Gerry Dulac's Two-Minute Drill: Steelers vs. Browns
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goes to: CB Cortez Allen
In the past two games, Allen has been responsible for five turnovers -- forcing three fumbles and intercepting two passes. He had two of the forced fumbles against the Browns, with both takeaways leading to touchdowns. The Steelers finished the season with 20 takeaways, which means Allen accounted for 25 percent in the past two games alone. "We've been coached to get turnovers and help the offense get the ball," said Allen, who started his third game for injured Ike Taylor.
X's AND O's
Plaxico Burress made a nice play on a pass that was high and slightly behind him to catch a 12-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was only the third catch for Burress since he signed with the Steelers the week before the first Browns game Nov. 25. "He's an easy target in that area," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We knew he would have an opportunity to contribute there." So why then did Tomlin elect not to dress Burress for a must-win game Dec. 23 against the Bengals, knowing he might need players to produce in big moments?
A quick look at the top performances from Sunday's game:
1. STILL NO. 1. Despite allowing 320 total yards and more than 200 yards passing for the fourth game in a row, the Steelers finished No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and pass defense. They were trying to become the first team since the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles to finish No. 1 in total, pass and run defense. "That's one of the main things we came in trying to do," LB James Harrison said. "We wanted to try to get No. 1 in the pass and run."
2. GOOD PATTERN: For the 11th time this season the Steelers scored on their final possession of the half -- and this one was a gift. On second down from his 25, Browns receiver Josh Gordon fumbled when stripped of the ball by Cortez Allen, and Lawrence Timmons recovered. Four plays later, Roethlisberger threw a 1-yard pass to TE Leonard Pope for a 10-3 lead.
3. TD FOR AB: After the Browns tied the score at 10-10 with the help of a fake punt, the Steelers finished off a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 9-yard TD pass to Antonio Brown. "That's what you got to do when you get in the red zone -- put up points," Brown said.
4. LARCENOUS DEFENSE: After getting just 13 takeaways in the first 14 games, the Steelers had seven in the final two games. Two of the four against the Browns led to touchdowns. "It was very good to finally get on the positive side of that," left tackle Max Starks said.
5. TROY'S PLOY: After missing nine games with a calf injury, Troy Polamalu has made his presence felt again with his only interception this season in the first quarter. The Steelers finished with 10 interceptions, tying for second fewest in franchise history.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
37 That's the percent of third-down conversions (33 of 89) the Steelers have managed in the past seven games after going 5 of 13 against the Browns. The Steelers led the league with a .504 third-down conversion percentage in the first eight games (60 of 119).
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?
Drastic measures by losing teams should not come as a surprise, but it seems to have caught the Steelers off-guard -- twice, in fact. The San Diego Chargers, who had four wins, fooled the Steelers earlier this month with a fake punt. And it happened again when the Browns snookered the Steelers in much the same way, snapping the ball to upback Ray Ventrone on a fake punt in the second quarter. Ventrone's 35-yard run help set up a tying touchdown.
"That was big for us. I said earlier this week that we wanted to come out and finish the year with a win and have a good feeling going into the offseason. That is what we did. I'm proud of the way the guys finished."
-- Ben Roethlsiberger
First Published December 31, 2012 12:00 am