The Steelers just fell short of making the playoffs in 2019. Could they be doing what the Titans are doing in the AFC this year?
Football fans everywhere are in disbelief about what’s happening in the AFC playoff race. The Tenessee Titans, a team that was given a very small chance to make the playoffs coming out of their Week 11 bye, has shocked the nation by beating the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens on the road in back to back weeks. Tenessee’s string of success got me thinking: Could the Steelers be doing the same thing?
Pittsburgh had a brilliant stretch in the middle of the 2019 season – winning 7 of 8 games from Week 6 to Week 14. However, their luck ran out mid-December. Though they were once favorites to claim the last wildcard spot in the AFC, the Steelers took themselves out of the running after losing three straight games to close the season.
In their place, the Titans leapfrogged Pittsburgh for the final spot in the AFC playoffs. Led by former backup quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, Tenessee was a longshot to knock of New England in Foxborough, but after doing the impossible, in the wildcard round, the Titans shocked the nation again this past weekend – defeating the Ravens in Baltimore.
While it’s frustrating to think that Pittsburgh could be in the same boat right now, let me ease your mind by saying the Steelers wouldn’t be here.
Though Pittsburgh’s defense was clearly dominant in 2019, have we so quickly forgotten the atrocious offensive play that got us into this mess in the first place?
Neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges has shown any reason to believe that the Steelers could do enough on offense to knock out two of the best teams in the AFC. Pittsburgh’s 18.1 points per game were good for 27th in the league, and they averaged just 10.0 points per contest over their last three performances – the lowest in the NFL.
While Ryan Tannehill isn’t exactly Patrick Mahomes, he’s been a respectable passer in the second half of this season. The Titans also possess a lethal rushing attack thanks to the surge of dominance by Derrick Henry, and it’s completely unreasonable to believe Pittsburgh would have had the same success on the ground.
In addition, as good as the Steelers defense is, they couldn’t have played Lamar Jackson any better than the Titans did. They contained the duel-threat quarterback most of the game – allowing just a 63.2 passer rating and 12 points on offense.
We can stop and ponder all we want about the ‘what if’ scenarios, but don’t stress yourself out over this. The Steelers offense had hit rock-bottom, and their backup quarterbacks wouldn’t have taken them anywhere. Still, the Titans inspiring playoff run gives teams like the Steelers hope in 2020.