It is just before 9 p.m. on Sunday night, as I write this article.
It’s not long after the Steelers 2019 campaign came to an end, thanks to a less-than-stellar 28-10 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Unfortunately, even a Pittsburgh win would have done nothing to prolong this improbable campaign into the following week, thanks to a Titans’ victory over the Texans that secured Tennessee the sixth seed and a date with the Patriots in the wildcard round.
As my current (Sunday evening) Twitter feed suggests, I’m still a bit salty over the end of Pittsburgh’s season. That’s understandable (unless, of course, I called some people bad names—after further review, I did not). I’m sure by the time this article is published in a day or so, I will be able to fully appreciate the job the Steelers did in 2019, when everything—especially the early loss of their franchise quarterback—suggested they should have waved the white flag.
Instead, the famous Terrible Towel proudly waved as wildly as ever, thanks to a dominant defense that produced 54 sacks, an astounding 38 takeaways and a possible Defensive Player of the Year, in one T.J. Watt.
The offense didn’t produce a whole heck of a lot—including the ability to make us forget about the absence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was lost in Week 2 with an elbow injury that would require season-ending surgery.
But even with an offense that never truly found its footing under the direction of young quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, this season was quite the enjoyable one.
Sure, that mostly had to do with the team taking advantage of a relatively weak schedule and rebounding from starts of 0-3 and 1-4 to win enough games that it went into Week 16 with the inside track on the final wildcard spot in the AFC. But weren’t the Steelers a fairly weak team in their own right—at least on offense?
That was a rhetorical question, because they really were.
The Steelers were so weak on offense, they were home underdogs to the Browns. The offense was so below line, people were calling for Paxton Lynch to see real action leading up to and during the Week 17 showdown against the Ravens.
The fact that Pittsburgh managed to avoid a losing season for the 16th-straight year was quite remarkable, especially considering the man who was largely responsible for the first 15 non-losing editions—Roethlisberger—missed all but six quarters of action in 2019.
I mean what I say, when I tell you that this just concluded 2019 campaign was a truly joyous one. Sure, it doesn’t feel that way right now, as I sit here still typing away at 9:23 p.m. (since I’m almost done with this article, I will use this space to brag about how efficient I’ve become as a writer, in this, my 10th year at BTSC), but three-game losing-streaks to close out the year tend to cloud your perspective.
But time has a tendency to bring you back to reality.
And the reality is, the Steelers 2019 season had no business finishing in the “break even” column.
Head coach Mike Tomlin had no business keeping his streak of non-losing seasons alive.
The organization had no business coming out smelling like a rose after trading its 2020 first-round pick to the Dolphins early in the year for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
I have no business being so salty at 9:30 p.m. on December 29, 2019. I should have accepted the reality of the Steelers not making the playoffs weeks ago, which should have also been around the same time I accepted the reality of their first losing season since my early-30s.
But the Steelers kept hope alive for this 47-year old that got to wake up Sunday morning still dreaming about a possible playoff berth.
That might not seem like much right now, as I continue to type away at 9:32 p.m., but years from now, when I look back on all that transpired in 2019, I will be truly amazed.
So on behalf of my future, unsalted self, I would like to thank the Pittsburgh Steelers for a truly remarkable 2019 campaign.