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The Steelers finished an atypical season in atypical way. The Browns dominated them in yardage totals, but the Steelers won because they did not turn the ball over and forced four Browns turnovers.
That’s a play we’ve seen much of the season only reversed. The Steelers finished with a minus-10 in turnover differential. Bill Cowher used to have a chart on his team meeting room at old Three Rivers Stadium. It listed the various areas in a game that were important for the Steelers in order to win. Right at the top was turnover differential.
That statistic is a better judge than any whether a team wins or loses -- not yards, not sacks, not penalties. The fact the Steelers lost 10 more turnovers than they recovered only means it was a small miracle they were able to finish 8-8 and not 6-10 or something along those lines.
One reason may be eight of those lost turnovers came in one game, at Cleveland in November.
So, they can celebrate their No. 1 finish as a defense in the fewest yards allowed category, but it rings hollow because that defense that used to savage opponents with its forced turnovers no longer does. They did finish with a flourish with seven in their final two games, but getting just 13 in their first 14 games doomed them.
Onto some stuff:
--- We will get into some of the will-they-stay or will-they-go analysis this week, but Max Starks spoke as if he would not be back and James Harrison seemed surprised at the question, saying he was signed for two more years and expected to return.
“I work here,’’ Harrison said. “So I’ll wait until OTAs roll back around and get out there. Whovever we’ve got, we’re going to hit the ground running.’’
--- All that fighting between the Steelers and Browns was started when Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor hit rookie offensive lineman Kelvin Beechum away from a play, giving him a concussion.
Said Starks, “Had Phil Taylor not cheap-shotted Kelvin Beachum, we wouldn’t have had that problem. But he blatantly blindsided him, caused him a concussion and sent him out of the game, blatantly late after a play. That’s something we don’t put up with, we don’t tolerate. Those guys knew they were in for a war because you don’t piss off a grizzly bear.”
--- Lawrence Timmons is the first inside linebacker to lead the Steelers in sacks since they began recording them in 1972. He and James Harrison each finished with six.
--- Heath Miller is the first tight end to lead the Steelers in receptions with 71 since Eric Green caught 63 in 1993.
--- Jonathan Dwyer’s 52 yards rushing gave him 623, the lowest total to lead the team since Merril Hoge ran for 610 in 1991.
--- Timmons led the team in sacks, interceptions (three) and tackles (official total will come later this week).
--- Ben Roethlisberger ran his record to 14-1 against Cleveland, 7-0 at home.
--- Despite missing three games, Roethlisberger’s 26 touchdowns are tied for third in team history. He holds the record at 32 in 2007, Terry Bradshaw had 28 in 1978 and Roethlisberger also threw for 26 in 2009 (in 15 games) and Bradshaw 26 in 1979 (in 16 games).
--- The Steelers ran their record to 145-2-1 in the regular season when leading by more than 10 points at any point in a game since 1992, Bill Cowher’s first season as coach.
--- Phil Dawson’s 51-yard field goal tied for the second-longest at
Heinz Field, one yard off Jeff Reed’s record 52-yarder in 2010. Dawson is tied with two others for the longest by an opponent. It was Dawson’s seventh this season from 50 or longer.
--- Several times Ben Roethlisberger said his goal was to get healed up, and he also noted he probably wasn’t healthy enough to play in a Pro Bowl even if chosen.
--- Mike Tomlin, asked how Roethlisberger was feeling, answered with one word: “Fine.’’
--- Two successful fake punts in one season should be one too many.
--- More in the morning. I’ll also be on 93.7 The Fan at 8 a.m.
--- Remember, chat Wednesday, 1:30.
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