Unfortunately, Pittsburgh could have scored a million points against a lot of the Ravens’ backups, and it wouldn’t have mattered, thanks to the Titans 35-14 victory over the unmotivated Texans in Houston.
That’s right, the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs for the second-straight season, an outcome that many probably consider a mercy killing at this point, thanks to the fact that the good guys would have had to travel to Gillette Stadium for the wildcard round to take on the same Patriots squad that got their 2019 campaign off to a rousing start with a 33-3 beat-down in Week 1.
And that was with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
Unfortunately, we don’t like to think about mercy killings right now, because even the most cynical and realistic Steelers fan would likely have relished the opportunity to dream the possible dream, which would have included knocking off Tom Brady and Bill Belichick for the first time in the postseason.
Instead, what we’re left with is the reality of a playoff-less January, something that seemed more realistic back in early October, when the Steelers were 1-4 and about to start their third quarterback of the season.
That quarterback’s name was Devlin Hodges, an undrafted rookie from little Samford nicknamed “Duck.” He would become a full-fledged sensation by mid-December, if for no reason other than the defense was good enough to hold opposing offenses to a low enough point-total in most weeks to make whatever key plays Duck produced seem more magical than they actually were.
Once reality hit late in the third quarter of a critical Week 15 loss to the Bills at Heinz Field, it never stopped stomping the Steelers in the head until everyone realized that the 8-5 record was a mirage.
Much like a baseball team that thinks it can keep getting away with winning games, 2-1, people became enamored with the notion that Pittsburgh’s defense could continue to dominate on such a level to make it possible to keep winning games, this despite an offense that could only score one touchdown a week.
And if you think that’s a joke, it’s really not.
The Steelers managed to score just one offensive touchdown in eight of their last nine games. The fact that they managed to win enough of those games to still be alive for the playoffs by Week 17 is quite remarkable.
What would be more remarkable is a playoff berth. But it’s hard to qualify for the postseason when one side of the football is just so bad. And as good as the Steelers were on defense in 2019, they were that bad on offense. Yes, Pittsburgh may have boasted a Super Bowl defense, one that was quite proficient at sacking the quarterback and taking the football away. But it trotted out a preseason offense, one that became quite accustomed to relying on guys who weren’t on NFL rosters once training camps broke all around the league in early September.
I suppose I could include stats and some situations that occurred during the Steelers loss to Baltimore, but what would be the point?
The offense was bad, the defense wasn’t really all that dominant against a group of Ravens’ offensive scrubs that included Robert Griffin III, while the special teams committed a critical error or two. In many ways, it was your typical Steelers game in 2019.
Only difference, even the Ravens backups were better than the Steelers so-called starters. Maybe that’s because the Ravens backups were just having some fun, while Pittsburgh’s so-called starters were being counted on to do jobs they simply weren’t capable of.
It’s hard to be too angry with the conclusion to the Steelers’ 2019 campaign. But the finality of it all still hurts a lot.
Excuse me while I go pray to the football gods to totally heal Roethlisberger’s elbow by no later than OTAs.