Brown, Bell, and Ben break up, never having won together.
Following Super Bowl 53, Steelers fans had to shake their heads and wonder. How could a team with seemingly a new lead back every year win Super Bowl after Super Bowl? As New England marched to their sixth Super Bowl title, and ninth appearance on the big stage since 2001, Pittsburgh fans watched, knowing that it would never be. Seemingly every year, experts picked Pittsburgh to finally get over the hump. Every year they disappointed. In 2014 it was the Ravens, 2015 the Broncos, 16 the Patriots, and 2017 the Jaguars. In 2018, they didn't even make the playoffs. They started the season by tying the hapless Cleveland Browns, who had won four games in the past three seasons, including zero in 2017. Pittsburgh finished the year losing four of the last six games, eliminating them from a playoff berth. The question is though, what really happened?
A 2013 Le'Veon Bell had some interesting thoughts regarding players who sat out during
Well, Bell sat out the entire 2018 season, right in the prime of his career, due to not receiving as much money as he thought that he deserved. Truth be told, as much as the Steelers struggled last season, very little of it was really at the running back position. Their offense in fact, began to revolve around second year back James Connor, who had 973 yard and 12 touchdowns in 13 games. The real tragedy was all of the fantasy football owners who drafted Bell! Out of the trio, Bell is easily the least valuable, despite annually ranking in the top three running backs in the league.
For the Jets, I think the Bell move is a great one. What could be the harm? Their offense needs an elite running back that they can depend on. At least until, if ever, Sam Darnold proves himself as anything but a below average QB. Last year he finished 31st in the league in QBR with a dismal 77.6, with only Josh Allen and Josh Rosen below him. He ranked 26th in yards per attempt, 26th in yards per game, and 31st in completion percentage. He also had just 17 touchdowns next to 15 interceptions. The Jets aren't going to win anything in the near future, so why not bolster your quarterbacks confidence a little, and bring in someone exciting for the fans. This is not a move to win the Super Bowl, it is so that the Jets don't go extinct.
The last time that Antonio Brown had less than 1,200 yards was 2012, and he has been incredibly durable during that time span. 2018 was the first year since 2012 that Brown finished out of the top five in receiving yards (he finished 11th), but he made up for his "low" year with a career high 15 touchdowns. But let's go back to the beginning. Brown spent three years at Central Michigan, and had 980, 998, and 1,198 yards respectively, before entering the 2010 NFL Draft. He was selected in the sixth round (remind you of anyone? Cough, cough, the GOAT), and was labeled too small to play in the NFL. He had a clean buzz cut, drastically different from now. But one thing was the same, his drive. Just like Tom Brady ten years prior, Brown let being passed on by every NFL team, multiple times, inspire him, and show the world their mistake. He grew into the league's top wide receiver, and one of the best of all time. Like Bell though, Brown had changed. He seemed done with everything that the Steelers had to offer, especially Ben Roethlisberger, whom he said had an "ownership mentality." It was clear that he was moving on, but just to who? The reported favorites were the Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans, and Oakland Raiders. The team to take the big chance on him was the Raiders.
Oakland sent Pittsburgh a third and fifth round pick for Brown, who immediately tweeted out a picture of himself photo-shopped into a Raiders uniform. Truly, Oakland fleeced the Steelers, but Pittsburgh had no other choice. AB wanted out and everyone knew it. Oakland scored only 18 points per game last year, and watched former Raiders Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack flourish in new cities. Their moves have been questionable to say the least. But, because they will be moving to Vegas, they need someone to be their man, and that is not Derek Carr. So basically for Oakland, just don't get last.
Ben Roethlisberger has nothing left to prove. He's won two Super Bowls, proven he's a hall of famer, and last year had a league leading, career high, 5129 yards. So what if he didn't make the playoffs, or never does again? The simple fact is he doesn't have the drive of guys like Tom Brady or Drew Brees. The Steelers will not win again with him as their QB. Year after year, he has been bested by tougher teams in the playoffs, so at least he didn't have to go through that again. He will still have a strong offense around though in 2018. JuJu Smith-Schuster actually finished fifth in the league (and ahead of Brown), with 1,426 receiving yards, while James Connor finished the season just rushing 27 yards shy of 1,000 last year, despite playing in only 13 games. Pittsburgh won't completely fall off a cliff, but winning times in Steeler Nation are going to be held on pause.