The 2019 season wound up be a very disappointing one for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they failed to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year. The Steelers finished their 2019 season with an 8-8 record and five of those eight losses were by seven points or less. Several plays throughout the Steelers 2019 regular season helped contribute to the team going 8-8 but of those several plays, some stuck out more than others when one reflects back. Below is a look at six key plays from the Steelers 2019 season that played a big part in the team losing eight games and failing to make the playoffs.
Week 2 versus Seahawks – 1-10-PIT 33 (5:49) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short left to J.Smith-Schuster ran ob at PIT 45 for 12 yards (K.Wright).
Little did we know that when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for 12 yards with 5:49 left in the first half of the team’s Week 2 home game against the Seattle Seahawks that his 2019 season would come to an end just a few more plays later. That throw to Smith-Schuster was the one that seemingly Roethlisberger tore his right elbow up on and resulted in him needing surgery that would end his season. Roethlisberger finished out the drive that he injured his elbow during but failed to return for the second half. The Steelers led the Seahawks 10-7 at halftime but went on to lose that game 28-26. Even worse, they lost Roethlisberger for the season during thart gamer,
Week 3 versus 49ers – 1-10-PIT 24 (5:36) (Shotgun) J.Conner right end to PIT 22 for -2 yards (A.Armstead). FUMBLES (A.Armstead), touched at PIT 22, RECOVERED by SF D.Buckner at PIT 24. D.Buckner to PIT 24 for no gain (Z.Gentry).
The Steelers led the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 on the road in Week 3 with the ball and 5:36 left in the game. The team’s defense had played well up until that point of the game as the unit had forced five turnovers. All the Steelers offense had to likely do at that point is not turn the football over and the team probably goes on to win the game. That unfortunately didn’t happen as Steelers running back James Conner fumbled on a first-and-10 running play to the right side with 5:36 left in the game. The football was dislodged from Conner from behind by 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner recovered it at the Steelers 24-yard-line. Seven plays later the 49ers offense scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:20 left in the game and the Steelers lost 24-20.
Week 5 versus Ravens – 2-7-PIT 35 (7:37) (Shotgun) D.Hodges pass short left to J.Smith-Schuster to PIT 45 for 10 yards (M.Humphrey). FUMBLES (M.Humphrey), touched at PIT 45, RECOVERED by BLT-M.7:37) at PIT 37. M.Humphrey to PIT 34 for 3 yards (J.Smith-Schuster).
Despite losing backup quarterback Mason Rudolph to a concussion early in the second half of their Week 5 home game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers still had a good shot at beating their division rival. The Steelers took the Ravens to overtime and seemingly had their first possession of the exrra frame off to a very good start when rookie undrafted quarterback Devlin Hodges connected with Smith-Schuster on a short pass to the left side of the field with 7:37 left remaining. However, immediately after Smith-Schuster caught the pass from Hodges, Ravens corneback Marlon Humphrey punched the football loose from the Steelers wide receiver at the Steelers 45-yard-line. The loose football took a few bounces near the Steelers sideline before Humphrey ultimately recovered it and returned it 3 more yards to the Pittsburgh 34-yard-line. While the Steelers defense did their part in forcing the Ravens offense to go three-and-out after taking over possession of the football via the turnover, Baltimore’s field postilion was already good enough for kicker Justin Tucker to easily bury a 46-yard field goal on the ensuing fourth down. Had Smith-Schuster not fumbled, perhaps the Steelers offense could have ultimately driven into field goal range for an overtime game-winning kick.
Week 11 versus Browns – 1-10-CLV 41 (14:18) (Shotgun) M.Rudolph pass incomplete deep left to J.Holton.
The early fourth quarter incomplete deep pass from Rudolph to wide receiver Johnny Holton in the Week 11 game against the Cleveland Browns might be the most forgotten about key play of the Steelers entire season. Had Holton made this deep pass catch for a touchdown, the Steelers would have tied the game up at 14-14 and who knows how the contest transpires from that point forward. Rudolph essentially fell apart after this failed deep pass to Holton and one his two fourth quarter interceptions resulted in an easy touchdown for the Browns offense. Rudolph even ended up getting clocked over the head with his own helmet late in the game and that wound up being a huge distraction for him that he failed to overcome the following week. Once again, this deep incomplete pass to Holton isn’t as memorable as the other plays listed in this post, but had Rudolph connected on this throw it could’ve heavily impacted what all transpired in that contest from that point forward.
Week 15 versus Bills – (2:00) (Shotgun) Direct snap to J.Conner. J.Conner Aborted. M.Pouncey FUMBLES at BUF 15, recovered by PIT-J.Conner at BUF 15. J.Conner to BUF 15 for no gain. Handoff to D.Johnson to BUF 13 for 2 yards (T.Murphy). FUMBLES (T.Murphy), RECOVERED by BUF-J.Poyer at BUF 9.
The Steelers final three games of the 2019 regular season were a cumulative disaster. That run of three losses to close out the 2019 season essentially started with a fumble deep inside the red zone and late in the first half of the team’s Week 15 home loss to the Buffalo Bills. The fumble occurred during a dubious Wildcat play that featured Conner at quarterback and rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson as his backfield mate as part of a read-option-type play. The play started right after the two-minute warning with a low snap from center Maurkice Pouncey. The seemingly then-rushed read-option by Conner included him handing the football off to Johnson and Bills defensive end Trent Murphy dislodged it fairly easily from the rookie wide receiver. Remember, the game against the Bills was Conner’s first in several weeks. Additionally, Johnson hadn’t run a Wildcat play from the backfield all season and had had some other ball security issues throughout the year. Even had the play not resulted in a turnover, it was a horrible call by offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. Points were a premium in that game against the Bills with two very good defenses controlling things. For the Steelers offense to fail in the Bills red zone via a turnover on such a dubious play call was disastrous.
Week 16 versus Jets – 3-7-NYJ 44 (:51) (Shotgun) D.Hodges pass incomplete deep right to J.Washington (M.Maye).
As bad as the Steelers played offensively in the team’s Week 16 road game against the New York Jets, the unit was still just one play away from delivering a win. That one play was almost made with 51-seconds left in the fourth quarter when Hodges delivered a deep pass to wide receiver James Washington just shy of the end zone. On the deep pass in question, Washington had both hands on the football after leaping for it. However, the usually sure-handed wide receiver had the football ripped from his grasp by Jets safety Marcus Maye, who made a tremendous effort to do so despite being out-jumped and out-positioned by Washington. Had Washington secured that deep throw from Hodges, the Steelers likely go on to win that game. They then would have controlled their own playoff destiny going into their regular season finale against the Ravens. a game they ultimately lost.