Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass during the first half of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Cleveland Browns on January 10, 2021.
As I write, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the midst of one of the worst—if not the single-worst performance—in franchise history. That includes the 51-0 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the 1989 season opener, where the Steelers went into halftime with a 30-0 deficit.
Tonight’s 28-0 first quarter deficit immediately brought to mind Dan Marino’s last NFL game. On January 15, 2000, in the 1999 divisional playoffs, the Jacksonville Jaguars (14-2) hosted the Miami Dolphins (10-7).
That afternoon Dan Marino was responsible for several first-quarter turnovers, and the Dolphins defense allowed a 90-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. After Marino fumbled on a strip-sack near the end of the first quarter, the Dolphins failed to play to the whistle and the fumble was returned for a touchdown. The score was 24-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Then on the first play of the second quarter, the Jaguars scored on a slow-moving 39-yard screen pass to make the score 31-0. It was 41-0 before Marino finally threw a 20-yard TD pass to close the gap to 41-7 at the very end of the first half.
But the Dolphins didn’t score again, the Jags outscored Miami 21-0 in the second half, and the final score was 62-7.
Tonight’s Browns-Steelers Game
As for what has been taking place at Heinz Field this evening, it isn’t all Ben Roethlisberger‘s fault, of course. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey set the tone by snapping the ball so far over Roethlisberger’s head on Pittsburgh’s first offensive snap that the ball nearly ended up in the end zone, where the Browns fell on it for a 7-0 lead just seconds into the game. It looked like both Roethlisberger and running back James Conner had an opportunity to fall on the ball, but neither made a move to try and make the recovery.
But Roethlisberger was bad throughout quarters 1 & 2, finishing the first half 20 of 30 for 177 yards with three interceptions.
Pittsburgh’s defense was equally terrible in the first half. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield went 10 of 15 for 111 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers also allowed Browns running back Nick Chubb to accumulate 53 yards on only eight carries (6.6 yards per carry), with Kareem Hunt adding four carries for 44 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Browns Set a New NFL Playoff Record
The Browns set a new NFL record for most points by a visiting team in the first half of a playoff game (35).
Assuming the Browns hold on for the victory, it will be the Roethlisberger’s first loss to the Browns at Heinz Field in his NFL career. Coming into tonight he boasted a career record of 24-2-1 against the Browns (including 13-0 at home), with all of the games coming during the regular season.
Following is a brief retrospective of what happened that fateful aforementioned January day in Jacksonville, courtesy of Jaguars.com.
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