Yoi and double yoi! Our Pittsburgh Steelers season ended a few weeks too soon but what a ride it was. Now that she's had time to come off the ledge following Sunday's 36-17 pummeling at the hands of the Patriots, Mrs. Black-N-Gold looks back on the 2016 season while also looking ahead to 2017 (start making travel plans for the Super Bowl!). We'll look at this on a unit-by-unit basis. Let's kick things off, shall we?
P Jordan Berry and K Chris Boswell had their good games and their bad games this season. Without Boz, the Steelers would not have won the playoff game in KC. The return game was another story entirely. It seems like the returns are treated as an afterthought because apart from WR Antonio Brown, the Steelers don't have a return threat, at all. And Brown wasn't very impressive this season when he was back there, usually settling for a fair catch. When the Steelers drafted WR Demarcus Ayers, he was highly touted for his return resumes. When he finally made the active roster, the Steelers never even gave him a shot. Surely, Ayers would be better than the ineffective RB Fitzgeral Touissant who returned kicks for a spell this season. And the gunners on the return team didn't truly begin to take their jobs seriously and pin back runners until the playoffs. More often than not, the defense had to play on a short field thanks to large chunks of yardage given up by the special teams. It's time to start treating special teams as an integral part of this organization, which it is. Make special teams "special" again.
The goal of the offense this season was to average 30 points per game. Close by no cigar at 24.9. They continued to have breakdowns in the red zone, all they way through the playoffs. It will be nice to see RB Le'Veon Bell for an entire season next year (provided the team re-signs the free agent). Will they also see the return of WR Martavis Bryant? Goodness knows Bryant's presence could help in the passing game. When you're forced to go with practice squad pass-catchers in the AFC Championship, your receiving corps is in trouble. Speaking of trouble, can WR Antonio Brown keep out of trouble with the league (TD celebrations, non-league approved cleats) and his coach and teammates (FB Live fiasco)? Or will the Steelers even keep him? And how about TE Ladarius Green? Was that free agent signing money will spent? Now QB Ben Roethlisberger is contemplating retirement (maybe). Good thing the offensive line is rock solid but they may be without LT Aljeandro Villenueva next year as he hits free agency, too. It's a shame that this unit is always shrouded under a cloud of controversy, otherwise it could be legendary.
The defense had somethings old (LB James Harrison, CB William Gay, LB Lawrence Timmons) and somethings new (CB Artie Burns, S Sean Davis, DL Javon Hargrave). It seemed once the youngsters cracked the starting lineup and Harrison reinserted himself, too, the Steelers started stacking wins. Unfortunately, DL Cam Heyward missed most of the season with injuries. Had Cam stayed healthy, maybe the D could have been scary good. Goodness knows they could have used him in New England. Anyway, if the youngsters can stay focused and maintain a good work ethic, their arrows will be pointing up. Meanwhile, Deebo, Willie & LT are some more players looking at free agency. #92 has already stated that he'd like to return for another season. Don't count on another season in Black-N-Gold for fellow LB Jarvis Jones, who is at the end of his rookie contract. Mrs. Black-N-Gold thinks it's now safe to label the former #1 pick a "bust". The Steelers will probably draft a linebacker or two in the draft.
In his season-ending news conference, Coach Tomlin wouldn't commit to all his assistants returning. That's understandable since, like the team themselves, the coaching was consistently inconsistent. Give the credit for rallying the team to a 9-game winning streak when they were in danger of missing the playoffs. It's a a shame that in their losses they looked totally undisciplined and unprepared. Sometimes it's the players. Sometimes it's the coaching. Maybe it's both? It's up to the coaches to figure it out and make the necessary adjustments, much like the changes in the starting lineup that help ignite the winning streak. And, of course, there is the nasty habit of losing on the road to sub-.500 teams. And don't forget, the Steelers have go to stop being the Patriots b*tch. Think about it. When Cower led them to a Super Bowl and when Tomlin got them a Lombardi and another trip to The Big Game, they never faced the Pats. Someone else always had to beat New England for them. Until they knock the Pats down, they'll never, truly, be kings of the mountain.
Mrs. Black-N-Gold will check in with the Steelers from time to time to see how they're doing. We've go the free agency period and the combine and the draft and OTAs and before you know it, it will be time to kickoff training camp. Let's Go Steelers!!!!!!