Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked lost, turning the ball over eight times in a winnable 20-14 loss to the previously 2-8 Cleveland Browns.
Third-string quarterback Charlie Batch's three interceptions were just the beginning of the problems for the Steelers, who only scored a single offensive touchdown and were shut out after the half. In his postgame recap, Neal Coolong of Steelers blog Behind the Steel Curtain pinned some of the blame on a running back corps that had a pitiful day.
As for the Steelers running backs, who were the prized possessions of the team just two weeks ago, all four of them – Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey – fumbled at least once, with Mendenhall and Rainey fumbling twice.
If Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wished to discipline his running backs by removing them from the game for committing the sin, it lost all its teeth by the third quarter when all four of them had put the ball on the ground.
The four ball carriers lost four fumbles in addition to the one lost by Emmanuel Sanders, and none gained more than 20 yards on the ground.
Also hurting the team's offense was Plaxico Burress, who Coolong termed one of the team's losers in his first week back with the team:
His lazy, sloppy and borderline shamefully poor route run on a third-down pass in the third quarter led to another Batch interception, and set the Browns up with short field yet again. They scored a touchdown three plays later. Batch threw the ball to where Burress should have been, and the fact Burress seemed to shy away from contact not only suggests he's nothing more than a taller, ganglier and much slower version of Wallace, but he's the wrong choice to try to alleviate the current lack of depth among the receiving group.
One Behind the Steel Curtain contributor said that the team's play wasn't all due to Roethlisberger's rib injury, but rather deeper flaws with the coaching and behind-the-scenes management of the team, saying that Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley have some explaining to do about the poor play of their offense:
Games are lost by the Steelers’ inept offense, and it goes way beyond Ben Roethlisberger being injured. The very accusations made against defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau can be levied against Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin: too slow to react; poor player personnel decisions; failure to prepare the players; failure to adjust scheme within a game, poor management.
By far the most egregious charge of failure to adequately prepare their charges can be laid directly at the combined feet of Haley and Tomlin.
On the plus side, the defense looked good on Sunday, forcing a defensive touchdown and keeping the game winnable despite the lack of offensive production.