Steelers’ top three running backs not helping Charlie Batch in first half

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

With quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder) and Byron Leftwich (ribs) out, the Pittsburgh Steelers had no choice but to start 37-year-old Charlie Batch against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Being down to their No. 3 option is never what a team wants, but can be overcome with help from the supporting cast, particularly the defense and running game.

In the first half, the Steelers' defense had done its part, scoring a touchdown in the opening two minutes on an 53-yard interception return by linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Pittsburgh's running game, however, was less helpful.

[Also: Browns QB Brandon Weeden laments about lack of route practice]

On the Steelers' opening possession, running back Rashard Mendenhall had the ball stripped out of his right hand by Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, who had backside pursuit. Safety Usama Young recovered the fumble at the Steelers' 44-yard line. The Browns would drive down to the 11-yard line before Phil Dawson kicked a 28-yard field goal to trim the Steelers' lead to 7-3.

Facing a 3rd-and-19 deep in their own territory early in the second quarter, the Steelers played it safe, handing the ball to No. 2 running back Isaac Redman. After a five-yard gain, Browns defensive end Juqua Parker jarred the ball free with cornerback Buster Skrine recovering at the Steelers' 10-yard line. Three plays later, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden hit tight end Jordan Cameron for a five-yard touchdown that gave the Browns a 10-7 lead.

[Also: Peyton Hillis throws illegal forward pass with predictable outcome]

Later in the second quarter, Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh's No. 3 running back, would also put the ball on the turf in his own territory, fumbling at his own 34-yard line. Fortunately for Dwyer, the Steelers defense would get a sack from outside linebacker Jason Worilds, pushing the Browns outside of scoring territory and forcing a punt after the two-minute warning.

In the first 30 minutes, Mendenhall, Redman and Dwyer had 12 carries for 33 yards and lost three fumbles. Given those issues with ball security, the Steelers leaned on 2012 fifth-round pick Chris Rainey during their two-minute drill. On that final drive, Rainey nearly joined the "Lost Fumble Club", putting the ball on the turf after a four-yard reception, but the ball went out of bounds and the drive continued. The rookie would atone for that potential miscue by punching in a one-yard touchdown run with one second remaining on the clock, a play set-up by a 25-yard pass interference penalty on Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown that was drawn by the newly-signed Plaxico Burress.

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