It is fair to say the 2020 NFL season was one of a disappointment for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. The campaign started with 11 consecutive victories, and everything pointed towards the Steelers reaching the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010. How quickly matters can change, however, with the wheels well and truly coming off from Week 13 onwards.
The Steelers started their 2020 quest for Super Bowl glory with a 26-16 win at New York Giants. Four straight home victories at Heinz Field followed, including a 38-7 demolition against the Cleveland Browns.
The Steelers went into December with an impressive 10-0 record. Sure, they allowed too many points against them, but they seemingly had no problem in outscoring the opposition. A 19-14 home win over the Baltimore Ravens extended Steelers’ winning streak to 11 straight games. The NFL betting sites at onlinesportsbetting.net had the Steelers among the favorites for 2020 Super Bowl glory.
The Start of a Sorry Demise
December 7, Week 13 of the campaign, is where everything went wrong. Washington Football Team were the visitors and were 4-7 at that stage. A relatively straightforward victory was on the cards, or so you would have thought. Steelers led 17-10 going into the fourth, but 13 unanswered points resulted in a 23-17 defeat.
Losses away at the hot-running Buffalo Bills (9-3) and the Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1) followed. Steelers improved to 12-3 with a 28-24 victory over Indianapolis Colts (10-4) but lost 24-22 at Cleveland (10-5) to conclude the season.
Pittsburgh finished first in AFC North and third in the AFC Conference. The Browns awaited the Steelers in the Wild Card Playoff round on January 10. The Steelers did not turn up and trailed 28-0 at the end of the first quarter. The game ended 48-37 in favor of the Browns, which ended Steelers’ efforts for another year.
Searching For Roethlisberger’s Replacement
Ben Roethlisberger has been a fantastic servant for the Steelers, making 223 appearances since he first took to the field during the 2004 season. The 39-year-old missed the majority of the 2019 season but came back strong in 2020, where he finished with a 94.1 rating. Roethlisberger threw for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns. Ten interceptions and 13 sacks are the negative points.
The talismanic quarterback is rapidly approaching 40-years-old, and while he may be the first name down on the team sheet, he will not be for much longer. Now is the time to find his long-term replacement because it is blatantly apparent neither Josh Dobbs or Mason Rudolph is the answer.
Steelers fans hope the team’s wide receivers undergo extra training during the off-season. They tied with the Dallas Cowboys for most dropped passes, which is not a stat you want to be leading. Eight dropped passes cost the Steelers dearly in that season-changing defeat against Washington Football Team.
Both Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool have bright futures ahead of them, but they are still raw, having only 47 games between them.
A More Explosive Rushing Game Is Needed
More offensive work is needed on the Steelers’ running game. They ranked dead last in rushing yards and yards per carry last season. Steelers are infamous for their physicality, but that was missing in 2020.
The poor rushing stats are primarily down to the Steelers’ poor offensive line, which is more effective in pass protection than rush blocking. Former Pro Bowlers David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey (who has retired) are not the players they used to be and failed to help James Connor when he does rush the ball.
Nobody passes the ball more than the Steelers. The lack of plays on the ground makes it easier for teams to defend against and more difficult when you find yourself in a third-and-short scenario.
There is plenty of reasons to be positive for the 2021 NFL season. The team is only a few tweaks from being a force. Will the Steelers make those tweaks? That is the big question.