The Pittsburgh Steelers provided another lifeless performance in a 30-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts during Week 15. Head coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers have dropped three in a row and fallen to 11th place in the AFC playoff picture.
During his postgame press conference, Tomlin was clearly not pleased his team’s skid, particularly the effort and focus the Steelers showcased in Indianapolis.
“Let’s be honest, we’re a fundamentally poor football group right now,” Tomlin told reporters. “We’re playing losing football. I take responsibility for that.
“By losing football, I mean we’re just not doing fundamental things well enough. We’re not. We’re turning the ball over, we’re highly penalized. We don’t play good in situations.”
Tomlin also issued a warning that the poor effort and focus from his team would not continue.
“I don’t necessarily have the answers as we sit here today. If I had the answers, we’d played differently today.
“But I will ackowledge, man, things will not continue the way that they are. We’re not going to keep doing the same things that we’re doing and expect or hope for a different result.”
The question, though, is will it be too little, too late. With only three games remaining, the Steelers must now pass five teams in the standings to get back into a playoff spot.
Steelers Playing Fundamentally Bad Football
Inconsistent quarterback play is a fact of life in the NFL when teams are forced to turn to a backup.
But Mitch Trubisky again struggled at taking care of the football, throwing 2 interceptions against the Colts. The second was an absolute killer late in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver George Pickens was wide open in the middle of the field, but because of poor footwork, Trubisky overthrew him by seemingly 10 yards.
The Steelers committed 3 giveaways. It’s hard enough to win in the NFL with a minus-3 turnover margin. But with also a season-low 216 yards of offense, the Steelers were fortunate to only lose by 17 in Indianapolis.
Then throw in 8 penalties for 101 yards on top of that, it’s no wonder Tomlin was in such a bad mood. The 101 penalty yards, which was a season high for Pittsburgh, was more yards than the Steelers had rushing.
Mike Tomlin, Steelers Struggling in Situational Football
Losing the yardage battle is nothing new for the Steelers. But Mike Tomlin’s team started the season 6-3 behind a team that excelled situationally.
That’s no longer the case for the Steelers. The Colts scored touchdowns on 3 of their first 4 red zone opportunities. The Steelers are severely struggling to cover running backs and tight ends with so many injuries at inside linebacker and safety.
Pittsburgh also allowed a Colts touchdown inside of 2 minutes of the first half despite having a first-and-10 on offense with 1:54 remaining in the second quarter.
The Steelers offense quickly called plays on second and third down in the two-minute drill with the clock running. Indianapolis had all 3 of its timeouts, but with the clock running, the Colts didn’t use them before either play.
At that point, the Steelers led 13-7. In the worst case scenario, the Steelers have to run out the clock and enter halftime with the lead.
Instead, the hurried up Steelers offense didn’t gain another first down and had to punt with 58 seconds left. Indianapolis scored to take the lead for the rest of the game just 3 plays later.
Tomlin and the Steelers came up small with game management in the second half too.
Trailing by 11 with 3:21 left in the third quarter, Tomlin elected to punt from the Colts 39-yard line instead of try a 57-yard field goal.
Undoubtably, Tomlin wanted to pin the Colts against their own goal line. But Pressley Harvin’s punt only traveled 22 yards, so Indianapolis had breathing room at its own 17. Then the Colts chewed up nearly 9 minutes on the clock on their ensuing drive and added a field goal to increase their lead to 14.
Clearly, there is plenty for Tomlin and the Steelers to address before another must-win matchup in Week 16.
It will be very interesting to see if Tomlin has any solutions by then. The Steelers head coach told reporters that “everything is on the table” when he was asked what could be changed before next week.