The headline of this article may seem like overkill until you really take a second and think about it: those Pittsburgh Steelers who were once collectively known as the “Killer B’s” (listed below) were the center of almost all of the organization’s drama in 2018.
I initially thought writing about this might be a wild idea too, until I gave it some thought. A handful of players, all sharing the initial "B" in common, all had controversy surrounding them this season.
It all began at the start of the league year and ran its course past the Steelers final regular season game, up until the present day. Here’s how each of those “Killer B’s” contributed their fair share of drama, which killed the Steelers culture in 2018. (As well as impacting their final record.)
Bell kicked off the off-field drama in 2018 by mentioning his contract situation during the Steelers playoff game in January: which was still part of the 2017 season.
That trickled into March, where the team once again placed the franchise tag on the All-Pro running back, who also contributed his fair share of rap songs and social media posts outlining his displeasure with the tag and the current contract talks.
The Steelers snapped back around the time of the NFL Draft, saying they were no longer talking with Bell until after the draft was completed.
Talks stalled up until the zero hour, where Bell would have to play 2018 under the one-year tender after failing to agree on a number of rumored megadeals. Bell sat out training camp and hinted at a return in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns, which is precisely what he did in 2017 when Pittsburgh franchise tagged him then too.
However, Bell didn’t show in Week 1, nor did he show halfway through the season, the final deadline for him to play in 2018. He continued to tease the team throughout with Instagram video of him on a jet ski and snide comments/reactions to the Steelers shortcomings (such as liking an opponent’s post following a Steelers loss).
Needless to say, Bell drove his teammates to the point of pillaging his former locker following his final no-show. His offensive linemen were quick to celebrate the ascension of second-year running back James Conner in Week 1 as well.
The message was clear: Bell was a distraction but how he may have affected the team otherwise will forever be unknown. Regardless, he handcuffed at least $14.5 million of the Steelers salary cap which could’ve been used to sign other players, hurting their chances at improving their 2018 roster.
Bryant wasn’t a Steeler for long in 2018, but his trade to the Oakland Raiders still brought controversy.
Instantly, everyone worried about replacing the maligned receiver as the trade went down during day one of the NFL Draft. On day two, the Steelers drafted Bryant’s would-be replacement, Oklahoma State WR James Washington.
The drama was over, or so it seemed. The draft pick associated with Bryant’s trade ended up working the Steelers into a position to take Washington’s Oklahoma State teammate, QB Mason Rudolph. That pick, was met with a different form of controversy when Ben Roethlisberger went public about his unhappiness with the selection… and how that meant the selection of QB Joshua Dobbs a year earlier was a “wasted pick”.
Big Ben had to backpedal on his comments and fully explain himself further when he talked about not being a mentor for the younger Rudolph. While that didn’t end up being the case, and all things appeared to be smooth through offseason workouts and training camp, it was the Bryant deal which caused the dominoes to fall, and for everyone to further speculate on how much longer Roethlisberger, who teased retirement an offseason earlier, will end up playing.
Aside from his comments about the younger quarterbacks on the roster, Roethlisberger (another “Killer B”) was no stranger to drama from the get-go. His relationship with former offensive coordinator Todd Haley saw the latter leave town as soon as the Steelers lost in January. The door didn’t even hit Haley’s rear-end as the team announced Big Ben’s quarterbacks coach, Randy Fichtner, would take over as the OC.
The move was so quick that Fichtner made his debut as offensive coordinator in the Pro Bowl just three short weeks after Pittsburgh’s playoff exit, as the Steelers staff led the AFC side in the NFL’s annual All-Star game.
Ben seemingly went quiet for a while before the draft and training camp, then went silent again until the Steelers six-game winning streak was snapped in Denver. Ben had thrown three interceptions a week earlier against Jacksonville but put the team on his back as he ran for the game-winning touchdown. Those heroics were quickly forgotten as he threw an interception in the endzone against the Broncos, then proceeded to blame everyone but himself (including C Maurkice Pouncey, WR Antonio Brown, and also James Washington) for the team falling short.
Roethlisberger would against add to the growing list of the spiraling out of control season in Oakland when he went into the locker room at halftime and didn’t return to the field. Out of date equipment was blamed for not knowing if Big Ben would be alright to come back into the game. Thus, the Steelers rolled with second-year QB Joshua Dobbs and proceeded to blow their lead in a fourth quarter that saw the Raiders control the ball for 10:44 and win the game.
Then the Steelers offense stalled against possibly the league's worst defense in their final game of the season. Keeping the Bengals in the game, Roethlisberger threw an ill-advised pass which he felt would be a free play. There was no flag, and instead his errant throw was picked off by S Shawn Williams, who took it the opposite direction for a touchdown.
That play nearly cost the Steelers a victory in a must-win situation. But Ben’s inclusion to this killer list doesn’t end there. The Steelers franchise QB led the NFL in interceptions and reportedly had a spat with All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown leading into the last game of the season, where Brown also reportedly “quit” on the team.
Definitely not the kind of stuff you want to see from the elder statesman of the team.
The hottest trending topic of the week is how Antonio Brown went from having a season-high game against the New Orleans Saints to not playing at all days later in a must-win situation against the Cincinnati Bengals.
However, the recent story of Brown’s demise isn’t the entire story for 2018. He was caught doing over 100mph on McKnight Road outside of Pittsburgh during the offseason, was the subject of several lawsuits and more controversy stemming from throwing furniture out of his apartment window (which may or may not have struck a bystander below).
Brown disappeared for several days during training camp, seemingly excused by head coach Mike Tomlin, even though it didn’t really come off that way at all. A.B. would snap at long-time Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette for reporting on his health at St. Vincent’s in the summer, get into an altercation with a former Steelers P.R. employee on Twitter and even getting into it on the sidelines with his new offensive coordinator.
He showed up in a helicopter to start training camp but didn’t show up at all last weekend for an MRI or a walkthrough leading into Sunday’s regular season finale.
And there's a good chance I forgot something as the list has grown so long!
Needless to say, Brown is the “Killer B” truly killing it recently!
Remember when everyone wanted to include Chris Boswell as a Killer B for his ice-cold kicking abilities which won the Steelers several games through the previous few seasons?
That sentiment quickly disintegrated into Steelers Nation calling for his head. Following his new long-term contract extension, Boswell proceeded to be a different kind of killer: that kind that killed games and leads.
Boswell missed a potential game-winning field goal in overtime during Week 1’s game against the Cleveland Browns. The final result of that contest would be a tie which lingered on the Steelers record and spoiled their opportunity to win the AFC North at the end of the season.
His woes would continue with a miss in Weeks 2 and 3, plus a missed extra point attempt in each of those two games as well.
Boswell would hit two kicks in a Week 4 loss to the Ravens, but would miss another extra point in a Week 5 against the Falcons.
All appeared to be forgotten as he didn’t miss a kick through the next two games, and would only miss one field goal or PAT in five games, beginning with the Week 6 victory over the Bengals.
Then “The Wizard of Boz” would revert to being bad again. He would miss at least one kick in four of his last five games, including two critical field goal attempts in a three-point loss to the Raiders.
He would be placed on IR for the final week of the season.