2018 Season Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers
Division: AFC North
2018 Record: 9-6-1, 4-1-1 division, 2nd in AFC The North
Superbowl Championships: Six!
RIGHT THEN SO YINZ HOUGHT WE WASN’T GONNA DO A WRITEUP THEN HUH? WELL GUESS WHAT YINZ GUYS WRONG! YINZ KNOW WHY YER WRONG? ‘CAUSE WE THE PITTSBURGH STILLERS THAT’S WHY! IT DON’T MATTER HOW BAD IT LOOKS. IT DON’T MATTER HOW UNPOPULAR IT IS. WE GONNA ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES, WE GONNA GO TO WORK, AND WE GONNA DO WHAT NEEDS DONE! WE GONNA STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND SWING WITH ALL WE GOT, YINZ KNOW WHY? ‘CAUSE WE IS PITTSBURGH AND THAT’S WHAT WE DO!
2019 SEASON PREDICTION: 10-6, Wildcard Berth
“Woah woah woah woah, hold on a moment now!”, I hear you saying. “A playoff berth? With no Antonio Brown, no Le’veon Bell, an aging Roethlisberger, and *that* defense?”
To which I say: HECK YEAH!
Our offense is going to be just fine. Last year we were #7 in points scored and #4 in total yards. Yes, losing Antonio Brown does hurt, and will make it a bit easier for defenses to cover us. However, we’ve also picked up Donte Moncrief, who - while certainly not a Brown replacement - will at least serve as a stopgap and let the rest of the offense function in relatively the same way as last year. Now it’s true our running game wasn’t that great last year - we were 21st in yards-per-attempt rushing, despite everybody (rightly) expecting us to throw it. However we have a good offensive line, and with the promise James Conner and Jaylen Samuels both showed, I don’t think our running game will hold us back too much. Finally, Ben Roethlisberger also just had one of his best years statistically. At 37, I think he’s got another year or two left in the tank. As it stands right now, our offense probably won’t set any records, but it will still be a top-half unit in 2019.
So let’s look at our defense. Guys, come on - the Steelers 2018 defense actually wasn’t too bad. Particularly our defensive line - we have a good defensive line. Last year we held teams to the 9th lowest yards per attempt and 6th fewest rushing yards per game. You could say that’s because teams were passing against us a lot, but even then, we had the 11th fewest yards gained per pass attempt, as well as the 3rd highest sack percentage in the league. We definitely had some issues at cornerback, but our defense had some really good moments.
In 2018, many of us predicted Pittsburgh to make a deep run in the playoffs, if not make the superbowl, especially after the emergence of James Conner. So what happened and what went wrong?
In 2018, we were #7 in turnovers lost. I’m sure those of my fellow Steelers fans remember feeling like we gave away a lot of turnovers - yeah, according to the statistics, it was pretty bad. For context of just how bad it was, only the Buccaneers, 49ers, Bills, Jets, Jaguars and Cardinals had more turnovers than us.
But the defense wasn’t too bad, right? I mean they held their own, didn’t they? Well, uh, not in this area they didn’t - In 2018, we were #29 out of 32 for Defensive Takeaways. And uh, speaking of defense...
2. Defensive Penalties
Fun fact: did you know that in 2018 the Pittsburgh Steelers were #1 in Defensive Penalties and #1 in Number of Penalties? I sure didn’t! I do remember a lot of yellow flags flying around though. Maybe the refs just wanted in on the Terrible Towel experience?
But as frustrating as that was to watch, there was nothing last season that got our hearts racing like a good ol’
3. Boswell Field Goal Attempt!
After a stellar three-year run, last season Boswell fell back to earth in horrifying, unexpected fashion - a massive 35% of his field goal attempts missed the uprights. Our field goal percentage was 0.8% better than the Minnesota Vikings, who had the worst field goal percentage. So it could have been worse, right?
Hold on, that’s only if we don’t include extra points kicked after touchdowns. If we include them, Boswell missed five of those as well, making us #1 in missed field goals and missed extra points combined. Welp.
2018 was an incredibly frustrating year to be a Steelers fan. I would not go as far as to say that we beat ourselves - nah, we CRUSHED ourselves. Our team was loaded with talent and made as many highlight plays as the best of them, but in the end we couldn’t overcome our own mistakes.
So why will 2019 be better?
1. Less Locker Room Drama
Man let me tell you, I did not shed any tears when Antonio Brown was traded to the Raiders. Good riddance. Maybe he can have another good year or two there, but we were just as tired as Brown as he was of us by the time he left. Le’veon Bell is out too, so we don’t need to worry about his contract situation anymore either. Pittsburgh is a mature organization - while the team is able to handle more volatile players, lesser distractions will certainly be a breath of fresh air.
2. A Chip on our Shoulder
A lot of people think Pittsburgh is done now that Bell and Brown are out. They think Pittsburgh’s time of dominance is over, and that we’re set to take a step back and return to the ranks of the average.
In short, we have nothing to lose, and everything to prove. Take a look at the Seahawks last year when everybody said the same thing - they came together, worked hard, and seemingly out of nowhere made the playoffs anyway. Pittsburgh will be the same way. Our coaches are still the same, our scheme works, and we still have a HOF quarterback - we’re gonna come out swinging this year.
3. 2018 Just Had A Lot of Bad Luck
In 2018, there was a lot that happened that was out of our control that worked against us. Iffy calls by refs (eg. Chargers, Saints), field goals missed due to field conditions (eg. Raiders, Cleveland week 1) and sheer weirdness (Ravens pull a mid-season comeback seemingly out of nowhere, Bell hem-haws and sits on the fence all season). We were literally one play away from making playoffs, and two plays away from vying for the #2 seed. With a more just hand from fate this year around, we’ll be right back in the playoff mix shooting for ring #7!
AREAS OF NEED
If we could check a few things off our wishlist, here’s what they would be. This list could be much longer, but as we're actually participating in free agency this year, there isn't near as much to write about here as there was a few weeks ago.
Cornerback - Yeah I know that we picked up that guy from the Chiefs, and that he’s supposed to be pretty reasonable. Eehh I’ll believe it when I see it - we haven’t had good luck with that position the past couple years (aside from Haden, who we were extremely fortunate to get).
Kicker - I’m willing to give Boswell another shot given his history, but let’s be real he was terrible in 2018. It may be wise to start thinking about a replacement if the right fit talent-wise comes around.
Mason Rudolph - We haven’t seen much of this guy yet, but we do know he’s the current heir apparent after Roethlisberger retires, and we also know that every time Roethlisberger steps out due to injury the offense reeaally isn’t the same. Apparently we had him graded as a first-round prospect, and we snagged him in the third round of last year’s draft. Some solid, promising signs that this kid will work out would be very nice.