AFC North
Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le'Veon Bell - Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers fans have seen the last of the beloved Killer Bees. The incredible trio of Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger have played their last game together.

Brown, who is considered the best receiver in the NFL, will soon be traded. Bell, who is always in the discussion as the best running back in football, will be playing games in a different uniform in 2019. Roethlisberger will be the only holdover going into the 2019 season.

The Bees didn’t finish a full postseason together. How did this trio never win a Super Bowl together?

The Killer Bees included various members, but the one edition that most Pittsburgh fans revered consisted of Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown. Each of these players was exceptional and elite at their respective positions. Opposing teams feared them, and it was almost preordained that they would win one, if not multiple championships.

However, with the immense talent and accolades came an abundance of drama that has reached its boiling point. You can blame internal clashes, injuries, suspensions, hold-outs, retirement conversations, and difficult coaching decisions. The unfortunate results are one conference championship appearance and ZERO Super Bowls!

Ben Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger was taken with the No. 11 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and has been the catalyst for the Pittsburgh Steelers over his last 15 seasons. He had led the Steelers to the postseason nine times and helped them win two Super Bowls before the Killer Bees era began.

Roethlisberger is one of the most clutch quarterbacks in NFL history. He has a great ability to keep plays alive, make timely throws and come up big when his team needs it the most. His passing stats are not the most glamorous, but this isn’t fantasy football. Roethlisberger has yet to have a losing season since arriving in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger is now 36, and we all heard about his retirement talk ad nauseam the past few years. He has had double-digit interceptions the last four seasons and is showing signs of age. The window is closing for Roethlisberger and the Steelers.

His leadership has always been questioned. Former teammates have described him as a poor teammate. Former Steelers receiver and future Hall of Famer Hines Ward said Roethlisberger “should know better” than to openly criticize teammates, as Roethlisberger has done on more than a few instances.

Roethlisberger was suspended for four games in 2010 by the NFL after he was accused of sexual assault by a woman in a Georgia club back in 2010, and accused of allegedly raping another woman in 2008.

The future Hall of Famer is entering his final year of a four-year contract that he signed in 2015. As mentioned, Roethlisberger has talked about retirement on several occasions, but he may be eager to prove that he win without Bell and Brown.

Le’Veon Bell

Bell is a complete running back. He has rushed for over 1,200 yards and gained more than 500 yards through the air in the same season on three separate occasions. Bell has averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in each of the last four seasons.

Bell has a ton of wear and tear on him with over 1,500 career touches. As a result, Bell said he was focused on his future and wants a contract that will make him the wealthiest back in the NFL. The Steelers are unwilling to provide Bell with a long-term deal with huge guaranteed money, which is what caused Bell to sit out the entire 2018 season.

The holdout created drama in the Steelers locker room. A few players chewed out Bell for being selfish — a me-first egomaniac who quit on his team.

Bell is one of the most dangerous all-purpose weapons in the NFL. However, he destroyed the locker room and has an injury history that may scare off most teams. Running back is the most interchangeable position in football. To invest what Bell is requesting is insane.

The entire offseason will be full of reports projecting where Bell will sign and for how much. While fantasy football geeks will drool over where he finally calls home, Steelers fans will be cheering on his capable replacement, James Connor. The Steelers have no qualms about letting Bell walk.

Antonio Brown

Brown is probably the best wide receiver since Jerry Rice. He is one of the greatest receivers of his era. Brown is tied with Marvin Harrison and Brandon Marshall for the most seasons with at least 100 catches and 10 receiving scores in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Info. His four seasons beat Rice’s three.

Since 2012, Brown leads the league in targets (1,132), receptions (752), receiving yards (9,932), and receiving touchdowns (72, which is 14 more than the second-place Dez Bryant in that span).

While Bell quit on his team and didn’t play at all during the 2018 season, Brown turned in his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl. He had 104 receptions, 1,297 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns. He showed up to play for the organization and his teammates.

The soap opera begins

Unfortunately, it looks like Brown has lost his mind off the field. He gave outlandish interviews, disappeared in training camp and also threatened a reporter on Twitter in September. He capped off his peculiar behavior in Week 17 when he got into an argument with Roethlisberger and then refused to show up to multiple practices. Surprisingly, Brown showed up to Heinz Field that Sunday to play, but the team decided to make him inactive. He left the stadium at halftime.

Once the 2018 season ended, the ridiculous behavior continued. Brown refused to talk to management. Brown also publically expressed his desire for a trade and frustrations with Roethlisberger. The Central Michigan standout scheduled a meeting with Steelers owner Art Rooney to rectify the situation, but they agreed that it was best to part ways.

“Had a great meeting with Mr. Rooney today we discussed a lot of things and we cleared the air on several issues!” Brown explained. “We both agreed that it is time to move on but I’ll always have appreciation and gratitude towards the Rooney family and Steelers organization!

The Steelers are currently working on trading Brown and according to the Steelers, a trade will be completed by this Friday. There are several teams in search of elite wide receivers but at what cost?

Is Head Coach Mike Tomlin the issue?

Mike Tomlin is just the third Steelers head coach in the past 50 seasons. In contrast, the Cleveland Browns have had nine head coaches since 2000.

Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher after a tenure of 15 seasons. Tomlin has never had a losing season. He has led the Steelers to an 8-7 postseason record including a 1-1 record in the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh fans find no shortage of material to condemn Tomlin, whether he’s too much of a player’s coach, losing to inferior teams, lack of player discipline, lack of accountability, clock management, challenges or talent evaluation. Furthermore, Tomlin was handed a playoff-contending team when Cowher retired. He did not build the roster that made the Super Bowl in 2008 and 2010.

Tomlin was blessed with supreme talent. With the Killer Bees in place and defensive units that were the top or near the top in all categories, the Steelers continually underachieved. The sentiment is that Tomlin is overrated.

Should Tomlin be fired?

The Steelers have turned into a soap opera. Roethlisberger is calling out players in the media. Both of his stud players act or do whatever they want with no ramifications. The Killer Bees are fighting among themselves and causing a downward spiral of team harmony and unity.

As the head coach, Tomlin should have never let this drama get this far. He should lead the team and spearhead the fixing of all of these conflicts. That’s what great leaders do. Tomlin talks a great game to the media and portrays himself as a great motivator. However, the results on the field prove otherwise.

Winning is the cure for everything. It has submerged the drama for years, and now with the Steelers not winning Super Bowls the truth rears its ugly head. This soap opera is making the proud team of the Pittsburgh Steelers into a laughingstock in the NFL. I believe that Tomlin and the Steelers need a fresh start.

What does the future hold for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense?

Roethlisberger will be back next season.

The Steelers’ running game was still formidable without Bell. Connor had a terrific season and produced 1,470 all-purpose yards and 13 total touchdowns. He suffered a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss four games. While Connor is not the game-breaker of Bell’s ability, he is a real power back that doesn’t display flash. Connor is a suitable replacement for Bell, especially behind the strong Steelers offensive line.

JuJu Smith-Schuster proved that his rookie season was no fluke. He finished the 2018 season with a team-leading 111 catches, along with 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. Of course, he accomplished this with Brown commanding the majority of the attention.

Smith-Schuster will see more targets next season with Brown departed, but will there be another weapon on the outside that opposing defenses should be concerned with? If not, he will be garner all of the attention and subsequently a whole lot of double teams.

As Corey Ashburn stated in his Steelers offseason article, Pittsburgh will need to add more offensive weapons around Roethlisberger. The championship window is closing.

Final Thoughts

The Steelers are a great organization. The Rooney family is like royalty in the NFL world. Unfortunately, this viewpoint has drastically changed. The culture is different. Maybe it is a sign of the times or the makeup of the modern athlete. Regardless, the Steelers used to provide the standard for what other teams strived to be.

The soap opera of the Killer Bees ruined the Steelers. The three players comprised the talent to be the kings of the NFL. Instead, we are wondering what could have been. Many professional athletes have a gigantic ego; that is what drives them and continues to propel their greatness. However, the ones who have me-first attitudes destroy teams.

Unfortunately for the Steelers, the egos reigned supreme.