It’s typically playoffs or bust for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That being the case, the 2018 season falls into the latter category. The club just missed out on qualifying, finishing behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North race and in back of the Indianapolis Colts for the final Wild Card berth.
While each game on the Steelers schedule factored into the equation, we can point back to Week 1 as the deciding factor. They were in Cleveland that week for the opener with the Browns. The game was a hard-nosed affair which wrapped up as a 21-21 tie after overtime.
The team would drop two of their next three games before righting the ship and putting wins up. At 7-2-1, the Steelers were looking good for a playoff spot. Then they weren’t. The club went down to defeat in four of its last six games to finish up with a mark of 9-6-1.
When the playoffs kicked off, Pittsburgh was on the outside looking in. An offseason of change would follow. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell have moved on to new destinations, while changes have come to the coaching staff as well.
So what will all of that mean for the Steelers in 2019? Is this a team that will once again challenge for a playoff berth or is a step backwards the more likely outcome?
Let’s take a look and find out. Before doing so, we’ll take a closer look at what went down last season in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 Season Recap
Record: 9-6-1 | Standings: 2-AFC Central | Playoffs: N/A
After opening up the 2018 campaign with a tie against the Browns, the Steelers would fall the following week at home to the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 42-37. A road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a home defeat to the Baltimore Ravens came next to bring the team to 1-2-1 after the first month of the season.
The club would turn things around with two straight victories to head into the Week 7 bye with a mark of 3-2-1. The week off didn’t disrupt the momentum. The Steelers ripped off another four victories in a row, a span which included a 23-16 road defeat of the Ravens.
Things were looking up in Pittsburgh as the team stood at 7-2-1. They went south from there. The club lost its next three games, two of which were on the road. They bounced back with a 17-10 home win over the New England Patriots in Week 15.
They could only muster a split in their final two games, both of which were decided by field goal margins. A final record of 9-6-1 didn’t cut it in the AFC as far as the playoffs were concerned. It was a surprising end to a season which showed promise for a club that was once 7-2-1.
While the tie with the Browns is technically the difference maker, the three-game skid from late November into early December was the nail in the coffin. There’s no questioning that the 2018 Steelers were a talented bunch, but they just couldn’t get the job done.
That set the stage for an interesting offseason in Pittsburgh, to say the least.
Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Moves
After the season came to a close, the Steelers parted ways with assistant coaches Joey Porter and James Saxon. Mike Munchak would also leave the team after accepting an offer to join the staff of the Denver Broncos. Eddie Faulkner and Teryl Austin have climbed aboard as new members of the staff.
After sitting out all of last year in a contract dispute, it was pretty clear the Bell would be continuing his career elsewhere. That became official in free agency when he accepted an offer from the Jets. Brown would go on to have an acrimonious break-up with the team as well.
The drama with Brown was simmering all season, but it came to a head in Week 17. Conflicting reports emerged on exactly what happened behind the scenes, but Brown was ultimately benched for the game. After a ton of speculation and the situation playing out in the media for weeks on end, the issue was put to rest when Brown was shipped to the Raiders.
In free agency, the club would add CB Steven Nelson, LB Mark Barron, and WR Donte Moncrief. Joining Bell and Brown on the way out the door were players such as S Morgan Burnett, OT Marcus Gilbert, and TE Jesse James.
he team snagged Michigan LB Devin Bush, a highly-touted prospect who could grow into an anchor on defense. Round three would bring wideout Diontae Johnson out of Toledo and CB Justin Layne out of Michigan State. Other picks included Kentucky RB Benny Snell Jr.
The loss of Bell and Brown are the biggest stories by far, but the cupboards aren’t barren in Pittsburgh. James Conner did a fine job in place of Bell last year, and he’ll lead a backfield which includes Jaylen Samuels. Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster takes over the top receiver role, while James Washington, Eli Rogers, Vance McDonald, and Moncrief round out the top threats for Ben Roethlisberger.
The defense was relatively solid last year, but there’s always room for improvement. Through the draft and free agency, the Steelers took steps to make that happen. What that means for the product on the field remains to be seen.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 Schedule
|1||Sun. Sept.8||at New England Patriots||8:20 PM||NBC|
|2||Sun. Sept.15||vs. Seattle Seahawks||1:00 PM||FOX|
|3||Sun. Sept.22||at San Francisco 49ers||4:25 PM||CBS|
|4||Mon. Sep.30||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||8:15 PM||ESPN|
|5||Sun. Oct.6||vs. Baltimore Ravens||1:00 PM||CBS|
|6||Sun. Oct.13||at Los Angeles Chargers||8:20 PM||NBC|
|8||Mon. Oct.28||vs. Miami Dolphins||8:15 PM||ESPN|
|9||Sun. Nov.3||vs. Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM||CBS|
|10||Sun. Nov.10||vs. Los Angeles Rams||4:25 PM||FOX|
|11||Thu. Nov.14||at Cleveland Browns||8:20 PM||FOX|
|12||Sun. Nov.24||at Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 PM||CBS|
|13||Sun. Dec.1||vs. Cleveland Browns||4:25 PM||CBS|
|14||Sun. Dec.8||at Arizona Cardinals||4:25 PM||CBS|
|15||Sun. Dec.15||vs. Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM||CBS|
|16||Sun. Dec.22||at New York Jets||1:00 PM||CBS|
|17||Sun. Dec.29||at Baltimore Ravens||1:00 PM||CBS|
We’ll get a good sense of where things stand in Pittsburgh after Week 1. The club opens up on the road at the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. The team has a bye in Week 7, but the path to get there is challenging.
Following the game with the Patriots, the Steelers will face off with potential playoff teams for four of the next five games. Right out of the bye, Pittsburgh will have three straight home games. That’s followed by a pair of road tilts with divisional foes.
The Steelers will have five games in the month of December, three of which will be on the road. As of right now, it looks like a relatively navigable stretch, but we’ll also have to wait and see how the season pans out for the Bills and Jets.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 Outlook
The Browns are currently favored to win the AFC North, with the Steelers the second choice of the oddsmakers. It looks like it’ll be a three-team race between those two squads and the Ravens. A split with those two squads and a sweep of the Bengals would give Pittsburgh a 4-2 mark in the division.
For the remaining AFC schedule, the team hits the road to take on the Patriots, Chargers, and Jets. They’ll be home to face the Dolphins, Colts, and Bills. A home sweep isn’t out of the question, while 1-2 for the road tilts seems like a reasonable expectation.
The Steelers will face the NFC West for interconference play. That means home games with the Seahawks and Rams, and away contests at the 49ers and Cardinals. Three wins for this part of the schedule is doable.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 Win Total Odds and Pick
Here is where the NFL betting sites have set the bar for the Steelers this coming year.
Total Regular Season Wins:
Betting odds provided by: MyBookie.ag
The AFC North schedule may be even tougher than normal this year. The Browns are expected to be much improved, while the Ravens are a playoff squad from last year. It’s looking like a transition year for the Bengals, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be laying down for division rivals.
A mark of 3-3 in division play should be a given, while 4-2 is possible. For the rest of the AFC schedule, the same applies. Pittsburgh should at least split those six games, but four wins is obtainable. The NFC West schedule is tricky, but the Steelers can get two for three wins there as well.
This is all based on the talent level of the team. The wild card in the equation is team chemistry. Has all of the drama finally exited Pittsburgh, or will there be even more to come?
We’ll have to see what develops on that front, but the schedule and talent points to a 10-win squad, which lands us on the Over.