Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, left, speaks with side judge Allen Baynes in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
A lot of unusual numbers were posted in the Steelers’ 21-14 loss at Baltimore:
The Steelers committed 13 penalties for 99 yards, including 10 for 84 yards in the first half -- a half that saw them produce just 67 yards' worth of total offense.
The Steelers went three-and-out nine times on their first 12 possessions. One of the other three possessions ended after one play via an interception.
The Steelers converted just four of 16 third-down plays.
The Steelers got just 15 first downs, but 11 of those came in the fourth quarter after Baltimore had taken a 21-0 lead.
Le’Veon Bell had 32 yards on 14 carries. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown had better days statistically, but their numbers got bolstered at garbage time.
The game was amazingly noncompetitive despite the seven-point margin. The Steelers were never in danger of winning. Hailed as legit Super Bowl contenders prior to the season, they stand 4-4. They inexcusably came off a bye week looking incredibly unprepared.
There’s a simple explanation for all of the above.
The Steelers stink.
Since losing the Super Bowl to Green Bay following the 2010 season, the Steelers' reputation is based on tradition and the logo, not accomplishments. Sunday was a clear-cut reminder about what a mess the Steelers have become as Mike Tomlin’s coaching tenure grows old.
There’s zero discipline. No accountability. The 13 flags provide evidence, as does a 5-12 record in their last 17 games against teams with losing records.
The Steelers have twerkers. They have rappin’ athletes. They are masters of the mannequin challenge. Entitled narcissists clog the locker room.
What they don’t have is enough winners. Not enough men. Too many little boys.
Winners don’t come out and play like the Steelers did for the clear majority of Sunday’s game. The foe was their biggest rival. The result will affect the divisional and wild-card races. Yet the Steelers grotesquely soiled the bed.
Roethlisberger is now 2-6 in games after returning from injury. He can’t play much worse. His timing, touch and reads were off.
Roethlisberger often comes back too early, knocks the rust off, and is fine after. That better be the case this time. The AFC North is a dumpster fire. Going 10-6 would almost certainly win it. But that notion seems far-fetched for the Steelers, as does the idea of beating 7-1 Dallas at Heinz Field next Sunday.
Oh, I forgot: The Cowboys haven’t played anybody yet. That will still be the case after Dallas handily defeats the Steelers.
One moment yesterday captured the Steelers’ incompetence: Chris Boswell’s mangled onside kick. Was he trying a rabona? Epic fail.
Here’s a prediction: The Steelers will lose to Dallas, then lose at Cleveland on Nov. 20. I will be the one who predicted the one in 1-15.
Defense didn’t kill the Steelers, ex-Steeler Mike Wallace’s 95-yard catch-and-run touchdown duly noted. James Harrison ended his season-long mannequin challenge by posting two sacks. Harrison and Ryan Shazier forced fumbles. Rookie cornerback Artie Burns got a pick and held his own despite being picked on.
Hurt or not, Roethlisberger gets the brunt of the blame on offense. But that platoon’s performance was a stink sandwich, and everybody has to take a bite.
The Steelers are still in contention for the division title or a wild-card berth, just like most NFL teams. But they’re not as advertised. Not even close. If they squeak into the playoffs and go out early, that’s not good enough.
The Steelers will never fire Tomlin. The Rooney family doesn’t hire a coach, they appoint a pope. Their approach is tough to criticize given the team’s record since hiring Chuck Noll in 1969 and employing just Bill Cowher and Tomlin since.
Since losing that aforementioned Super Bowl to Green Bay, the Steelers have won one division title and one playoff game. If you look at the Steelers in any way that precludes fanboy optimism, that level of achievement is rotten. Roethlisberger is a generational performer at quarterback, and the Steelers have wasted that talent for over five seasons.
Since the Steelers won’t fire Tomlin, they must figure out what’s wrong and have him correct it. There is no way to lose all those games to sub-.500 teams, and have such abject lack of discipline, if something isn’t haywire. That reflects directly on Tomlin.
No more thinly veiled excuses. No more empty platitudes.
It’s broken. Fix it.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).