It is ‘What if’ week here at SB Nation, and I was staring at the Steelers’ 2018 schedule and wondering what exactly went wrong. Where could the finger be pointed for the team’s disappointing 9-6-1 record, and missed playoffs?
You could point to different points of the season and wonder “What if”. For instance, what if in Week 1 the fumble which hit off Nick Chubbs’ facemask was called correctly? What if Chris Boswell would have made more kicks when it counted? What if JuJu Smith-Schuster hadn’t fumbled in the New Orleans Saints game in Week 16?
I could go on, but the one area where I saw the biggest ‘What If’ was the Steelers’ record against the AFC West. As you most likely know, the AFC North was paired up against the AFC West in 2018, meaning every team played the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.
In those game last season, the Steelers finished a whopping 0-4.
It isn’t just the fact they failed to beat any of the teams who call the AFC West home, but their losses to teams like the lowly Broncos and Raiders. As I look back at the 2018 season, I was left wondering “what if” in all four of those games.
What if Chris Boswell didn’t lose his footing on the last second field goal in Oakland?
What if Ben Roethlisberger didn’t throw that horrible interception at the end of the Broncos game? What if James Conner and Xavier Grimble didn’t fumble the ball away in the same game at critical moments of the contest?
What if the Steelers’ defense actually showed up vs. the Chiefs in Week 2, and the game didn’t turn into a shootout from the opening kickoff?
What if the blatant offsides calls (plural) against the Chargers were called, calling back touchdown play? What if James Conner didn’t get hurt in that game?
This isn’t to alleviate blame from the Steelers’ offense, defense, special teams and coaching staff, but all of these games could have gone a different way if just one of these events went the other way.
To me, it shows the fine line between winning and losing in the NFL. If you think about the Steelers’ 2017 season where they finished 13-3, you saw how things just happened to go their way. But in 2018, they fell on the other side of the ledger, went 9-6-1 and missed the postseason.
The AFC North is paired up with the AFC East this season, and the team having a better record against teams like the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills will go a long way to them not just having a winning record, but also making the playoffs.