There are so many different lenses through which one can look back on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season, and you can come up with several different interpretations of value judgement depending upon which one you chose. The fact that they were even in the conversation for the postseason in a year in which Ben Roethlisberger played just six quarters with zero touchdown passes on its face is astonishing.
They went 8-6 with backup quarterbacks, all of whom had never thrown a professional pass prior to the start of the 2019 season. They were at one point one of the hottest teams in the league, led by a surging and playmaking defense. They got up to a high of 8-5 and were even still in the divisional race at that point.
Everything crashed and burned from that point on, as they would lose their final three games while scoring a combined 30 points. In fact, they failed to reach 30 points in even a single game all year, the first time that had happened for the franchise since the early 1970s. given where they were with three weeks left, to miss the postseason was certainly a disappointment.
But ultimately, I don’t think there is one story that you can tell about the 2019 season. I think it has to be a tapestry of multiple perspectives if you want to get the full picture. Of course, whenever you are in theoretical position to reach the postseason and you fail to do so, it is a disappointment. At the same time, they never should have even been able to achieve that position to begin with.
One could argue that they got a higher level of play out of their backup quarterbacks, particularly Devin Hodges, than should have been counted upon, and that the final three games was a better and more realistic representation of what they should have been able to achieve. Of course, even 10 points per game is quite a low bar.
Still, two of the final three games were against playoff teams, and the New York Jets did win something like five of their final seven games. If memory serves, they actually ended up finishing 7-9 or thereabouts after an absolutely terrible start. It’s not as much of a shame to have lost to them as many might want to argue.
Then there is the organizational perspective, in which any failure is a failure of equal proportion, because, as you know, the standard is the standard. If issues arise, they merely have to mitigate or counter them in some way and move on. They didn’t do that enough to post a record that would punch their ticket into the postseason, and it’s that simple.
From a more long-term perspective, however, we saw a number of things in 2019 that should be encouraging for 2020 and beyond. This defense could legitimately be great in 2020 and for years to come with core components like T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Devin Bush. And having Roethlisberger completely reshapes what the offense is capable of.