The Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 season came to an abrupt end Saturday night with a 30-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Wild Card Game. While the ultimate goal of winning a seventh Lombardi Trophy wasn’t achieved, there were still several positive things that happened in 2014 and their worth noting on this day of mourning.
Brown Goes To Town – In 2014 Antonio Brown took his game to an even higher level and he ended the season as the league leader in both receptions and yardage. His 129 receptions were the second most ever recorded in a single season and only voter prevented him from being a unanimous first-team All-Pro. Try as they might, defenses just couldn’t contain him. he did this playing opposite a rookie and a second-year receiver most of the season.
All-Purpose Bell Tolling – In addition to Browns record-breaking season, Le’Veon Bell also put his name in the Steelers record books in 2014. He is now the all-time franchise leader in total yards from scrimmage and he showed that he is one of the best all-purpose backs in the league as he’s also a tremendous pass protector. Bell finished the season with 83 catches for 854 yards and only Brown had more of each.
Ben’s Best – Ben Roethlisberger came very close to throwing for 5,000 yards in 2014 and he did so by completing 67.1% of his passes. In two separate games he threw six touchdown passes and in one of those games he threw for 522 yards. While Roethlisberger will turn 33 in March, he undoubtedly has a lot of good football left in him as 2014 was easily the best season of his career. Expect him to get that big contract extension right around his birthday.
Tall Rookie Makes Leap – Rookie Matavis Bryant caught eight touchdowns in 2014 and while that’s plenty to get excited about, over the course of the final four games of the season you could really see him progressing in all areas of his game. We knew he could go deep before he ever played a down, but now we know he can do much more than just that. All Bryant needs to do now is refine everything and improve his knowledge of the game moving forward. 80 catches in 2015 is not out of the question in addition to double-digit touchdowns.
Sophomore Out Of His Slump – After only catching six passes as a rookie, Markus Wheaton caught 53 balls in 2014. After not being on the same page with Roethlisberger early on in the season, he eventually overcame that. While Wheaton will likely never be a player who catches 100 passes in the season, he showed in 2014 that he can be a very serviceable No. 2 receiver in the league. I expect his 61.6% completion ratio to climb in 2015.
Tuitt Can Do It – while rookie Stephon Tuitt didn’t crack the starting lineup until late in the season, he did show some flashes once he was given the opportunity. Sure, he’s still far away from being a finished product, but it actually looks like he’s progressing faster than Cameron Heyward did. Tuitt played right around 450 snaps in 2014 and that’s almost double the amount that Heyward played when he was a rookie.
Supercharged Overhead Cam – Cameron Heyward had one hell of a season and in the process he’s become the leader of the defense. Heyward was easily the Steelers best and most consistent player on defense as he recorded 7.5 sacks in 2014 and batted down four passes to boot. He and Tuitt could become a great pair of bookends.
Kids All Get To Play Inside – While rookie Ryan Shazier was only able to play in a total of nine games including the playoffs this season due to injuries, him being sidelined did allow fellow young inside linebackers Sean Spence and Vince Williams an opportunity to log quite a bit of playing time in his absence. While both Spence and Williams still have their warts, we saw both of them make progress in 2014 as the season wore on. Spence was used mostly as a base mack linebacker while Williams mostly played the buck position in the nickel.
Now that we have the positive takeaways from the 2014 season out of the way, I’ll hit you with the negative ones in a future post.