The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2019 season much as they did the 2018 season, by allowing their playoff fate slip out of their grasp. Slow starts and slow finishes permeated both campaigns, with strong runs in between. But while the results were the same missing the playoffs, the means were quite different.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we. But that they still managed to go 8-8 without Ben Roethlisberger, and with the general quality of play that they faced along the way, I suppose things could have been worse.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2018 season.
Player: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 3 Years
A year can sure change things, that much I can say with confidence. This time a year ago, while Antonio Brown was acting a fool (well, that hasn’t changed at least), JuJu Smith-Schuster was probably the most popular man in all of Pittsburgh.
The then-22-year-old wide receiver was coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he caught 111 passes for 1426 yards and seven touchdowns. Outside of Brown, nobody else in team history had ever put up that yardage, and was one off Hines Ward’s 112 receptions. He was just the third player in team history to catch 100 or more passes in a season.
With Brown shipped out of town, however, Smith-Schuster’s debut as the team’s undisputed number one receiver basically went nothing like it was planned. It started with minor injuries, then spiraled into objectional quarterback play following the season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger.
At the same time that he was being asked to adjust to defenses sending double coverage his way, he also lost the quarterback with whom he had developed such a great rapport, and went on to catch passes with two young guys with whom he had had very little reps prior.
It goes without saying that his numbers suffered, immensely. He put out the lowest efficiency and productivity numbers in his career, going by per-game, to account for the fact that a knee injury also held him out for a quarter of the season late in the year.
All told, he finished the season with just 42 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns. He did not lead the team in any statistical category, and his number dropped almost across the board.
On top of that, he had a crucial fumble in overtime in Week Four against the Baltimore Ravens that cost the game. He blamed himself for not coming up with a game-ending fourth-down pass in Week 16 against the New York Jets, his return from injury. And he drew public scorn—rightly or wrongly—for remaining active on social media and in the community while missing games due to injury.