The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 season ended not only prematurely, but also bitterly, suffering an early postseason exit after falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in the Divisional Round by a score of 45-42. The wounds are still fresh, but it’s time to relive the 2017 season that was, starting from the beginning.
Chapter VII – Knocked Down in Windy City
If there was just one game outside of the division that the Steelers were supposed to win last season, then it probably would have been this one. The third game of the season, albeit on the road, to the upstart Chicago Bears, starting Mike Glennon. What in the world happened?
Well, the problems started a couple of nights before the game. This was the beginnings of the in-season controversies that would plague the team. President Donald Trump made some remarks during a rally about players not standing for the national anthem, suggesting that they should be fired, and using disparaging language.
This naturally drew national attention and prompted a variety of responses from all around the league, yet the Steelers seemed particularly torn, in no small part due to the presence of a legitimate war hero not just on the 53-man roster, but in the starting lineup, in left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
The Steelers held a players-only meeting that struggled to satisfactorily resolve the issue. Some players wanted to kneel. Some wanted to stand. Some wanted to lock arms. It was ultimately agreed that they would do nothing, and remain off the field to take themselves out of the equation.
That plan failed disastrously, as we learned in hindsight, but it was the entire distraction of the situation leading up to the game, which players admitted to afterward, that affected them on the field.
Not that they didn’t have a hard enough time trying to tackle running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, who combined for 218 yards on the ground on 35 carries and two rushing touchdowns. That included a game-winner from 19 yards out in overtime.
It was really the offense that struggled in regulation. They put up just 17 points, and that included the final 10 points in regulation during the second half. But the Steelers chose to kick the ball to the Bears when the game went to overtime and they ripped off runs of 36, 18, and then 19 yards for the walk-off win.
It was a frustrating loss that also included a blocked kick at the end of the first half that resulted in three points going the other way. After forcing a three-and-out on the opening drive, Eli Rogers also muffed a punt that was recovered by the Bears, who scored a touchdown after taking over at the 26.
So many things went wrong for the Steelers that day, including a dropped pass by Martavis Bryant on a deep ball on the opening play of the game. The Killer Bs played pretty well, but that was about it, and that was not enough on the day, especially not with a pair of red-zone failures.