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What might have been

The Steelers’ offense had a historic season, statistically speaking, even if it wasn’t enough to get the Steelers into the postseason.

Too many turnovers were too big a factor in what the offense ultimately was and wasn’t able to accomplish in 2018.

“The whole thing comes back to, ‘We gotta outscore ’em no matter what,’” first-year offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner maintained prior to the regular-season finale against Cincinnati. “That’s the only thing that really matters in the end. Are we doing some good things? Yes. Are we doing some things you’d like to have back? Yes. Have we protected the ball well enough? No.

“Some untimely, situational put the ball on the ground can really hurt.”

The Steelers’ 26 turnovers were the sixth-most in the NFL.

And their minus 11 takeaway/giveaway differential was the fifth-worst figure in that critical category.

But quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a few others still managed to make some significant additions to the record books.

Roethlisberger led the NFL in attempts (675), completions (452) and passing yards (5,129) and, along with Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City, joined the NFL’s 5,000-yard club in 2018. Only Drew Brees (five times), Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford had previously thrown for 5,000 yards in a season. Roethlisberger’s completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns (34) set Steelers’ records for a season.

Wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster became the sixth duo in NFL history to each amass 100 catches and 1,000 receiving yards. It was the fifth time in franchise history that a pair of wide receivers surpassed 1,000 yards and the first time since 2011.

Brown led the NFL with a franchise-record 15 receiving TDs. His 104 receptions upped Brown’s career total to 837 and allowed him to join Marvin Harrison (845) and Torry Holt (805) as the only players in NFL history to catch 800 passes in their first nine seasons. Brown reached 11,000 career receiving yards (11,022) in his 129th regular-season game. Only Calvin Johnson got to 11,000 receiving yards in fewer games (127).

Smith-Schuster, who was voted Steelers MVP by his teammates, finished tied for sixth in the NFL with 111 receptions and fifth with 1,426 receiving yards. Among his seven receiving touchdowns was a 97-yard effort on Nov. 25 at Denver, which tied for the longest pass play in franchise history (Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster also hooked up for a 97-yard touchdown on Oct. 29, 2017 at Detroit).

Running back James Conner set a franchise record by accounting for at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage and at least 10 total touchdowns in the first eight games of a season. Conner’s 1,470 yards from scrimmage (973 rushing, 497 receiving) ranked 10th in the NFL. Along the way he became the first player in NFL history to produce four games with at least 100 yards rushing, at least 50 yards receiving and a touchdown in a season. Conner also joined Franco Harris as the only players in Steelers’ history (since 1950) to have at least 100 yards rushing, 75 yards receiving and two rushing touchdowns in a game (Conner had 110 yards rushing, 75 receiving and ran for two scores on Oct. 7 against Atlanta).

The Steelers’ offensive line permitted the fourth-fewest sacks in the NFL (24).

That helped Roethlisberger achieve a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on Nov. 8 against Carolina, the NFL-record fourth time (since 1950) Roethlisberger attained a perfect rating.

Roethlisberger’s 452 yards passing on Sept. 16 against Kansas City produced the fifth 450-yard effort of his career, which broke a tie with Dan Marino for the most in NFL history. Roethlisberger added a sixth 450-yard game when he threw for 462 yards on Nov. 25 at Denver.

The Steelers’ 54 touchdowns in 2018 surpassed the franchise record of 52 in 1979.

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