To steal the Mike Tomlin phrase, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ play was junior varsity. Calling what they did in Friday’s 34-9 loss to Carolina JV might be too nice. It was PeeWee. It was My First Football Game by Fisher Price. Offense, defense, special teams, every area struggled in one of the most forgettable Steelers’ games this decade, even by limbo-low preseason finale standards.
Tomlin didn’t hold back his thoughts recapping the game to reporters following the loss.
“Just really disappointed in our performance tonight,” he told reporters. “I was excited about the opportunity for the guys, especially given Carolina was playing a lot of their regulars. I thought it would be a great platform for them to display varsity skills. Succinctly, we didn’t. We didn’t take care of the ball. We didn’t win possession downs on offense. I thought the defense started strong, but as fatigue set in because we couldn’t maintain possession of it. There were mental lapses, there were physical lapses as fatigue set in with them.”
The Steelers offense mustered just three points until the game’s final moments when Dwayne Haskins hit Ray-Ray McCloud for a late, meaningless touchdown. They finished the game just 2-11 on third down and turned the ball over three times. That forced the Steelers’ defense to play a whopping 75 snaps. With starters sitting out and a couple of injuries, there were clearly tired bodies on the field. And the group played like it.
Special teams miscues didn’t help either, lowlighted by Mathew Sexton’s muffed punt return that Carolina recovered. Something Tomlin also made sure to point out.
“We turned the ball over on special teams. All in all, it was his junior varsity performance. We accept that. We understand what that means, but we also understand where we are in this journey collectively.”
Pittsburgh wasn’t expected to win this game knowing the Panthers were using this week as their tune-up performance. But getting blown out the way they did certainly isn’t acceptable. And more players played their way off the roster than those who played their way on it. Now, this 90 man roster is out of chances to show the coaching staff what they can do.
“I’m appreciative of their efforts, not only tonight, but throughout this process. And now we begin the decision making time.”
Pittsburgh will have to cut their roster down from 80 to 53 by Tuesday at 4 PM/EST.