The loss to New Orleans isn’t on JuJu Smith-Schuster, a fake punt call or any other mistake by the Pittsburgh Steelers. But their slim chances at making the playoffs is on no one but themselves.
The NFL is a constantly changing league. This season, the Steelers realized fast they aren’t as far ahead of the pack as they thought coming into the year. Now, with one game remaining and a small chance at a playoff birth hanging in the hands of the Browns, they’re looking for someone to blame.
The answer is complicated. Losing the Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Ravens, and tying the Browns is on no one but themselves. A few made field goals, fewer interceptions and coming out of the season hot instead of ice cold would’ve changed the destiny of this team.
Despite all the struggles, poor play calling, losing streaks and constant reminders that Keith Butler needs to be fired, Pittsburgh someone found themselves still a head. A Week 17 matchup with the Bengals all but decided the AFC North, but only if they came into the Superdome and won.
The loss to the Saints is not their loss. No one ever wants to ref an NFL game but the unit that called the Steelers, Saints matchup needs to be evaluated. Not one, not two, not three, but four pass interference calls where completely wrong. Everyone says overcome the obstacles to prove you’re great but they don’t say you need to score 35 points in order to overcome those obstacles.
The NFL needs to evaluate challenging pass interference calls moving forward. They didn’t just cost the game, they potentially cost Pittsburgh a season. In a time where refs are worse than they’ve ever been, the league is almost forced to handle this at some point this offseason.
Pittsburgh’s season isn’t on the refs, the Saints game is. You can chalk Week 16 up to the guys in stripes, but potentially missing the playoffs comes down to poor coaching all season, terrible execution on both sides of the ball and a defense that was as hot and cold as any in the NFL.
The season isn’t over, yet. For one week all of Steelers Nation will be cheering for Baker and the Browns to overcome the Ravens and send their division rivals to the playoffs. But as drastic as Cleveland has changed, they aren’t where they want to be. Saying anything is guaranteed is far-fetched, but you can believe there is hope.
2018 hasn’t gone the way Pittsburgh wanted it to and it’s on no one but themselves. One thing can be assumed though – if this team does end up in the postseason they can beat anyone. On the road, at home, it doesn’t matter, the Steelers can shine with the brightest. But if they don’t make the playoffs, someone’s losing their job. Some say Tomlin, but more realistic would be Butler and Joey Porter.
Week 17 is going to be dramatic. For all of Steelers Nation, it’s a week of pondering and searching for answers. For the organization, it’s preparing for Cincinnati . If need be, answers from the front office will come while the Ravens are hunting for a title.