CLEVELAND—The Browns lead the Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-3, at intermission.
Here are some halftime observations:
Once again the Steelers are very sluggish in the first half. This is the third time in four weeks the defending champs failed to establish their dominance early against an inferior opponent. Pittsburgh is 0-for-6 on third-down conversions. The Steelers constantly lost the field-position battle in the first half, which led to Cleveland's early points.
Cleveland's pass rush has been very impressive. The Browns sacked Ben Roethlisberger an astounding five times in the first half and are making him scramble. The weather is helping, as Cleveland can blitz extra defenders more often, while the heavy winds are making even routine throws more difficult.
If I'm the Steelers, I stop kicking to Joshua Cribbs immediately. Cribbs has spent his entire career with the Browns and really plays well against the Steelers. He’s the only weapon Cleveland has that can single-handedly beat Pittsburgh. His 55-yard punt return set up Cleveland’s first field goal in the opening quarter. Another 37-yard quarterback run by Cribbs from the Wildcat set up the Browns’ touchdown before halftime.
This is it for Pittsburgh. If the Steelers don't make a second-half comeback against Cleveland, their postseason hopes are over. It's a crowded wild-card field in the AFC with a lot of teams bunched together, and the Steelers can't afford to fall below .500 to 6-7 this late in the season.