The 2019 season was a interesting year for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was one which would have been nearly impossible to see coming. Between the injuries, poor quarterback play, and an emerging defense, these were all things which made for a completely different year than what Steelers players and fans expected. Just imagine turning back the clock one year and to review what everyone was expecting out of the 2019 Steelers versus how the season played out. It was definitely a year which defied expectations.
In the same boat, it’s very difficult to figure out exactly what 2019 was until at least another season helps put it in perspective. There are a number of possibilities for 2019 which we will look at shortly, but how 2020 plays out will be extremely significant in our overall perspective.
To give an example, we can look back at a few of the Steelers recent seasons and put them in perspective now that we’ve seen how the team has progressed from that point. For example, we did not realize at the time the 2017 season was going to be viewed as the Steelers best chance at a championship in the Ben-Brown-Bell era. Earning the number two seed and a first round bye, the Steelers still had legitimate argument that they were the rightful top seed as we all know Jesse James really caught a certain infamous pass. Regardless, the Steelers seemed poised to make a long postseason run only to fall behind 21-0 at home in their first and only playoff game in which they ultimately came up three points short.
As disappointing as the 2017 season was, we did not realize it was the last time in which the “Killer B’s” would all take the field together. Looking back, we know that was probably their best chance at a championship.
For 2016, a similar narrative was true as the Steelers reached the AFC Championship Game. The other take away from the season was realizing the importance of getting a first-round bye and even hosting the conference championship game.
As for the 2018 season, it wasn’t until it was concluded fans definitely knew it was the end of the Killer B’s. What 2018 may have been known for was the reloading of younger players at those positions as both James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster were selected to the Pro Bowl. But after putting the season into perspective following 2019, the story may have been more about how difficult it is to replace superstar players as Conner and Smith-Schuster battled injuries and had a disappointing 2019.
So how will 2019 be remembered for the Pittsburgh Steelers following 2020? Depending on how everything plays out, here are a few of the possibilities:
It was that tough season where we really missed Ben Roethlisberger
If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can return to the Steelers in 2020 and can give a couple more high-quality seasons in which the team is competing for a championship, chances are 2019 will merely be remembered as “that year Ben was out.” Both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had a similar point in their career where they went on and did great things after missing a season due to injury. If Ben can bounce back like we hope he does, this will pretty much write the narrative for 2019.
It was the end of the Ben Roethlisberger era
It’s a question we hate to ask, but what if Ben doesn’t come back strong? We have no choice but to look at the possibility. If Ben can’t come back from his elbow surgery, 2019 will be viewed as the end of an era rather than just a bump in the road.
It was the reemergence of a dominating defense
If the 2020 Steelers can come out with the defensive fire that they did in 2019, it will appear as if it was the beginning of something special. How long the dominating defense lasts we won’t know for a while. But if we get it for a few more years, 2019 will be the season in which it started.
It was the beginning of another rough stretch
The last thing Steelers’ fans want to see is 2019 to be another 1985. The Steelers had a period of time where they missed the playoffs six out of seven seasons as they ushered in the Malone-Brister-O’Donnell period of the franchise. While it is the hope of all Steelers’ fans this will not be the case, it won’t be until a season or two until we can know for sure.
So how will the Steelers 2019 season ultimately stand in history? 2020 should give us a glimpse as to how things will be seen. Hopefully, it will be simply that one season that Ben missed along with the reemergence of a dominating defense. But one year from now, we’ll have to look back again and see if we are taken by surprise at how everything played out.