The 2014 season is now officially in the books.The Steelers had many ups and down in what was a roller coaster ride of a season to say the least.
It was a season of growth and moving forward. After two straight 8-8 seasons the Steelers made the play-offs after finishing the 2014 season 11-5 and as AFC North Champions.
Let’s now take a look at the Good, the Bad, and Ugly of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 season.
After two non playoff seasons the Steelers rebounded to go 11-5 and win the AFC North. There were many factors that contributed to the Steelers success in 2014 and none was bigger than the emergence of second year running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell established himself as an elite NFL running back able to do it all out of the backfield. He picked up blitzes and was QB Ben Roethlisberger’s safety valve outlet on many occasions.
Bell ran for 1361 yards for a 4.7 yard average and 8 touchdown. He also caught 83 passes for 854 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bell was named team MVP by his teammates in 2014.He was selected to the Pro Bowl and also was named as an NFL All Pro.
QB Ben Roethlisberger also had a career year finishing the season tied for most passing yards in the NFL for 2014 with 4952 yards.
He had 32 touchdown passes and only 9 interceptions . He finished the season with a QB rating of 103.3 and was selected to the 2014 Pro Bowl.
Roethlisberger showed why he is among the elite franchise quarterbacks in the NFL.
Bell and Roethlisberger were not the only players having career seasons. WR Antonio Brown led the NFL in receiving with 129 receptions and 1698 yards receiving. The 129 catches were second on the NFL all time list. Brown was selected to the Pro Bowl and named an All Pro.
Antonio Brown was probably the most consistent player on the Steelers team and maybe in the NFL .He has proven to be an elite number 1 NFL receiver and the sky seems to be the limit. He also was a threat on punt returns.
Second year receiver Markus Wheaton showed great progress catching 53 passes for 644 yards and two touchdowns.
Rookie WR Martavis Bryant came on strong providing a great deep threat catching 26 passes for 549 yards and 8 touchdowns . He averaged 21.1 yards a catch for the season. Bryant looks to have a bright future moving forward and should only get better.
TE Heath Miller proved he has plenty left in the tank as he caught 66 passes for 761 yards and 3 touchdowns. Miller was also an asset in the running game making many key blocks .
The Steelers offensive line made great strides in 2014. The hiring of offensive line coach Mike Munchak proved to be a great move. Center Maurkice Pouncey was selected to the Pro Bowl and named an All Pro.
Guard David DeCastro had a break out year and looks to have the makings of something special. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum had a good season and looks to have secured the left tackle spot in his third season.Ramon Foster was steady as usual. The Steelers offensive line is a young unit and looks to be developing into a strength for the teams future.
On defense Linebacker Lawrence Timmons led the team in tackles once again with 132 tackles. He also had 2 sacks. Timmons was selected to the Pro Bowl for the very first time in his career.
DE Cam Heyward had another great season an should have made the Pro Bowl . He had 33 tackles and 7.5 sacks tying for the team lead. He also led the team in QB hurries with 36. Heyward has become a great leader on the field and in the locker room .
Long time veterans DE Brett Keisel and OLB James Harrison proved worthy of their returns providing good play and veteran leadership to a young Steelers defense. Harrison had 5.5 sacks Keisel had a sack and interception before his season ending injury.Rookie DE Stephon Tuitt took over for Keisel and showed flashes of greatness. The Steelers expect great things from Tuitt in 2015 and he should only get better.
CB William Gay proved to be the Steeler most consistent player in the secondary. He collected 3 interceptions returning each for touchdowns.
CB Brice McCain and CB Antwon Blake provided quality depth to a depleted Steelers secondary. McCain had 3 interceptions and Blake had 1.
ILB Sean Spence made a remarkable comeback from his horrific knee injury with both Spence and ILB Vince Williams providing quality play and depth on the inside for the Steelers defense.
Outside Linebacker Jason Worilds tied for the team lead with 7.5 sacks.
On special teams kicker Shaun Suisham was once again Mr. Reliable hitting 90.6% of his field goals making 29 of 32 attempts with a long of 53 yards.
This 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers team took a lot of good steps in the right direction but in the end was not ready to take that big step . Still the future looks bright with some minor adjustments and additions in 2015.
The bad that stands out most in 2014 was losing to teams with losing records.The Steelers lost at home 27-24 to a very bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that ended the season 2-14 and with the worst record in the NFL.
The Steelers also lost 20-13 to the hapless Jets on the road. The Jets finished 4-12.
They also lost to the Saints at Heinz Field 35-32. The Saints finished with a record of 7-9.
The Steelers got beat by a dysfunctional Cleveland Browns team in Cleveland 31-10. The Browns would finish the season 7-9.
The bottom line is great teams don’t lose to bottom feeding teams like these and especially not at home.
Be it growing pains, bad preparation, bad coaching , bad player effort, or just bad luck this is a trend the Steelers must correct moving forward in 2015 and beyond to become an elite team.
The Steelers defense needs to pressure opposing quarterbacks more often and get more sacks.They finished with just 33 sacks ranking them just 26th in the NFL. 33 is their lowest total in 24 seasons.
The Steelers have invested a lot in their linebackers recently and desperately need these players to step up.
The Steelers have not drafted high for the secondary in recent drafts and its beginning to show big time. The Steelers secondary was depleted by injuries and age in 2014 as past stars like Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor now enter the final stages of their football careers.
The Steelers need to find answers in the secondary and fast.
The Steelers run defense did improve as the season moved along but still gave up 4.4 yards a carry and that is way too much. The Steelers need quality depth up front on the defensive line.
The Steelers offense had a great year but still had its problems in the Red-Zone at crucial times.They must improve in this area to become a consistent powerhouse offense.
A decent back-up running back option may be a priority for the future.
Many have questioned if longtime star veterans like Troy Polamalu,James Harrison,Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor have played their last games as Steelers?.The better question may be are the Steelers prepared to replace them?