The Pittsburgh Steelers had their chances in this game. Open receivers. Chances for interceptions. Neatly every single time the Steelers had an opportunity to make the big play, they squandered it away. Steelers beating Steelers. That was the theme of Mike Tomlin’s post-game press conference.
“We need to continue to get better,” Tomlin told reporters after the game. “We need more detail in our play. More understanding. That’ll produce the splash that’ll get us out of stadiums. Just not enough splash. We had our opportunities. We had opportunities to get behind them and so forth. We didn’t take advantage of it. We had opportunities to get off sooner on defense. We didn’t win enough third downs. We had a splash play in special teams to no avail.”
Those splash chances came and went in all three areas of the team. On offense, Ben Roethlisberger twice missed JuJu Smith-Schuster downfield for would-be touchdown or long gains. Some may argue Smith-Schuster needing to do a better job tracking the ball and making the play. But no matter how you want to slice it, they were missed moments. Incompletions that should’ve been point-scorers.
On defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick dropped an interception early in the game. And as Tomlin noted, the Steelers’ third down defense struggled, allowing the Packers to convert 9 of 15 third downs (60%).
Special teams seemingly produced a splash play with Minkah Fitzpatrick’s field goal block/touchdown at the end of the first half. But officials – seemingly incorrectly – called the Steelers’ offsides, negating the play. A 17-14 Steelers lead turned into a 17-10 Packers’ advantage.
Tomlin was asked specifically if the “missed” chances he was referring to were about the failed connections with Smith-Schuster.
“You guys know which plays I’m talking about. We got to have those plays. Particularly when we’re not playing as well as we like. Chunks eliminate a lot of execution we say in the coaching business. By that I mean, if you’re not playing clean, splash plays and chunks of real estate aid you. We’re not playing clean enough and we’re not getting enough chunks to offset it. That’s why we’re having the conversation we’re having.”
Chunk plays were a point we repeated throughout the week, including in our keys to the game Sunday morning. We wrote:
“1. THIS TEAM (NOT JUST THE OFFENSE) CREATES CHUNK PLAYS
Theme I’ve repeated time and time again. It’ll be true until this offense stops looking like something out of 2019. Even the team’s no-huddle offense, about the only thing that worked last year, has been limited under new OC Matt Canada. At this point, the Steelers need to create big plays to win games. Talking offense, defense, and special teams. Everyone has to step up.”
That’s the mantra this team will need to live by the rest of the season. Right now, they’re dying by it.