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(Pittsburgh,PA) Like their 2018 season, the ball didn’t bounce the Pittsburgh Steelers way when they needed it the most. The good news is that they close out the regular season with a 16-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but the bad news is that they needed a Cleveland Browns win over the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North Division for a playoff berth. Unfortunately, those hopes fell short as the Browns fought valiantly but lost 26-24 to the Ravens, eliminating the Steelers from the postseason for the first time since 2013.
“I am appreciative of the efforts.” Said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin “We were able to control the things that were within our control today. We got our fourth AFC North win, I am appreciative of that. Can’t say enough about the efforts of the guys particularly like Matt McCrane coming in getting on a moving trail and kicking the way today.”
McCrane played his first game for the Steelers after replacing K Chris Boswell and was 3-for-3, including the game winner. Like all kickers that the Steelers find off the street (Ex: Jeff Reed, Shaun Shusham, Boswell) McCrane had one job to do, and he did it well.
But it hurts the Steelers as they will now have to watch the playoffs at home and not contend for a Super Bowl. “We accept the outcome.” Said Tomlin “obviously we had 17 weeks to state a case for ourselves. We stand by our work, you have to in this business.”
The Steelers had to fight valiantly against a Bengals team (6-10) that lost 18 payers due to injury and but who also took a 10-0 lead when QB Ben Roethlisberger pass was intercepted and returned 58 yard for a TD by LB Shawn Williams to give them a 7-0 lead. The Steelers offense continued to sleepwalk as the Bengals added 3 more points on a Randy Bullock FG. McCrane’s FG closed the game to 10-3 before the half.
The Steelers would then tie the game in the second half when Roethlisberger found WR Juju Smith Shuster for an 11-yard TD. It was set-up by a Big Ben to rookie WR James Washington 47-yard pass. Then both teams exchanged field goals with McCrane getting the final 2 for the victory. The Steelers and the fans watched the outcome of the Ravens/Browns game before Baltimore clinched it. The Steelers ended the season 9-6-1.
When asked about missing the playoffs, Tomlin replied “Again, I’m not getting into that. I was talking about what happened in the stadium today. The assessment of this game and so forth. You know, we can paint with a broader brush on Tuesday.”
It truly was an odd season of sorts for the Steelers as they were hoping to get to the Super Bowl after a 13-3 record last season. Their first game ended with a tie, and then they stormed to 7-2-1 on a 6 game winning streak, which included a dramatic victory vs. Jacksonville. But a 3-game losing streak to Denver, the LA Chargers and Oakland doomed this team as the Ravens began to lurk closer. Not even a huge win over New England could assure a playoff spot, especially when the Steelers fell to New Orleans the following week. It’s never easy when a team has to rely on
others for a playoff spot. The problem was that the Steelers didn’t handle their own business in 2013.
“The ball didn’t go our way sometimes” Said Steelers DE Cam Heyward “Our execution and critical moments weren’t where they needed to be. It’s going to be a long offseason.”
Then there were other distractions: RB Le’Veon Bell’s holdout in which he didn’t play a down this season, Boswell’s struggles as he led the league with 12 missed FGs, and then the defense which failed to close games. For them to struggle so and finish 9-6-1 still shows how close they were to the postseason, but yet so far.
When asked if the Steelers underachieved, Tomlin replied “I am not getting into that. We are what our record says it is.
So now the Steelers will go into the offseason and heal up, physically and emotionally with hopes of making the necessary changes to get back into the fight for 2019. “It is what it is.” Said Tomlin “We’ll assess tomorrow and obviously move forward, but hard-fought game today, appreciate of the efforts. It’s tough, the end result of it all, it always is.”
Notes: WR Antonio Brown didn’t play today because of injuries to his knee. LB Vince Williams and S Sean Davis was also out. RB James Conner returned and ran for 64 yards and finished with 973 for the season. Roethlisberger became the first Steelers QB to pass for over 5,000 yards with his 287 yard effort today. Smith-Shuster finished with over 1,400 yards and LB TJ Watt finished with 13 sacks.
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