Sunday, January 2, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Steelers 41, Browns 9
By James Walker
CLEVELAND -- Here are some early thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ blowout victory over the Cleveland Browns.
What it means: The Steelers (12-4) clinched the AFC North division title and a first-round bye for the second time in three years. Pittsburgh holds the No. 2 seed and would have to play on the road at New England only if both of those teams play in the AFC title game. For the Browns (5-11), this will likely be the final game for Browns head coach Eric Mangini. He entered the year on the hot seat and fell to 10-22 in two seasons in Cleveland, which includes a 2-10 mark against the AFC North.
What I liked: The playoffs started a week early for the Steelers. With so much on the line, they came out fast and didn't leave anything to chance. Pittsburgh activated Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, who made a big interception on the opening drive that set up the opening touchdown for the Steelers. From there, Cleveland had no response. Pittsburgh led 31-3 at halftime and completely dismantled the Browns. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a good game in limited playing time with 280 yards and two touchdowns. Tailback Rashard Mendenhall also ran for a pair of touchdowns.
What I didn't like: The Browns didn't show up in a game against their biggest rival. Pittsburgh is better than Cleveland, but there's still no excuse for losing by 32 points at home. With another poor outing, questions also will linger into the offseason about rookie quarterback Colt McCoy. He threw three interceptions for the second straight week, and Pittsburgh and the Baltimore Ravens are the teams McCoy has to beat in the future for Cleveland to turn things around.
What's next: The Steelers return to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Super Bowl following the 2008 season. Pittsburgh will play the highest seed from the wild-card round. For the Browns, their season is over and the team has to decide the future of the coaching staff. Cleveland president Mike Holmgren has done a good job of staying out of the public eye during the season. But expect Holmgren to create a lot of headlines in the next couple of weeks with his offseason moves.