Heading into last week’s game, the Pittsburgh Steelers were undefeated on the season when the defense held their opponents to 17 points or fewer. They have held both the Buffalo Bills to 17 points or fewer over the course of the past eight games. They have lost both, and now they no longer have control of their path to the postseason.
The offensive offensive display by the Steelers, led primarily by the negative plays of rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, has the team looking like they wouldn’t get far in the postseason anyway. Over the course of the past eight games, they have only scored multiple offensive touchdowns just once, that being the second Cleveland Browns game, prior to which Mason Rudolph was benched.
Today, it was Hodges benched, and with Rudolph coming in, he provided the spark the Steelers needed, overcoming a 10-0 deficit to tie the game at halftime, but he left in the second half with a shoulder injury, forcing Hodges back into the game, and they struggled to move the ball with him.
The Steelers offense has not put up more than 20 points in any game this season in which Hodges has played. Over the past two weeks, they have only managed 20 points combined over both games, even though the defense has allowed just 33 points, despite their opponents benefitting from seven giveaways, six on Hodges interceptions.
Pittsburgh had everything to play for today. With a win, they could guarantee that a win in Week 17 would push them into the postseason. Now they must beat the Baltimore Ravens on the road, even if they may be playing backups, while they need the Tennessee Titans to lose again to the Houston Texans. A Titans win gives them the sixth seed, but they would also make it with just a Steelers loss.
The lack of a consistent running game over the course of the past two weeks has been a major issue as well, but the main culprit in the Steelers’ offensive woes has been the play-to-play instability of the quarterback position. While Hodges has made a number of ‘varsity’ throws, his miscues have prevented the unit from capitalizing on many of the opportunities said throws have provided.
If there’s anything to take away from this season, it should be to remind ourselves not to take for granted what the Steelers have had in Ben Roethlisberger over the span of a decade and a half. Neither quarterback who has played after him this season is stating much of a case for himself to be the heir apparent. Both are young and can grow and develop, of course, and they will have the next two years to do it with Roethlisberger returning in 2020.
But that doesn’t do anything to salvage the 2019 season, which looked to be well within their grasp after getting to 8-5. Now they are back in familiar territory, just trying to get over .500 and into the postseason, with help, after dropping two games in which the offense couldn’t muster more than 10 points.