You can circle 20 different reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers missed out on the playoffs in 2018. But if you want to start somewhere, their kicking game and turnover ratio are two good places to start. To owner Art Rooney II, those were the biggest problems the team dealt with.
“Just to start with a little summation of the season, it was tough to swallow in the sense that we were so close so often to making the playoffs, all the way down to literally the last couple of plays of the season,” Rooney said. “So, it just makes it hard to swallow when you feel like you are that close, feel like you have a team that can compete if you get in.
“So, if I had to point to a couple of things that I think more problems, that may have cost us that opportunity, I think number one was the lack of even an average kicking game. Somewhat inexplicable reasons our kicker went from one of the best in the league to one of the worst in the league and so games that we won close last year, we didn’t win close this year. Secondly, our minus turnover ratio. That’s always something that is hard to overcome and obviously something we need to address going forward.”
Chris Boswell went from being one of the game’s best kickers and earning a contract extension for it to having a 2018 that nearly saw him released by the team. He performed just well enough to stick around, a lack of options was a driving factor in keeping him, before landing on IR prior to the regular season finale with a groin injury.
Boswell finished the year a lowly 13/20 on field goals and 43/48 on extra points. The five missed extra points were more than he had his previous three years with the Steelers. Due a roster bonus in March, his future with the team is very uncertain.
Arguably, the turnover ratio was an even bigger problem. They finished -11 for the year, 28th in the NFL. Only the Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and San Francisco 49ers, some of the league’s worst teams, finished worse.
The Steelers were top ten in giveaways (7th) and bottom ten in takeaways (tied 29th), a dubious combination. It can’t all be blamed on starting the year -5 against the Cleveland Browns. They got back to -1 after the first month of the year only to finish -10 the rest of the way. Their eight interceptions were the fewest in franchise history, surpassing the previous low of ten set in 2012. That’s despite facing 566 passing attempts, sixth most in a single season. There were plenty of chances to make plays but the Steelers’ defense led the league in dropped interceptions.
Rooney concluded the defense must be more aggressive in 2019 and will need to find better playmakers, according to the AP’s Will Graves.
That means another season of searching for help in the secondary. Finding a starter opposite Joe Haden will be key in rebuilding this group.