The beauty of football is that there is more than one strategy to achieve success out on the field. The basis of winning not only lies in your team consistently scoring more points than your opponents but also in your team defending well. Both aspects are necessary to ensure you get the wins needed to fire you into the play-offs and, hopefully, beyond.
As far as the Steelers are concerned, the case for the defense has been well and truly made, while successful offensive play remains something of a mystery to Randy Fichtner, whose job will almost certainly be on the line in the off-season.
Facing a must-win game against the Baltimore Ravens in their last outing of the 2019-20 campaign, the Steelers’ chances were given a huge boost by the news that Lamar Jackson, the NFL MVP elect, would be rested. But once again, their attacking players went missing, and a lack of teeth in offense ultimately led to a 10-28 defeat and the end of their season.
We should make a caveat here: the Ravens are an outstanding team, and they are currently the sportsbooks’ favorite in the Super Bowl LIV outright NFL betting odds to win when the greatest show on earth rolls around to Florida on February 2. That said, if the Steelers had somehow made the playoffs through the back door it would only have been papering over the cracks of a mediocre campaign from the Steelers’ offensive linemen. However, there are positives for Pittsburgh fans to focus on. The performances of T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are the obvious highlights and a useful launchpad from which the Steelers can prepare for the 2020 campaign.
Electricity of Watt Keeps Steelers Burning
Watt has been named the Steelers’ MVP and that’s just reward for his defensive excellence this season. Tied down to a lucrative contract until 2021, the 25-year-old should be hanging around in Pittsburgh for a while longer yet, and the player that ranks T4 in the NFL for sacks in the 2019 season really is a jewel in the crown. If he wants more money, give it to him.
A special mention should go to Fitzpatrick, whose trade for a 2020 first-round draft pick – the first time Pittsburgh have given away such trade capital in more than 25 years – drew the ire of some Steelers’ faithful. Kevin Colbert’s decision has since been justified. The 23-year-old has been integral to achieving turnover ball, and his NFL ranking of T4 for interceptions in the regular season reveals a young man with a fantastic eye for reading the game. And he can shift with a ball in hand, too…
Watt, Fitzpatrick and the rest of the Steelers’ defensive unit have been awesome in 2019, ranking fourth for Total Defense (YPG) and Points Conceded Per Game – the sort of solidity that has recently taken the Patriots and co. to such stellar heights in the past. Yes, the offensive strategy has been terrible. 27th for Total Points, T28 for Touchdowns, and 31st for Yards Per Game will be the yardsticks used to beat Fichtner with should the Steelers’ season fall at the first hurdle.
He may fall on his sword, ultimately, while new offensive recruits will be sought. But when it comes to defense, Pittsburgh truly is one of the best teams in the NFL. That can be the foundation on which a more fruitful 2020 season can be built.