Pittsburgh's season started off about as poorly as it could. There were so many times when the Steelers had opportunities to right the ship and came up just short.
These are the six moments from the 2013 season that defined this team and played a huge role in it coming up just short of the playoffs.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
The Steelers went all-in on rookie running back Le’Veon Bell. When he was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, it was done because the coaching staff believed he was the answer at running back.
Unfortunately, in his second preseason game, Bell suffered a foot injury that sidelined him until the fourth game of the regular season. This may seem rather benign. A rookie running back out for a few games shouldn’t matter that much, right?
It was a colossal blow to this team. By the time Bell was able to see the field, he had to work through all the kinks that most players deal with in preseason. Not only could Bell have impacted those first three games (all losses), but looking forward at the first five after he returned, the Steelers were 2-3 and struggled to run the ball.
The theme of impactful injuries continued with center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey was lost for the season in the very first regular-season game against the Tennessee Titans. Once Pouncey went down, the Steelers offensive line had to start shuffling moving parts around to try to replace the Pro Bowl center.
Even though the replacements for Pouncey have played admirably, this line could never fully recover until very late in the season. It was more about chemistry and continuity that suffered once the personnel had to start moving around into positions they were not accustomed to playing in.
You might not think a 406-yard passing game would qualify as a nightmare, but in this case, you’d be wrong. Roethlisberger accounted for four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles), and for all his completions, he essentially just handed the game over to the Bears.
This was a must-win game. The Steelers were 0-2 going into the game and had a genuine shot to turn things around. Instead, Roethlisberger bumbled his way into full-on goat status for the loss.
Can an entire game be defined on a single play? When Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor took the opening play of their Week 8 matchup with the Steelers 93 yards for a touchdown, you just knew the game was over.
In fact, in watching the game again, it was clear that the play took the wind out of the Steelers’ sails on both sides of the ball until the fourth quarter. By the time they were able to get their heads screwed back on and rally, they simply ran out of time.
It wasn’t enough that the Steelers let a very winnable game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13 get away from them. In fact, this entire game could have been seen as a defining moment. For the entirety of the game, the Steelers continued to allow the Ravens back into the game until it was too late to counter.
Nevertheless, none of that really matters when it came to this game. All anyone cares about is sideline-gate. Late in the game, Ravens return man Jacoby Jones was streaking up the sidelines. At that point, something happened. It’s hard to define what it was, but needless to say, it was big.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was standing on the sidelines, with what looked like about three inches of his foot on the field. With his back to Jones, he made a very exaggerated step back in bounds at the last second. It is impossible to speculate if the play impacted Jones’ inability to score. The officials didn’t deem it penalty-worthy at the time.
That didn’t change the league from becoming enthralled with the play, along with the rest of the world. You have to know that when your image becomes meme-worthy, you have truly arrived.
Just one week after one sideline debacle, the sideline again became a point of emphasis, but in the worst way imaginable. Week 14, the Steelers had a full 60-minute shootout against the Miami Dolphins.
It was such a shootout in fact that it literally came down to the final play of the game. The Steelers opted instead of the traditional Hail Mary play to run the old multiple-lateral pass play, which also never works.
In this case, though, it did. Kind of. OK, it didn’t work, but it was so close. After a series of laterals, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown began streaking up the sideline. He shook several tackles, turned the corner and turned on the jets, heading straight to the end zone.
However, in what had been Pittsburgh's season in a nutshell, Brown stepped out of bounds by just a few inches and the play was waved off with the Steelers coming up just short.