“Expect lots of shoot-outs, donnybrooks, and even a couple barn burners.”
Last season, the Steelers were on their way to face the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, but got Blake Bortled on the way. The upstart Jacksonville Jaguars unceremoniously ended the 2017 campaign, which set off a chain reaction of finger pointing across Steelers Nation. All the usual suspects got the finger, including Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley and the entire secondary. Haley wound up being the scapegoat and was banished to the nether regions of Northeast Ohio. In the offseason we learned the Steelers organization sure knows how to draft wide receivers, if only that expertise extended to evaluating talent on the other side of the ball. The 2018 season will see lots of offense, so expect lots of shoot-outs, donnybrooks, and even a couple barn burners.
Week One. After going a combined 1-31 the past two seasons, the Cleveland Browns kick off the season with an impressive drive all the way to the Pittsburgh 43-yard-line. Unfortunately for them, they are already down 14-0 when it happens. Antonio Brown’s 68-yard touchdown and Cleveland fumbling the ensuing kickoff puts Browns fans back into the usual state of loserdom. The Browns then get the Lebron-less city excited by narrowing the score to 14-10 at halftime. Then, reality sets in and the Steelers cruise to a 41-10 win. Cleveland sports radio fans inundate the airwaves with calls for the firing of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Week Two. Black-and-Gold fans get their first home tailgate since January as the Kansas City Chiefs bring their boring style of football to town. ”Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl” is already being sung in the stands as they dominate the Chiefs, 35-13.
Week Three. The Steelers make their only Monday Night Football appearance of the season in Tampa. Le’Veon Bell and James Connor both rush for 100 yards each as the Steelers show off a little in front of a national television audience. Steelers remain undefeated with a 26-21 win over the Bucs.
Week Four. Hatred is at a fever pitch as the Baltimore Ravens roll into town with new starting quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Jackson is crushed on a two-man sack by T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward early in the game, bringing old Joe Flacco comes back onto the field. The wily veteran makes it close as it is every year, but the Steelers prevail with a 20-19 win.
Week Five. Legendary losers, the Atlanta Falcons, are one of those teams that can match the Steelers’ offensive firepower. The most fun game to watch of the season sees 900 yards of total offense. A late Matt Ryan to Julio Jones touchdown is the difference as the Falcons win 44-42. Let the fans’ persecution of the secondary begin!
Week Six. Coming off their first loss of the year, the team travels to scenic Cincinnati, Ohio. The ’Natti serves up weird chili on a bed of spaghetti, unfortunately several Steeler offensive linemen get sick from eating the Queen City delicacy. Even with some mild food poisoning, the Steelers dismantle the Bengals, 38-6.
Week Seven.The Cleveland Browns are coming in hot with their first victory in two years over Tampa. Underwear model and new starting quarterback Baker Mayfield has taken over the team and the city as Cleveland feels an odd sense of pride for the six days between games. That feeling quickly vanishes like so many other Cleveland dreams when JuJu Smith-Schuster hauls in three touchdowns in a 41-17 laugher.
Week Eight. The overconfident Steelers go into Charm City and end up losing a close one to the Ravens. The team just never gets it going as fumbles by Rothliesberger and Bell are turned into touchdowns by Baltimore. Ravens 17, Steelers 13. Halfway through, the Steelers are 6-2.
Week Nine. Mike Tomlin regroups his squad for the only Thursday Night Football appearance. His team takes out their frustrations from last week on the Carolina Panthers and beat them, 31-23. The Steelers now have ten days to rest before heading to the white trash Valhalla of Jacksonville, Florida.
Week Ten. Revenge is what drives the Steelers to a 31-28 win over the Jags. Chris Boswell hits a late field goal to add to his already impressive list of game-winning kicks. The Pittsburgh victory is overshadowed by tweets from the President. Two Jacksonville players remained in the locker room during the National Anthem. Probably just locker room talk, but the Gold Star Family denigrating, Vietnam veteran P.O.W. belittling POTUS who has not had one member of his family ever fight for the country, tweets that the two Jaguars should be fired. Apparently, THEY were disrespecting the military.
Week 11. The Steelers make it to a dominating 9-2 record as both the Browns and Bengals are mathematically eliminated from contention. The 27-17 victory in Denver practically ensures that the final four teams in the AFC will be the Steelers, Patriots, and two surprise teams, just like it is every single year.
Week 12. The Los Angeles Chargers pay a visit to Heinz Field as the calendar turns to December. The Chargers look to be one of the aforementioned surprise teams in the conference. They come to town with an 8-3 record and leave with an 8-4 mark after a 37-34 Steelers win. The Steelers are 10-2 and looking unstoppable.
Week 13. Raiders wide receiver Martavis Bryant is off the wacky weed. He’s one of the few Raiders having a good season. He torches the secondary for two touchdowns but it’s not enough as the soon to be Las Vegas Raiders drop another, this time 27-14.
Week 14. It happens again. The bane of the Steelers existence is the New England Patriots. A 28-27 win on a controversial call puts the Pats in the drivers seat for home field advantage. The constant torment of losing to Brady is extended, but on the plus side, the Steelers are 11-3.
Week 15. The team gets their focus back in a 35-33 win over Drew Brees and the Saints. Two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks put on a display as the Steelers leave the Big Easy at 12-3.
Week 16. The Steelers rest their regulars and are still good enough to beat the Bengals, 31-20. Mason Rudolph throws two touchdowns and the Bengals go home and prepare to make a bad draft pick in 2019.
Playoffs. The Steelers set team records in yardage, points, and touchdowns in 2018. But the playoffs are different. The hard truth is that since the beginning of the 2011 season the Steelers have won only three playoff games, that’s less than Colin Kaepernick has won since 2011 and he hasn’t played in three years. Defense wins championships and the Steelers don’t have it. The L.A. Chargers come to town and pull an upset 26-21. The only solace is that the Patriots are knocked out also by the Jags. A great season of 13-3 will still be considered unsuccessful, the off season focus turns to defense. Fans complain about Tomlin for a week and then turn their focus to the Penguins.
Mike Wysocki is a Pittsburgh Current Columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org