four trips in the redzone.
They were also a perfect 3-for-3 in goal-to-go situations.
They were perfect on their two field goal attempts.
They had the edge in time of possession with 32:46 to the Browns' 27:14.
What these numbers tell me is that you can be very good offensively, but if part of that equation is turning the ball over multiple times you won't have much success.
That formula is something that isn't a secret to anyone, but sometimes avoiding it can seem like you'd need to be a nuclear physicist to figure out how.
It's not the first time a team has shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, and it without doubt will not be the last. You just hope it's not your team during the biggest game of the season when that shot is fired.