Was the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Season a Success?
As we all know the Pittsburgh Steelers season ended last Saturday thanks to the Baltimore Ravens. After two 8-8 seasons, winning the AFC North with an 11-5 record was an improvement. However, a first round playoff exit to the Steelers most hated rival isn’t exactly the lasting image of the 2014 Steelers their fans were hoping for. The way the playoff game was played and ended, begs the question was the 2014 Steelers season a success or not?
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While it’s been said by just about everyone associated with the NFL over the years that there is only one successful team at the end of every year with 31 losers. It’s also been said that, “There are no moral victories in the NFL.” I understand all of that and us being fans of the team with the most Lombardi Trophies, maybe our expectations should always be Super Bowl or bust. That being said, I think the answer to the, “was the season a success or not?” is far more complicated than a simple NO, just because the Steelers didn’t win a championship.
After starting the season 3-3, it appeared this Steelers team was destined for their third 8-8 season or maybe even worse in 2014. Especially considering they had already lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home and had just gotten crushed by three touchdowns to the Cleveland Browns. This year’s team finished the season winning eight of their final ten games. Sure they had the head-scratching loss to the New York Jets and the loss after their bye week to the New Orleans Saints wasn’t a good showing, but the Steelers earned their way into the playoffs with two wins over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Steelers had numerous flaws this year that were always present in their losses, but in their four straight victories to end the year they had seemed to cover those flaws up. Unfortunately those flaws showed up again last weekend such as settling for field goals, undisciplined play, and starting off slowly.
One reason this year can be seen as a positive is thanks to their offense. Heading into the year everybody already wanted Todd Haley to be fired. Maybe you still do because of his playing calling in the red zone, but he did turn this offense into one of the best in the NFL.
Ben Roethlisberger had his best statistical year and was hit less than ever before. Antonio Brown has become an All-Pro unstoppable force at wide receiver. The Steelers also found weapons to go alongside Brown. Markus Wheaton caught 53 passes after only six in his rookie year and Martavis Bryant, after missing the teams first six games, caught eight touchdowns for over 500 yards.
Le’Veon Bell impressed everyone all year-long with his patience, quickness, pass catching, and blocking. He is a stud, who will be fun to watch in the years to come. The Steelers offensive line was finally solid, maybe not great all the time, but compared to previous years they were an improved group.
The Steelers offense should be just as good next year considering the team’s only free agents on offense are Matt Spaeth, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Palmer, and Ben Tate.
Oct 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Antwon Blake (41) intercepts a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 51-34. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Defensively the Steelers proved they have tons of room for improvement and they gave us little answers about the future. The question heading into this year was what young guys will step up in fill in for the older veterans. Ryan Shazier barely made an impact. Jarvis Jones got hurt. Mike Mitchell looks like the worst free agent signing of all-time. Cortez Allen got paid for some reason despite being awful. Jason Worilds’ sack total went down despite being paid nearly $10 million.
On the positive side, Cameron Heyward had a good season with 7.5 sacks. Lawrence Timmons finally earned his first pro-bowl selection and William Gay made some huge plays. Brice McCain and Antwon Blake started to play well at the end of the year.
As for the veterans, the future remains unclear. Ike Taylor’s tenure on the Steelers is likely over. Troy Polamalu is rumored to be on his way out if the Steelers can’t re-work his contract. We have probably seen the last of Brett Keisel and if James Harrison wants to come back it will likely be at a higher price.
Seeing the defense struggle at times this year was beyond frustrating. The lasting image for me will be watching Mike Glennon lead the 2-14 Buccaneers down the field in the fourth quarter for a victory, while the Steelers defense made him look like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
Personally, I never thought this year’s team was going to win a Super Bowl. They consistently had trouble scoring touchdowns in the red zone and their defense was never close to being great. When the Steelers were 3-3 and losing on Monday Night to the Houston Texans, I was prepared for a 5-11 season and hoping for some serious changes in the organization from top to bottom. While some people may have preferred that option, this is not the NBA. Tanking makes little sense in the NFL when you already have a franchise quarterback.
The Steelers turned the Texans game around and that victory propelled them to winning eight out of ten games. Making the playoffs felt like an accomplishment considering the last time the Steelers had been in the postseason the Tim Tebow debacle occurred. Had the Steelers been able to beat the Ravens last Saturday to really prove they ran the North, I think the season could have been considered a step in the right direction, if not a successful year. Who knows, they may have been able to give the Denver Broncos a run for their money if Le’Veon Bell could have played in the Divisional Round.
However, the 13-point loss to the Ravens makes me lean towards the side that the 2014 Steelers season wasn’t a success. Sure their offense showed they can be great and the defense had a few good games but in the end the only difference between this year’s team and the previous two seasons, was three victories and a useless t-shirt after week 17.
What do you think Steelers Nation? Was this year somewhat successful or is any year without a Super Bowl victory a failure?