STEELERS FINISH 8-8 FOR SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR, MISS POSTSEASON AGAIN
The Pittsburgh Steelers started this season in the worst way possible, going 0-4 in the first month and making it nearly impossible to qualify for the postseason.
The only team to begin a season 0-4 and get into the playoffs since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 was the San Diego Chargers in 1992.
Yet the Steelers continued to play hard and improved gradually through the season’s next three months, particularly on offense.
Heading into today’s regular-season finale, the Steelers sported a 7-8 record and surprisingly remained in contention for a postseason berth.
Needing a victory over the Cleveland Browns at home, and also losses by the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and the San Diego Chargers to extend their season into 2014, the Steelers got the first three items on their holiday wish list, with a convincing 20-7 win at Heinz Field and Baltimore and Miami defeats.
However, the Steelers’ hopes were dashed in the evening when the Chargers downed the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime by a 27-24 score, putting the Chargers in the AFC #6 postseason spot with a 9-7 record.
STEELERS GET THE JOB DONE AGAINST THE BROWNS
Facing off against their AFC North rivals in the afternoon in miserable weather conditions, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 19-of-31 passes for 179 yards and a first-quarter touchdown to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
Roethlisberger also tossed an uncharacteristic two interceptions while trying to deal with the rain and appeared to have trouble gripping the football.
Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell finished a strong second-half of the season by toting the pigskin 20 times for 90 yards, including a five-yard scoring run.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown capped off a Pro Bowl season with nine more catches for 87 yards. Brown finished the campaign with 110 receptions-second-best in the NFL to the Washington Redskins’ Pierre Garcon-and came up just a yard short of 1,500 receiving yards overall.
Cleveland signal caller Jason Campbell was a serviceable 23-of-41 throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown, but also tossed an interception and lost a fumble.
Browns rookie running back Edwin Baker continued to show some promise with 18 rushes for 69 yards, while fellow first-year tailback Fuzzy Whittaker hauled in a 35-yard Campbell heave for the Browns’ lone touchdown.
Cleveland finished the year with a disappointing 4-12 record, and the Browns have not had a winning season since 2007.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, will watch the postseason from home through the long winter and can begin to assess how to improve the roster for 2014.
Patrick Hattman is a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan who is discouraged by the team’s decline to mediocrity the past couple of years and hopes for a return to winning ways in 2014.