So…the season is over for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As almost every team has suffered throughout this postseason, in fact, their season ended in humiliating fashion, as all but two postseason games thus far have been of the blowout variety. The fact that that dominant performance came at the hands of the New England Patriots certainly doesn’t make it any better.
The game was 36-10 before the Steelers came up with one final touchdown in the late stages of the game on a 30-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Cobi Hamilton, both of whom had pretty rough games overall. 17 points is the fewest that they have scored in 11 weeks, since they lost to the Ravens in Roethlisberger’s return from a knee injury.
In fact, 17 seems to be the key number, as every time that they have scored 17 points or fewer, they lost. They scored three against the Eagles and lost. They scored 15 against the Dolphins and lost. They scored 16 against the Patriots…and lost. The only loss in which they scored more than 17 points was in the narrow loss to the Cowboys, in which the defense failed to hold up a Roethlisberger game-winning drive.
So, pretty much, when the offense has been able to click, the Steelers have won. When they have struggled, they lost, as the defense was unable to support them during their struggles. At least, that is the general theme. That is, of course, not to knock the growth that the defense has made this year. But the bottom line is that we are now in offseason mode and the defense is responsible for the vast majority of those 36 points allowed.
While Roethlisberger did complete 31 of 47 passes, he only averaged about 6.6 yards per pass attempt, and his lone touchdown came in extended garbage time. His interception proved costly, as it put the Patriots offense inside the 30-yard line and allowed them to make it a 24-point game.
In great contrast to how the rest of the second half of the season has gone, the Steelers threw the ball well over two thirds of the time, though that is not surprising given that they trailed early and often, digging a deep hole by halftime.
Of course, a big part of that is the fact that Le’Veon Bell left the game early with a groin injury, but they only ran the ball 20 times in total, versus 47 pass attempts. They did try to stick with the run at times, even after a lead, but at a certain point, down two or three possessions, the strategy became untenable, and it wasn’t overly effective.
The Steelers have gotten further into the postseason than they have in six years. They have made undeniable progress, and have incrementally been getting further for the past three years. But the bottom line is that we’re on the cusp of talking about the draft now, and that is not where any of us want to be.