The Cleveland Browns finished their season with a much improved 7-8-1 record. But as Baker Mayfield threw that season-ending pick in Baltimore, the Steelers season died along with it.
Though you could say the season died in Cleveland four months ago, long before Mayfield had ever taken the field for the Browns. It died the day the Steelers tied the Browns to open the season. That tie very well may be the reason the Steelers had to rely on the Browns to beat the Ravens in the final week of the season just to slip into the playoffs.
But the Steelers, with as talented a roster as anyone in the league, should never have to rely on the Browns or any other team to make the playoffs.
As Cameron Heyward stated after the game; “It’s frustrating because we put ourselves in this position like that. It hurts.” “To know you gave it your all in this game right here but you’re still looking around saying we gotta get somebody else to do their job.”
He’s exactly right about having to look around and hope for help to get into the playoffs. This team should not have fallen short like that. Heyward continued; “It’s not how we wanted this season to go”.
And it never should have gotten to that point.
You can pick any number of games this season that were the ones that kept the black and gold from making the playoffs.
It started with the season opening tie to the Browns who had one win in their previous 32 attempts. But it doesn’t end there. You can easily look at the losses to the Broncos or Raiders on the road, two games the team was favored to win and should have won. Or you can look at the blown fourth quarter leads to the Saints and Chargers.
If any one of those games came out the other way, the Steelers would be preparing for a home playoff game right now rather than booking their plane tickets for their early vacations.
Instead, they had to rely on the Browns and when you have to do that, you end up at home in January.
But those losses and that one tie went bad for many reasons, and the season went bad along with them.
You can blame the kicking of Chris Boswell, who finished the year a dismal 13-for-20 on field goals and 43-of-48 on extra points.
You can blame the entire defense for its’ clear inability to create turnovers or get off of the field on third downs. If you do that, point the finger directly at Keith Butler, who must be fired this offseason. His inability to scheme for opposing offenses was horrifically bad.
You can blame the offense for the amount of turnovers they had, to go along with the untimely turnovers. Ben Roethlisberger threw 16 interceptions this season, a few of which occurred in the redzone, one, in the endzone in Denver in what would have been a game winning drive. A game winning drive that would have put the Steelers in the playoffs, as it turns out.
The team MVP JuJu Smith-Schuster had an untimely fumble in New Orleans that may have cost the team that game, and the season (though I think out of all the players and reasons to blame this season on,