Chapter Six – The Steel Curtain

The season proceeded in a weird fashion, similar to the Ravens game from week one. We went 3-1 afterwards heading into week seven to have our record lay at 3-2. But the way we won those games was very unconventional. Each win we scored at least 30 points but Quinn only threw four touchdowns over those three games with five interceptions. Jamal Lewis had a good 350 yards across those games but only two touchdowns. Our defense had no touchdowns, Cribbs took one back to the house on a kickoff. The reason we were able to score that much?

Prater.

Matt Prater was 10/10 on the year, 9/9 across those games we won. Very impressive for a young kicker. We would need everyone firing on all cylinders to be able to win our next game, which was a crucial test to see how this team could really fare this year. We were going up against the tough Pittsburgh squad who was sitting at 4-1. The AFC North sported two of the most premier defenses, and I had to play them twice a year. It was always rough planning against them as a QB coach. But the Steelers also had a great offense, which was holding true this year as well. Roethlisberger had a modest 111.1 QB Rating, with 12 TD’s and 2 picks on 1317 yards, not to mention a running touchdown, all across five games. He also was doing a great job spreading it around to his three main wide outs and Heath Miller. And as for the illustrious defense? Number one in the league with 1,002 total yards given up and 48 points allowed over five games. Scary good. Luckily, we were coming off of a loss where our offense looked spectacular. Brady put up 350 yards and two TD’s (no picks!) and Jamal had 200 yards with two touchdowns. We started to integrate the Wildcat into our game plan for the Steelers. Seeing some modest success in practice I decided to make it a little more integral.

I also had to go find a new free safety because Mike Adams and TJ Ward were both injured. Mike was questionable, but TJ was out for 7 weeks with a torn bicep. He was doing very well as a rookie and would be missed dearly. But we had to figure a way to bounce back. I looked through the defensive backs list and saw Giordano was looking for a job. I grew to like Matt by watching Indianapolis’s games when I had the time. He was quick and had a lot of heart and would fit in just fine.

The plane ride over I had a lot for the guys. Films, pictures of opposing formations, the works. I told them over and over that we could beat them, that no team was invincible in this league. Their line was not elite and Ben was known to get sacked. When we got there the weather was cool and sunny, looked like it was supposed to extend throughout the weekend as well.

If we win today’s game, we’ll hold a share of the division lead, something that wasn’t to be expected. I gave them my speech, telling them we could win this game if we just play sound ball like we should. I sent them out onto the field where we were greeted by another electric touch. This time it was hostile though. The Steelers fans were loud, obnoxious, and intimidating. The stadium was pretty loud from when we went out for pre-game until the coin toss. We won the toss and deferred. Time to play ball…

The Steelers’s first play was a 15 yard completion to Santonio, which seemed like it’d set the tempo for the drive, but we got them to punt the ball to us after not allowing another first down. Upon our first two plays, they were duds. Looking like this might be our tempo, Brady completed a great pass over the middle to Massaquoi which set our momentum. We kept progressing down the field in 4 and 5 yard chunks, with the occasional 10+ yard play. We scored on a quick out to Jerome Harrison giving us a 7-0 lead halfway through the quarter.

Pittsburgh turned around and drove down field 80 yards on 7 plays, our defense looked nonexistent on the field. It was sort of scary. As the offense rolled back on the field, I reminded them of the sound fundamentals that got us a score last time. But after a colossal sack on Brady, and an incompletion, Brady threw a pick on a post over the middle. It wasn’t looking positive. As the Steelers got onto the field, they were clicking again on offense. Driving, driving, until we slowed them down inside our 30, where we held them to a field goal.

With a renewed sense of hope, we started to try to get back to the basics. With a few dinks and dunks we were able to make it down the field for a 56 yard kick by Prater, tying the game up. For the half.

The Steelers had different ideas though… they came out gunning, throwing to the sidelines. When it looked like our defense couldn’t stop it, Barnes came up with a miraculous interception. I planned on running out the clock or maybe trying to get in range for a field goal, but Antwan took care of it. He took it back for six giving us the lead 17-10. I assumed that the Steelers would be a little more conservative afterwards, but yet again they were completing deep passes. Phillip Buchanon, subbing in for a tired Thurmond, jumped a hitch route and took it back 50 yards for another touchdown. 24-10. The very next Steeler play, Pick Six Matt Giordano. Our bench is going insane and I can barely contain myself. We scored 21 points in under 30 seconds.

They were anxoius again, and started chucking it. This time they completed one to sweed for 70 yards down to our 7, but they ran out of time. The locker room was rowdy and loud, there wasn’t a whole lot on defense I wanted to change, I tuned up the offense and was ready to go.

Cleveland Browns 45 Pittsburgh Steelers 31
Quinn: 13/18 177, 2 TD 1 INT
Lewis: 16 att. 61 yds. 1 TD, 4 rec. 50 yds.
Chaz Schilens: 2 rec 17 yds. 1 TD
Jerome Harrison: 1 rec 22 yds 1 TD
Buchanon: 1 INT 55 yds. TD
Barnes: 2 tkl 1 INT 30 yds TD
Giordano: 2 tkl 1 INT 39 yds. TD

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