Most people make New Year’s resolutions they intend to keep for the new year. Become healthier, save more money towards retirement, read more, etc. etc. etc. The same old song and dance people may or may not hold out until February to break. Pittsburgh Steelers fans want the same from the team, but we want them to stick with their resolutions. Fans are hungry for the elusive “Stairway to seven” ring.
The 2018 season came to a screeching halt when Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (Steelers fans will hate seeing this kid for the next fifteen years.) threw an interception on fourth down. Not making the playoffs cannot be pinned on a rookie quarterback on a divisional foe, but has to be pinned on people within the Steelers organization. Five of the losses came at the hands of 21 total points, not to mention the tie. Two of those losses came against the best team in the AFC and the best team in the NFC.
By following the below resolutions the team could go a long way in overcoming all those one score losses in 2018.
10. Win the close games
Losing six games during the season is frustrating enough but when five losses came by a touchdown or less, it frustrated the heck out of fans. Tighten the chin strap tighter and play better fundamental football.
9. Quit losing that proverbial trap game
After back-to-back losses against the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh had their sights of righting the ship against the hapless 2-10 Oakland Raiders. A late Raider touchdown and another failed field goal from kicker Chris Boswell sealed another year when the Steelers succumbed to another lousy NFL team.
8. Get with the times and do player contracts like playoff teams do which will spill over into the free agent market.
No reason to hound on this here. (BTSC readers will be sick of hearing about this by the time free agency rolls around in March.)
7. Play good enough football and have leads that the refs cannot be a factor in the game’s outcome
The Saints and the Chargers loses were impacted by the refs but it also impacted them due to other factors such as turnovers. Have a big enough lead and play fundamental football and bad calls will not be a factor. Bad calls are a part of the NFL. Sixteen playoff teams can attest to that.
6. Tomlin has to be smart with the challenge flag
Going 0-11 on challenges is unacceptable. Who is helping him use the flag? Stop relying on your gut and rely on your staff and technology.
5. Bring in real game-changing free agents
Steelers fans are craving the next James Farrior, Ryan Clark, Kevin Green or Jeff Hartings not Morgan Burnett, Coty Sensabaugh, Stevan Ridley or Mike Mitchell. Steelers fans want a stud cornerback or inside linebacker who can put the clamps on an opponent when they are driving for all important go-ahead score. (Tied directly to resolution #8.)
4. Draft a true three-down linebacker
Watching linebacker Vince Williams in as the Steelers nickel linebacker was maddening to any Pittsburgh fan. He was likely to rush the passer or fail in coverage. Jon Bostic who started out red hot defending against the run disappeared late in the season. Bostic finished the season logging more special teams snaps (7) against the Cincinnati Bengals then defensive snaps (6). Bostic was also being miscast in coverage and being asked to cover tight ends 20 yards down the field. While few linebackers can run with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Bostic was inept and lost.
3. Draft a true shutdown cornerback
After a promising 2017 campaign, Steelers fans thought cornerback Artie Burns had finally turned the corner. The former first-round pick did not regress in 2018, he fell off a cliff. Cornerback Joe Haden played well at times but was far from a stout shutdown corner. A true shutdown corner rarely has those untimely (Phantom or real) penalties and generates more than three turnovers or giving up seven completions in a game.
2. Stop the untimely turnovers
End zone interceptions led to how many points left untallied? Drive and game killing fumbles (James Conner, Stevan Ridley Xavier Grimble, and JuJu Smith Schuster) have to stop. They ignored fundamental football here. Players need to learn that going for that one extra yard is not always worth the consequences it brings. There is no shame going down before heavy contact or going out of bounds. What is not fundamental football is a third-string tight end wanting to truck over safety with the ball in the wrong hand. That is high school showmanship.
1. Fire Keith Butler
Butler was not working with the ‘85 Chicago Bears here but this unit was not bad but Butler’s schemes just made this unit worse than it should have been. Putting TJ Watt, arguably the best pass rusher on the team, in coverage so much is a head-scratcher. No reason to harp on this, the boards have been on fire regarding this topic.
Just like Steelers fans’ resolutions probably did not pan out in 2018, fans’ expectations for the 2018 Steelers did not either. Not making the 2018 playoffs after a 13-3 was a crushing blow to the fan base. In 2019, fans have high expectations for their beloved black and gold. But how does the organization get back on track after a lackluster season? Will the Steelers follow through on the resolutions above? What resolutions would you add?
Have a safe and Merry New Year to all my Steelers brothers and sisters, may 2019 be a better year than 2018 was.