Chapter Thirteen – Bigger, Faster, Stronger

Preseason was a time for finding out who was going to play, at least for the beginning of the season. The only problem was that there were some things you couldn’t foresee. One position that had been a lock since I arrived in Cleveland was open. Cribbs got injured in the last preseason game with a broken foot, out for 8 weeks. Special teams had been a huge asset to our team, Cribbs had scored 4 touchdowns on returns since I’d been in Cleveland, one time winning the game and scoring the majority of our points. I put Walter Thurmond III and Andre Crenshaw back there to return, and Crenshaw looked good doing it. I guess I have a thing for Oregon players.

The running back battle was still open, so I decided to platoon the three rookies. They each had their on and off games. We lost to the Bengals in week one, which was a semi-embarrassment considering they went 5-11 last year. All three backs had horrible games, but Brady Quinn stepped up throwing for 350 yards, 5 touchdowns and a pick. We played the Super Bowl runner ups (Arizona) and we played like a team possessed. We beat them 37-6, Quinn only scored once but Allen and Crenshaw scored (as well as Vickers) and Dwyer had an average of 7.2 on 11 carries.

Our next game was against the Steelers. If our defense could play like they did against a great Arizona team, and our Offense could roll like they had in the past two games, we’d be great. The only part worrying me was that the Steelers were the first team we were going to play with a good defense, and the Steelers D was great. They were down a wide receiver in Santonio Holmes, which was a little reassuring. But the rest of that dominant team was there, meaning we’d have to bring our A game if we wanted to contend. No gimmicks, just straight up football.

It had been a Cleveland game throughout, and if you had watched the film you would think the Browns were dominating. But the Steelers had quietly kept themselves in the game. With 1:52 the Browns punted back to the Steelers and pinned them down inside their own 1 yard line. In a 17-9 game, it seemed all but over. Coming out of the 3-4, the Browns blitzed the Steelers relentlessly, but the Steelers were able to get the ball to the tight ends and halfbacks in the flats to get out of the shadow of their own goal post. Whenever it seemed like the Browns had them stopped, they converted on 4th down and continued rolling.

The Steelers got down to the 10 of the Browns in Roethlisberger fashion. then they got down to the 7 as they used their last time out. With 7 seconds left, they came out in a 3 WR shotgun formation. A quick toss into the back of the endzone for an incompletion left them with 3 seconds. The next play was a similar formation, and with the 1-5-5 the Browns used famously against the Patriots last year to end their run for perfection, Roethlisberger had no targets. He tucked the ball and started running, getting plastered by a Tavares Gooden who seemed to be all over the field today. Roethlisberger was downed at the 3, and time ran out. Ball game.

Final: Pittsburgh Steelers 9 – Cleveland Browns 17

Quinn: 11/20 83 yds 2 TD 1 INT, Sacked once
Allen: 9 att 34 yds. 5 rec 43 yards TD
Martin Rucker: 1 rec 3 yds TD
Nothing exceptional on defense
Podlesh: 4 punts, 50.2 avg, 2 inside the one yard line
Crenshaw: 4 KR 122 yds, 3 PR 42 yds

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