I don’t normally buy into the platitudes Mike Tomlin serves in his postgame press conferences. In my opinion, Tomlin is great at using a lot of words to say exactly nothing. In fairness, that’s a handy ability to have when part of your job is talk to the media as often as he does.
However, this weekend after the Steelers lost to the New Orleans Saints, Tomlin made a point about his team’s execution (beyond the standard, “we didn’t”) that I think really sums up the Steelers as they are: They didn’t play consistently enough as a team.
That sounds like more simple buzzwords, but the context is important. The defense made some plays in the first half against the Saints. They got Drew Brees off the field on third down a few times. Unfortunately, the offense wasn’t able to capitalize on their chances and take an early lead.
Later, the offense started to get a few things done, and even made a late-game bid for a competitive affair (though it came after the outcome was arguably decided). By that time, the defense had essentially surrendered the game and it was too far out of reach.
Maybe if the team ran on all cylinders in the first half, the second would have been a different story. Maybe those defensive stops turn into points, and the Steelers can spend the second half rushing the passer as the Saints are forced to play catch-up. Who knows what could happen?
But here we are, at 7-5, and with a decidedly imperfect team. Every team has weaknesses, and good teams can cover their weaknesses with one of their strengths. The Steelers don’t have a strength right now. Ben Roethlisberger looks human again, and has for a few straight weeks. If he isn’t playing on that hyper-elite level we were treated to mid-season, the Steelers can’t keep up with the average NFL team.
All hope isn’t lost yet. The season is bleak, but it isn’t over. Cincinnati is the greatest obstacle en route to the playoffs, and the Steelers will play them twice. If they win those games, they make up a ton of ground, and games against the Bengals are certainly winnable.
But to be winnable for the Steelers, every unit has to play up to their potential on just about every play. That’s a lot to ask for, but it’s all we’ve got.