The Pittsburgh Steelers posted a 13-3 record last season, one of the best regular seasons that they have ever had in franchise history—after all, you can’t post a much better record. This season, they have fallen to 8-6-1 with just one game left to play and could finish just north of being a .500 team.
What has the difference been between this season and last? The Steelers of a year ago were able to regularly close out games. They haven’t been doing that this season. They won nearly every game that was close late in 2017, and this year the roles have been reversed.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t interested in ascribing anything out of the ordinary to this and simply chalked it up to needing to roll up their sleeves and do a better job. That was the gist of his response to a question on the subject during his press conference yesterday.
“It’s quite simply black and white. It’s making the sufficient number of plays to do the job, or to not”, he said of why they haven’t been getting the job done in the manner in which they did just a season ago. “We’re not going to make it to be something mystical. We’re not going to pretend like it’s something that’s outside our control. It is within our control”.
The Steelers’ biggest issue lately has been the defense giving up late leads. In their four recent defeats, the team has either held the lead outright or were at least tied during the fourth quarter. In three of those losses, Ben Roethlisberger led a drive to retake the lead or to tie the game, and the defense relinquished again.
“It’s preparation, it’s detail, it’s play, it’s planning, it’s schematics, it’s coaching”, Tomlin said in listing the reasons that they have been failing to execute at the close of games recently that would have allowed them to win. “It’s all of those things. And all of those things are very tangible. We’re falling short for a variety and a myriad of reasons. But it’s all within that discussion”.
The Steelers don’t have much time at all to correct the issue, and in fact whether or not it’s already too late is out of their hands. Their season finale is against the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the two teams against which they successfully mounted a comeback this year, but they still need help to reach the postseason.
“We proceed with that understanding in mind, and understanding that it is within our control, we have an opportunity this week to do something about the outcome of this game”, Tomlin concluded. “We cannot waste one iota of our time worried about what’s already transpired in 2018. That’s no different than what’s already transpired in in 2017. It’s history. We’re focused on the days that lie ahead and how we can positively affect them for us”.