Aside from the early losses, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2018 season has been relatively drama-free, and virtually a walk through the park in comparison to last year’s weekly soap operas. While there have been some demotions, a speeding ticket, and an outburst or two, the only real ‘disruption’ has come from the one guy who isn’t here.
So it’s only fitting that the deadline for that guy to be a part of that team comes during the week in which the Steelers face their 2017 nemesis, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who came into Heinz Field twice last season and left with victories.
That included a troubling postseason loss in the divisional round as the Steelers came out of their first postseason bye week since 2010. That year, they made it to the Super Bowl. They won the Super Bowl the time before that when they earned a bye in 2008. This time, they went one and done.
Around the time of that last Jaguars game, we had That Guy instead talking about his future, and we had Mike Mitchell apparently mouthing off in front of the visitors’ locker room. We had the continuing fallout from the insubordination and subsequent dismissal of James Harrison. I’m sure there are half a dozen other major talking points I’m leaving out.
This year, it’s the Jaguars who are in crisis, and even Jalen Ramsey is keeping his mouth shut. They just put another offensive lineman on injured reserve and are just getting Leonard Fournette up and running again after a 1-6 streak since starting the season 2-0 with a win over the New England Patriots.
In spite of the fact that the Steelers seemingly had a new drama every week last season, that didn’t seem to affect their ability to win games, going 13-3 during the regular season, including an eight-game winning streak that was only broken up by a controversial reversal of a go-ahead touchdown that led to a rule change this offseason.
That is at least until everything came to a head in the playoffs against the Jaguars. Perhaps it’s unfair to attribute that loss to locker room issues—early turnovers and a defense incapable of not biting on play action due to fear of the run were bigger concerns, plus no pressure on Blake Bortles—it certainly didn’t do anything to aid their cause.
So perhaps the team has been conscious about trying to keep things quieter this year. Most of the veterans on the team didn’t care for it, with notable players such as Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Heyward, and David DeCastro remarking that they can’t conduct themselves that way.
Being able to get past the team that beat them twice last year, even if they are not the same team they were a year ago, would be a nice, if symbolic, way of exorcising those 2017 demons as a sign that this team is different.