The Pittsburgh Steelers regular season was one of the wildest in recent memory. A roller coaster of emotions flooded Steeler Nation from the game at FedEx Field in Washington in week one all the way through Sunday afternoon’s regular season finale against Cleveland.
Steelers 2016 Regular Season Review
It started with a win in Washington and another victory at home against Cincinnati. They allowed Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz to start his rookie campaign with a 3-0 record after he beat the Steelers. Convincing victories over a potential playoff opponent in the Kansas City Chiefs and the lifeless New York Jets put the Steelers at 4-1 to begin the year soaring as high as everyone had expected them to.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Four-Game Losing Streak
Beginning with a loss against the team they will face in Sunday’s Wild Card Round, the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers’ four-game winning streak commenced.
A game the Steelers embarrassingly lost after allowing a 200+ yard breakout preformance to Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi wasn’t even the worst news in that matchup. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tore the meniscus in his knee but finished out the game as he only missed one drive.
When the torn meniscus was announced, fans saw the New England Patriots on the schedule coming up next week and went into panic mode basically guaranteeing a loss. It meant perennial backup quarterback Landry Jones would be forced to take the starting job against Tom Brady.
Jones attempted 47 passes in the 27-16 loss at home against the Patriots. He held his own for what had been expected of him and the Steelers headed into their much needed bye week.
Roethlisberger returned against the Ravens in week nine and threw for 264 yards but the Steelers lost 21-14 and fell behind Baltimore in the division heading into a week ten matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.
This game ended up being one of Roethlisberger’s finer performances of the season as he tossed three touchdown’s to go along with 408 yards and a 125.4 QBR. His brilliant fake spike to wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had a monster game himself, looked to be the dagger in what would’ve been the end of their losing skid against the NFL’s best team. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had something to say about that as he scampered easily for 32 yards into the end zone with 0:09 left to send the Heinz Field crowd home silently. The Steelers lost defensive end Cameron Heyward for the season as well with a torn bicep.
At 4-5, the Steelers fans had clamored for change everywhere on the coaching staff including head coach Mike Tomlin. It was a depressing mid-point for a team with such high hopes.
Then the unthinkable happened again.
Back To Their Winning Ways
No one in the Steelers locker room would admit defeat because they were assured of the talent that rest on the team. They truthfully from the bottom of their heart believed that they could run the table. They set a goal. They didn’t stop until it was accomplished.
It all started with a game that many believed might be the first Browns win because of how vulnerable the Steelers were at the time. They put up a season high eight sacks against a terrible offensive line and won a game that Steeler faithful needed. It had already officially eliminated the Browns from playoff contention in week 11.
After gobbling up the Colts on Thanksgiving and winning their next two games against the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, it set up a week 15 matchup with the hated Cincinnati Bengals, who wanted no more than to severely damage any playoff hopes the Steelers had.
The Bengals did exactly as the Bengals do and lost a game they had mainly controlled because of stupid penalties and a lack of composure. Kicker Chris Boswell went 6/6 on field goals to help power the win. Thus, the Steelers eliminated the Bengals as well from any outside possibility of locking up a playoff berth.
As every team annually does, the Steelers handed out their seasonal awards. Running back Le’Veon Bell won Team MVP and there was no doubt about this one. Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger are animals and had good seasons worthy of winning the award. But make no mistake, Bell was the unequivocal reason this team went on the seven-game tear. It was an incredible season that deserves even league MVP consideration.
In one of the toughest Steelers rookie of the year decisions in recent memory, strong safety Sean Davis beat out cornerback Artie Burns. They both had season’s worthy of consideration as they both started at least three-quarters of the team’s games and put up noteworthy production with their time. Burns picked off four passes while Davis finished tied for second on the team with 55 tackles.
Reaching For The AFC North
The playoffs started a bit early for the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens as their week 16 matchup ultimately decided the division either way. The Steelers win and they eliminate the Ravens from the playoffs and win the division. The Ravens win and they take over the division lead with the Steelers needing a win against Cleveland in week 17 and a Baltimore loss in Cincinnati.
Roethlisberger’s 20-yard dime to tight end Xavier Grimble gave the Steelers the early 7-0 lead but it didn’t last. By the end of the third quarter, the Ravens held a 17-10 lead and seemed to have the game in hand. Bell scored two touchdowns as the game wound down giving the Steelers the lead back.
With 1:18 left, Baltimore fullback Kyle Juszcyzk scored and seemingly won the game for Baltimore…until he didn’t.
Big Ben methodically led his team down the field as he usually does until they had one play left. The Steelers had time for one play and Brown, who ended up scoring on the play, knew it. He took the ball and as he was tackled, reached for the goal line in desperation.
Boom. Kings of the North.
Week 17 against Cleveland was mop up duty. It took overtime with the backups in but they got it done, 27-24.
The Dangerous Wild Card
An 11-5 regular season ends with a new beginning: a chance at avenging the Miami Dolphins for the early season loss that started the despair amongst Steeler Nation. The hottest team in football right now, alongside the Green Bay Packers, will be just as dangerous as any team for these next few weeks and want nothing more than a shot for their seventh Lombardi Trophy in February.