The Steelers have had a successful season so far; they had one of the best records in the league and earned a first round bye. This was no boring season for the Steelers; it was filled with drama and major events. Lets take a look at some of the major moments of the season and guess what would’ve happened if things went differently?
1. April: The Draft
The Steelers had a very successful draft, getting outside linebacker TJ Watt in the first round and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 2nd round. Both players have made major contributions to the team.
What if: they were busts? If Watt wasn’t a good linebacker, James Harrison would’ve played more and would still be on the team. If JuJu wasn’t good, the Steelers would’ve relied on Eli Rogers more and the offense would’ve suffered.
2. Training Camp: Le’Veon Bell’s Holdout
The Steelers tried to sign Le’Veon Bell to a long term deal, but could not agree to a deal. They ended up putting the Franchise Tag on him and signing him to a 1 year deal. Bell held out of training camp and started the season slow.
What if: Bell signed that long term deal? He would’ve reported to training camp and probably would’ve started the season better. It really didn’t matter though because he still a terrific season and reinforced his status as the best all around running back.
3. The National Anthem Game
After President Trump attacked football players for kneeling during the national anthem, players from every team decided how they will respond. The Steelers decided to stay in the tunnel during the national anthem. After a mix up, former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva was the only player that stood on the field for the anthem. The controversy caused fans to denounce the team and burn jerseys. Steelers players were divided on how the situation was handled. The Steelers were heavily favored against the Bears but ended up losing. Players admitted that the anthem controversy was a distraction.
What if: they won that game? They’d finish the season 14-2 and would’ve had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
4. The Chiefs Game
The Steelers were reeling going into their week 6 matchup against the Chiefs in Kansas City. They were 3-2 and facing a Chiefs team that was undefeated. They did not look good in the early part of the season and the Chiefs were heavily favored. But they played a great game against the Chiefs and went ahead on a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown that was bobbled by a Chiefs’ defender and bounced into Brown’s hands.
What if: that touchdown didn’t happen and the Steelers lost? Their record would’ve been 3-3, the season may have gone into disarray and they probably would’ve barely made the playoffs.
5. Ben Struggles
Ben Roethlisberger did not have a good start to the season. His throws were off and it seemed like he was tired and old. He played his worst game as a pro in week 5 against Jacksonville, throwing 5 interceptions. It was so bad that after the game he said ‘maybe I don’t have it anymore’. He rebounded greatly from that game and was one of the league’s best quarterbacks the rest of the season.
What if: he continued to struggle? Most likely he would’ve announced his retirement and the chances of the Steelers even making the playoffs would not have been good.
6. Martavis Bryant Drama
Martavis Bryant returned to the team after a 1 year suspension for drug use. He was without a doubt the team’s number 2 receiver before the suspension and had amazing potential. How would he return and what would his role be after the team drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster? Bryant did not have a great year and it appeared JuJu passed him on the depth chart. Bryant did not take this well, demanding a trade and trashing JuJu on social media. This led to the team suspending him for one game. Bryant was better after that off the field and on it.
What if: he continued his had behavior? Maybe the team would’ve suspended or cut him like they did with James Harrison. He hasn’t had a great year, but he still keeps defenses honest with his deep threat.
7. The Patriots Game
The Steelers were obsessed with playing New England after getting blown out in the AFC Championship game last January. It turned out their week 14 matchup at Heinz Field would determine who would get the number 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. It was a close game but the Patriots ended up winning 27-24. There was a controversial play in the game where it appeared Jesse James caught the ball at the Patriots’ 1 yard line but the replay official determined he didn’t make the catch.
What if: they ruled he made the catch the Steelers won the game? The Steelers would’ve ended up with the number 1 seed and might be hosting the rematch with New England.