Suffice it to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers are not where they want to be, and they moved themselves a lot further from where they would have liked to be by falling to the New York Jets on Sunday. Barring that loss, Sunday’s game would be a play-in for the postseason. Instead, they must get some assistance to reach the playoffs. They were under similar circumstances a year ago, and didn’t get that help.
“There’s really not a lot to talk about. This is not the time of year to talk”, head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters at the outset of his pre-game press conference. “You either do or you don’t do, and obviously this Sunday we didn’t do”.
Largely, the cause of their failure to ‘do’, not only last week but over the course of the past two games, has stemmed from the offense’s inability to protect the football, responsible for seven takeaways in that span. And for the way this team is built right now, that’s fatal.
“It’s very specific how we have to engineer victory in the current state that we’re in, and possession of the ball and taking care of the football is such a significant component of that”, Tomlin said. “We didn’t take care of the ball well enough on Sunday. We didn’t take care of the ball well enough really in the last two weeks, and that’s why we’re having the type of discussions that we’re having regarding performance”.
Six of those giveaways have come from the arm of rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, who was pulled on Sunday after throwing two interceptions within something like his first nine attempts, into the second quarter, if memory serves. With Mason Rudolph getting injured, however, they must return to Hodges, and he must do better in protecting the ball.
“We understand that. We understand how we need to engineer victory. We understand the consequences of not taking care of the football”, Tomlin persisted. “And that’s why we work in the manner in which we do to not only take care of the ball but to get the football. The turnover ratio is a big component of our play, and really has been all year. In recent weeks, though, it has been a negative aspect of play for us, and that’s why we’ve lost some games”.
Just a short time ago, the Steelers were hosting the Buffalo Bills, technically still alive for the AFC North, and with the opportunity to secure a grip on the number five seed. At the very least, they would assure that they would have a play-in in Week 17 as a worst-case scenario.
Now, after dropping two games and going from 8-5 to 8-7, there’s nothing more to say. All they can do is ‘do’, is win, and there’s a good chance that even that will not be enough. And nobody will be feeling sorry for them if it comes to that.