So much for a new Steelers team in 2019.
After promoting team harmony and chemistry on the heels of a tumultuous offseason that saw the departures of some very disruptive forces (or so they said), the hope seemed palpable as Pittsburgh began its 2019 campaign against the World Champion New England Patriots last Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium.
Here we are, just over a week later, and whatever harmony and chemistry existed has now been replaced with panic, as in it’s time to push the big, old panic button, following a 28-26 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday in the 2019 home opener at Heinz Field that dropped Pittsburgh’s record to 0-2.
Not only are the Steelers trending downward in their first two games of each season dating back to 2017—they’ve gone from 2-0 to 0-1-1 to 0-2, respectively—they’re sliding in a horrible direction over the last eight games, with a record that now sits at 2-6 since last November 25.
That’s not good, neither was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday, as he completed just eight of 15 passes for a paltry 75 yards in the first half, before being ruled out in the second half with an injury to his throwing elbow.
Mason Rudolph provided perhaps a glimpse into the future and what he can be as an heir apparent to No. 7. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards, two touchdowns and one interception that was way more the fault of veteran receiver Donte Moncrief, who can’t seem to catch anything but maybe the next train out of town if he doesn’t straighten up and fast.
While Rudolph looked like he was up for the same kind of heroics Landry Jones provided four years ago when he entered the game in the second half and helped spark a comeback win against the Cardinals at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh’s defense was not capable of holding up its end of the bargain.
Following a pretty dominant first half, with the only blemish coming on the heels of a special teams gaffe by big Daniel McCullers, Keith Butler’s unit was totally helpless in stopping Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks’ offense down the stretch.
The pass-rush that was spearheaded early on by Stephon Tuitt, who had three sacks, and T.J. Watt, who had one, was virtually non-existent over the final two periods.
Yes, there were two takeaways that led to two Pittsburgh touchdowns. That was refreshing after only taking the football away 15 times over the previous 17 games. But what is becoming rather stale is this defense’s inability to overcome adversity.
No, McCullers didn’t have to commit his stupid infraction on a field goal attempt in the second quarter, but the defense didn’t have to give up a touchdown one play later.
No, Moncrief and his concrete-like hands didn’t do the defense any favors early in the third quarter, but how about a field goal instead of a touchdown?
Yes, the NFL’s new pass interference challenge rule may have victimized the Steelers in the fourth quarter, but the defense didn’t have to again so easily yield a score.
And after Devin Bush pulled a Ryan Shazier and rescued the Steelers from certain defeat with a fumble recovery and return down to the three that led to a Rudolph touchdown pass to tight end Vance McDonald, where was the killer instinct from this young defense?
It wasn’t there, just like it wasn’t there so many times late last season when the defense needed just one stop to close things out.
Now, the Steelers enter Week 3 0-2 and looking very much like a team that should be exiting with an 0-3 record.
They don’t know about their quarterback. Their starting running back, James Conner, is again dealing with an injury.
Their head coach, Mike Tomlin, is again the target of fan wrath (and rightfully so).
These Pittsburgh Steelers don’t look good in 2019, and they haven’t for quite some time.