Losing happens. When you compete at anything no matter how good you are you’re bound to lose. But then there are losses that are embarrassing because you know your talent is better. But when you beat yourself it makes it all the more painful. The Pittsburgh Steelers were one and done in the 2018 Playoffs because of that with a humiliating 45-42 loss to Jacksonville.
Take nothing away from the Jaguars. That is an aggressive, fast and well-coached team. They deserved to win and advance. But the 13-3 Steelers will look back at this season as nothing more than a failure. If you want to call an AFC North Title and “sweeping the division” successes then be my guest. Both turned out to do absolutely nothing for this team in the playoffs.
Whether or not Ben Roethlisberger has played his final game I do not know. He played valiantly despite a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. He held the ball too long and didn’t secure the it. He was most certainly not the problem today however and did everything he could to pull out a win. Todd Haley could not have started the game worse by totally ignoring his all-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell on the first three plays. This, despite Jacksonville ranking 21st against the run.
But Haley’s two fourth down calls could and should sign his termination papers as Offensive Coordinator in Pittsburgh. A toss sweep against one of the fastest defenses in the league and then a throw on fourth and a foot (If Roethlisberger audibled to that then shame on him)? It’s something that has haunted this offense in recent years.
For all that though the once-proud Steelers’ defense was run over, run around and run through. They had no answer for Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon who repeatedly burned Keith Butler’s unit on third down. The Jags’ offensive line pummeled the Steelers’ front seven from the first play to the last.
And questions about Butler’s gameplan are most certainly fair. Why did he so often bring just four rushers when it was clear that wasn’t getting to Blake Bortles? How do you not have more of an answer for the running game? It wasn’t like what the Jags were going to do was a big secret was it? The red zone defense went 0 for 5 as well and you can’t do that in any game let alone a postseason one.
I am of the opinion that both Todd Haley and Keith Butler need to go. Do not be fooled by statistical rankings and reputations. These units struggled when then pressure was on and frequently one had to bail out the other. I have tried hard to defend Mike Tomlin at times too but he’s quickly becoming a great “regular season coach.” With all of this talent his team has not advanced to the Super Bowl now since 2010.
His own decision to openly talk about playing New England came back to bite him and it has bit his players as well. Ben Rothlisberger said after losing to New England last year that the team “needed to tighten things up.” That didn’t happen and it won’t unless there is a significant change in the way things are done in and out of the locker room. The drama that often followed this team proved too much to handle and we are left wondering what could have been.
This season shouldn’t have ended this way and it’s damn embarrassing that it did.