Updated: Dec 9, 2020
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The Steelers played a sloppy game against the Baltimore Ravens last week but were able to come away with a 19-14 win. They weren't as fortunate on Monday against an up-and-coming Washington Football Team that took advantage of the Steelers' numerous miscues and handed Pittsburgh their first loss of the season with a 23-17 win.
The Steelers' receivers had nine drops against the Ravens last week and they continued to struggle to catch the ball against Washington with seven drops. According to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers lead the league in drops with 34.
"We just got to make routine plays routinely," Tomlin said about the offense's inconsistency. "I say that often, but there's a lot of truth to it. Got to make routine plays routinely. We're not making them routinely enough right now, so it's affecting our fluidity as a collective group."
The Steelers also struggled in short-yardage situations and only rushed for 21 yards on 14 carries, an average of 1.5 yards per carry. Washington had a goal-line stand in the second quarter where the Steelers got stopped on five consecutive plays on the 1-yard line. Benny Snell Jr. had three carries that all went for no gain during the sequence.
Roethlisberger threw the ball 53 times after throwing 51 passes against Baltimore last Wednesday. On fourth-and-1 from Washington's 28-yard line with the score tied at 17-17 and 4:53 remaining in the game. Roethlisberger threw a pass to rookie third-string running back Anthony McFarland Jr. that fell incomplete, resulting in a turn over on downs.
"I'm just worried about us fluidly moving the football, whether it's run or pass," Tomlin said when asked if he lost confidence in the run game in short-yardage situations. "We move it how we choose to move it. The way that we chose to move it tonight wasn't fluid enough for us to have victory, particularly in the moments that you mentioned."
Tomlin was asked after the game whether McFarland was the No. 1 option on the failed fourth-and-1 attempt, and Tomlin said he "absolutely" was. Chris Boswell was inactive due to a hip injury, so Tomlin decided to forgo a 45-yard field goal attempt for kicker Matthew Wright, who was elevated from the practice squad.
"I didn't feel good about putting that on him," Tomlin said. "I appreciate his efforts tonight. He was above the line, gave us what we desired. It was my decision not to put him in those circumstances late in the football game."
With the Steelers suffering their first loss of the season, Tomlin is looking forward to seeing how his team responds to adversity.
"I'm excited about facing the adversity of losing with this group, man, smiling in the face of it, preparing, getting ready for our next challenge," Tomlin said.
The Steelers are still the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC at 11-1, but the loss to Washington is their first bump in the road of the long journey that is an NFL season.
"Different points along the journey you get a chance to learn about yourself, who you are, what you're made of individually and collectively," Tomlin said. "It takes the journey to reveal that. We're faced with a loss now. We'll get an opportunity to smile in the face of it."