News & Analysis

Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 season recap

By PFF Analysis Team
Feb 8, 2019

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Dec 30, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers safety safety Marcus Allen (27) and cornerback Mike Hilton (28) and linebacker Tyler Matakevich (44) watched the Ravens play the Browns on the big screen at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

During the NFL season, our team of 300-plus staff spend around 20,000 man-hours grading and analyzing every play of the NFL season, from the kickoff in the Hall of Fame game to the final play of the Super Bowl.

Now that the 2018 season is officially in the books, we can now take a look back at the season through the eyes of each NFL team and using the grades and statistics that we have compiled, we and detail what went right, what went wrong and explain what that team has to look forward to.

Below is the 2018 season recap for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Overview

The Pittsburgh Steelers had an up and down season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time since 2013, but there were still many highlights to carry them into 2019.

What went right?
  • Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had a breakout season, ranking 18th among NFL receivers with an 81.8 overall grade. His 1,426 receiving yards ranked fifth in the league, while his 111 receptions tied for fifth.

  • Running back James Conner replaced Le’Veon Bell’s production with a 73.0 overall grade to go with 974 rushing yards, 497 yards through the air, and 13 total touchdowns.

  • Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva‘s continued his annual improvement as his pass-blocking grade of 84.0 was a top 10 mark this season.

What went wrong
  • The linebacker play was poor as both Jon Bostic & L.J. Fort finished with below-average coverage grades while each allowed over 80.0% of targeted passes to be caught into their coverage.
  • Artie Burns allowed the second-highest passer rating in coverage (149.0) among all cornerbacks. 

  • Rookie WR James Washington disappointed with a 49.4 overall grade, tying for lowest graded with John Ross of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Highest-graded player on offense

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 81.8 

Smith-Schuster was the highest-graded player on the offensive side of the ball and the team’s breakout star as he caught 68.9 percent of his targets compared to only 63.4 percent for teammate Antonio Brown.

Highest-graded player on defense

Edge Cameron Heyward, 84.9

Heward posted the top defensive grade, as his 84.9 overall mark ranked 19th among interior defensive linemen while his 59 total pressures ranked fifth.

Key rookie

RB Jaylen Samuels, 70.2

Jaylen Samuels was a key rookie contributor showing his versatility with 26 receptions on 29 targets and three scores through the air to go with 4.6 yards per carry on 56 rushes.

In conclusion

As long as Ben Roethlisberger is at the helm, the Steelers are a playoff contender, and 2019 should be no different.

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