It may be hard in hindsight for some to recall that the 2018 regular season was not just one gigantic chasm of misery for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, there was a period of time during the middle stretch of the season in which they were the hottest team in the league and controlled their playoff destiny in terms of earning a postseason bye after getting out to a 7-2-1 record.
That was just a half-game behind the Kansas City Chiefs at the time, and of course as we know the Chiefs finished with more than two losses, so the Steelers could have realistically had homefield advantage had they actually taken what they needed to take care of over the course of the final six weeks of the regular season.
They did nearly the exact opposite, but let’s remember that there were already ugly signs of what was to come at the end of that six-game winning streak. After blowing out the Carolina Panthers and getting revenge against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers headed south to face the Jacksonville Jaguars, who beat them twice at Heinz Field in 2017.
And they were giving Pittsburgh a whooping for much of the game, but it wasn’t as obvious o the scoreboard. Because the defense was able to keep the Jaguars out of the end zone during the first half, they only trailed 9-0 at halftime thanks to a trio of field goals.
But Jacksonville opened the second half with a long, commanding ground game that they were able to finish off with a score, going up 16-0. The offense would have to score three unanswered touchdowns in the final 17 minutes just to come back and win, ending on a Ben Roethlisberger scramble for a touchdown.
The same Roethlisberger that threw three interceptions, including two to Jalen Ramsey. The second of those two was particularly egregious, as it occurred in the end zone as he was looking for Antonio Brown, delivering the ball inside of the wide receiver’s frame where the defender could play it.
The defense completely shut out the Jaguars after their lone touchdown, however. Their final five drives consisted of a total of 13 plays, including four three-and-outs and a one-play game-ending strip sack. The Jaguars only had two of 14 drives all game in which they traversed at least 40 yards, and only three going at least 25.
But the theme of the units not working in sync had already been established, and that would only build over the course of the final month and a half that saw the Steelers lose four of their final six games—just enough to miss the postseason.