The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the 2018 season with a 9-6-1 record, which was good for the seventh-best in the AFC. Needless to say, that wasn’t good enough to qualify for the postseason, given that they did not post the best record in their own division, as occasionally happens with teams with .500 records or worse.
So many things went wrong for this team at inopportune times. They got off to a bad start, then finished as a crawling pace in spite of a big victory over the New England Patriots that nearly cost Tom Brady and company a first-round bye.
After making the playoffs for four straight years, however, and consistently posting strong records, it’s hard to imagine that any player that has been here a bit didn’t come away from this season with something to think about in terms of the difficulties of the NFL.
That was third-year nose tackle Javon Hargrave’s experience after having a career year in 2018. As he told reporters, “there’s not much I can say right now. Just real disappointed. Just real disappointed right now. That’s all I can say”.
While the defense occasionally appeared to make strides—they got pressure on the quarterback well, for example, and generally did a better job of keeping deep balls in front of them—they still failed in the biggest moments far too often, which played a huge role in pretty much all of their non-wins.
“We still feel” like we’re one of the best teams in the league, Hargrave said, adding that “we let somethings get away from us. That’s what comes with the job, that’s what comes with the league. It’s a very humbling league. So I think we all got a little humbled this year”.
From a personal standpoint, Hargrave shattered his previous numbers with a career-high six and a half sacks on the season. He only had four sacks combined through his first two seasons, with two coming in each year. He also added a career-high 49 tackles and a pass batted at the line of scrimmage.
Of course, he also plays a position that often spends a lot of time sitting on the sidelines, so he may not have always had the opportunity to be a contributor in some of the team’s bigger defensive failures of the year.
Nevertheless, I’m sure he speaks for the entire group in his comments. Many of these players, the defenders in particular, have not experienced a season in Pittsburgh without a playoff appearance. They are getting a taste of something that they don’t care for—a slice of humble pie, perhaps—and they should keep that taste fresh in their memory banks as they prepare for 2019.