After his team was humbled in its biggest game of the season on national television, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t revisit history and promise lineup changes or make bold proclamations.
Tomlin kept his message simple and direct following Sunday’s 39-26 loss to the New England Patriots at Heinz Field. Because there was plenty of blame to go around, Tomlin pointed the finger at everyone, including himself.
“They made more consistent plays, more significant plays,” Tomlin said of the Patriots, who amassed 453 yards of total offense and sacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger five times. “We’ve got to get better.”
A year ago, following a stunning loss to Oakland, also at Heinz Field, that dropped the Steelers record to 6-6, Tomlin vowed to shake up his defense the next game against Cleveland.
Tomlin’s threats had little effect on his players, and the starting lineup remained intact. If anything, the Steelers played their worst game of the season in a 13-6 loss to the Browns.
The past year has been a learning experience for Tomlin, who appears to have a better understanding how to publicly channel his emotions following a loss, especially when the Steelers perform badly.
Tomlin was noncommittal following the setback to New England, in which he arguably set a record for brevity with his postgame comments.
“We need to make necessary corrections and be better for it when given an opportunity (that) we can fight and put ourselves in position to play in this kind of game again,” said Tomlin, who limited his criticism to the team rather than individuals. “Hopefully, we’ll learn from this.”
What little Tomlin did say to the media resonated with his players, who didn’t need their coach to tell them how poorly they played against the Patriots.
“It’s incredibly humbling. We just didn’t put a good team effort together,” safety Troy Polamalu said. “There’s a lot to learn from this game, that’s for sure. We’ll see if we’re a championship-caliber team how we respond to this.
“We didn’t put a good team effort together. It seems like one part of our team is doing well at one time. We’ve got to play on all pistons to beat a team as good as New England.”
Following a 20-17 overtime loss at Baltimore last November, Tomlin promised his team would “unleash hell” the following week against Oakland. After the Steelers stumbled against Oakland, some of the Raiders said Tomlin’s pregame prediction motivated them.
This year, Tomlin is saving any motivation for his own players.
“We’ve got to bounce back fast,” said wide receiver Hines Ward, who suffered a concussion against New England but expects to play against Oakland this Sunday at Heinz Field. “Oakland’s a pretty good team. Last year they beat us. That’s fresh on a lot of guys’ minds.”