The Pittsburgh Steelers spent all offseason waxing on about how, ridden of toxic elements (Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, etc.), the locker room was drama-free and everyone was on the same page heading into 2019.
On a night New England hung its sixth Super Bowl banner, Pittsburgh lost by at least 30 points for just the second time in the Ben Roethlisberger era, which has itself birthed two Super Bowl champions. For a franchise so used to being on the big stage and under the bright lights, the Steelers were notably not camera-ready on Sunday night.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We weren’t ready for prime time tonight,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin opened his postgame presser. “All of us, not a good enough plan, not a good enough execution of that plan.
“It’s humbling. It sucks. But that’s the National Football League. it won’t define us if we wont let it. … But part of that is just acknowledging what I said when I opened: We weren’t ready for prime time tonight.”
Whereas the Patriots, who lost a major offensive weapon in Rob Gronkowski this offseason, went up and down the field with ease, Pittsburgh struggled to extend drives, converting just three of 12 third-down conversions and one of three fourth-down conversions. On both failed fourth-down attempts, Roethlisberger attempted passes to Donte Moncrief, and both fell incomplete.
The Steelers quarterback (27-for-47, 276 yards, INT) took most of the blame following the loss.
“I wasn’t good enough,” Roethlisberger said. “Wasn’t giving guys balls where they needed to catch them, front, behind, things like that. So I wasn’t good enough.”
Pittsburgh’s leaders were searching within following Sunday’s loss. Moncrief, who caught three balls for just seven yards on 10 targets, said of the defeat, “I felt like it was a wake-up call, something we needed.”
The Steelers will hope to be early risers next weekend when the Seattle Seahawks visit Pittsburgh for the home opener. If Tomlin’s message to the team means anything, though, the Steelers will first focus on fixing what they can control, not on the Super Bowl winners and reigning playoff teams across the field.
“Forget the opponent,” Tomlin said. “A lot of times when you’re stepping out and you’re playing for the first time, it’s about what you do, what you choose to do, the quality in which you do it. We didn’t get enough of those things done to be competitive.”