No team in the modern era of football has ever started a season 11-0 and then lost three consecutive games, but that’s exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers have done. For most football fans, this was an unforeseen outcome; the best football teams are typically the undefeated ones. But for me, I couldn’t buy the hype.
There are three simple reasons why the Steelers were overrated at 11-0:
1. Unimpressive wins
2. Defense doesn’t matter enough
3. Big Ben is a shell of himself
Let’s go back to three weeks ago when the Steelers were considered “the best team in football.” Looking at their schedule, seven out of their 11 wins came against below .500 teams.
Their four "good" wins came against a Browns team that was still finding their identity;
the Titans, who were one bad referee call away from losing; and the struggling Ravens, twice—almost losing to them with Trace McSorley as the starting QB.
None of these wins were impressive, which is why I was so confident in saying that the Steelers were an overrated football team.
Another reason that I was suspect of the Steelers was this one simple fact: Defense doesn’t matter. Defense simply won’t win you games consistently over a season-long span. At first glance that seems like a very bold take, but let me break it down for you.
Saying defense doesn’t matter isn’t entirely true. But there’s more truth to it than fallacy. Having a good defense can be very valuable if your offense is competent. But in this case for the Steelers, their offensive flaws were hidden from the public eye due to their defensive stature.
For example, the 2018 Bears had the best defense of the century and lost to Philadelphia in the playoffs; the other side of that argument this year would be the Chiefs and Titans—both horrific defenses that are saved solely by their offensive firepower. Now, you might be thinking to yourself that defense does in fact matter because they can force turnovers, get sacks, and force three and outs. But against the best QBs in the game—which you’ll eventually face in the playoffs—turnovers are pure luck.
Against Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, turnovers are almost impossible to come by. Aaron Rodgers has thrown four picks all year and has changed his sack percentage per drop back from 11% last year to only 3%. So, if you’re Pittsburgh and you’re walking into Green Bay, you’re really going to tell me that your defense can win this game for you? That you’ll force enough turnovers to change the game? That they’ll be able to disrupt the QB on every play? No. This way of thinking should have died five years ago.
Football simply isn’t the same game it was back then. The only thing a defense is good for is slowing them down. You cannot win games with your defense, as it’s statistically proven to be false. So now the question becomes, "Can the Steelers offense get the old Big Ben from three years ago back?"
The Steelers' offense this year has been worse than advertised, and Big Ben plays a large part in that. He ranks 25th in PFF Quarterback Grade (68.7) after the Cincinnati game, and his passing grade is worse than Taysom Hill (69.7) and Nick Foles (68.3). Yes, you read that correctly—Taysom Hill and Nick Foles: an old fart and a tight end that can occasionally flash good QB play.
Big Ben has simply been a below-average game managing quarterback this year. He leads the league in lowest time to throw, with an extremely low average depth of target—which is a very concerning statistic for a quarterback to have if they're unable to attack downfield consistently. Big Ben sustains drives with the short game and relies on his receivers' ability to create yards after the catch. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being accurate and taking what the defense gives you, but if you can’t create big plays on your own—there’s absolutely no way you can keep up with the QB talent in the league right now.
Looking at the last two games of the Steelers' season, they play Indianapolis and Cleveland—two hot teams with better offenses. I think it’s safe to say that they will lose both of these games and end the season on a five-game losing streak. It’s time for Pittsburgh to throw in the towel.