With three minutes to go in a special Wednesday edition of Sunday Night Football, the Pittsburgh Steelers held a seemingly insurmountable 19-7 lead over the shorthanded, COVID-19 ravaged Baltimore Ravens. Then Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown scored on a 70-yard touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Trace McSorley, and in the end, it felt like the Steelers were fortunate to escape with a 19-14 victory.
In fact, “fortunate” is one of the words Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin used to describe the result, which moved his team to 11-0 and caused the Ravens to fall to 6-5, now firmly entrenched in third place in the AFC North behind the Cleveland Browns (8-3).
Mike Tomlin: “Not a Lot to Be Proud Of”
“We’re fortunate tonight. It’s good to proceed with the victory, but not a lot to be proud of other than that,” offered Tomlin during his postgame press conference.
The Steelers coach also had a lot of other choice words about his team’s performance on Sunday—er, Wednesday—kicking off his presser by saying, “To be bluntly honest, I’m really disappointed in our performance tonight. It was junior varsity, and in all three phases.”
No doubt Tomlin was maddened by handful of big plays allowed by his defense, none bigger than the aforementioned 70-yard touchdown pass, which resulted when safety Terrell Edmunds appeared to sell out to try to get an interception. To be sure, a more conservative approach to defending would have been prudent in that situation.
There were also costly mistakes on special teams, most notably a muffed punt by returner Ray-Ray McCloud, which gave the Ravens the ball at Pittsburgh’s 16-yard line and allowed the Ravens to secure a 7-6 lead near the end of the first quarter.
As for the offense, Tomlin seemed especially bothered by all of the passes that were dropped—at least five—many of them coming on third down and/or in the Red Zone, with Dionate Johnson, Eric Ebron and Chase Claypool the main culprits.
When Tomlin was asked about the cause of all the “failures and drops,” he was uncharacteristically blunt. “Us sucking,” he answered.
In the end, Tomlin tried to describe all the ways his team’s performance fell short in one fell swoop and summed up what he observed in a single word, which he repeated twice.
“We couldn’t run the ball effectively when we needed to, we dropped too many significant passes, very catchable, makeable passes. We didn’t make significant plays in the special-teams game. Our kickoff coverage unit wasn’t good enough. We turned the damn ball over. We gave up big plays in critical moments on defense. Can’t have it. They converted a long run on a possession down before the half. Unacceptable. They had a 70-yard touchdown late in the game. Unacceptable.”
It’s difficult to recall an occasion when Tomlin was so negative in the wake of a Steelers victory.
Asked about the last time he felt so frustrated after a win, he said, “I don’t know. I know this was pretty frustrating.”
Next Game: At Heinz Field vs. Washington
Of course, the Steelers won’t have too much time to dwell on any negativity, not with another game coming up in just five days. Pittsburgh is scheduled to host Washington (4-7) at Heinz Field on Monday December 6th at 5 p.m. ET and Tomlin fully expects his charges to be back on the beam, if you will.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “It’s not some transformational thing that needs to transpire … I expect our team to [turn things around] when we play Monday.”
You can watch Tomlin’s presser in its entirety below:
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