The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season is now officially over, ending with a 8-8 record after dropping their final three games. Had they won two of those three games, and finished 10-6 or better, they would have had a playoff spot. Even the fifth seed, if one of those wins came over the Buffalo Bills.
Nevertheless, the fact that the Steelers were even part of the conversation for a postseason berth considering where they were a month into the season, and what they’ve been through, is remarkable in and of itself.
The vast majority of the season saw Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as the team’s starting quarterbacks. As it turned out, neither of them were particularly good, and certainly not ready to be thrust into the role of starting quarterback. And the play of the quarterback position will be, and should be, the defining memory of this season.
That, and the fact that they came pretty close to overcoming that monstrous hurdle. The two young quarterbacks combined for 17 interceptions on the season with a combined nine fumbles, yet they somehow were fortunate enough to lose only one of them.
That the season was torpedoed because the Steelers did not have a sufficiently competent backup quarterback is a shame, because it happened to coincide with the rise of a defense that probably could have supported a solid number two into the postseason.
Pittsburgh finished the season with the most turnovers in the NFL, as well as the most sacks. Under ordinary circumstances, that should be enough to get you into the postseason when you have a defense capable of making that many impact plays that consistently.
They were able to carry a worse-than-mediocre offense through long stretches this season, at one point going 7-1 in an eight-game span to get themselves to that 8-5 point, but things bottomed out at the end, with the team putting up just 10 points in each of its final three games.
For as much frustration as many Steelers fans may be feeling now, I choose to feel optimistic about what this team can look like in 2020 when Ben Roethlisberger returns, because there is no reason this team can’t be as good as the Baltimore Ravens if they go from arguably the worst quarterback situation in the NFL to at least a top-10 scenario.
In a way, the manner in which this season ended seemed fitting. The middle part of the season felt like a fantasy ride, one that we knew to be too good to be true. It was a mirage, and the final three games set us back down to the reality of the situation, which is that there were simply too many key injuries offensively to meaningfully sustain a competitive team. Not in 2019, anyway.