Lack of splash: Splash plays.
They can easily be a deciding factor in the outcome of a game, and in the Steelers loss to the Dolphins on Sunday night, the lack of splash was costly.
While the Dolphins came up with three interceptions off rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, the Steelers had missed opportunities on four potential interceptions that could have easily had an impact on the final outcome.
"Tough, hard-fought game," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "I have to compliment the Miami Dolphins. They made the necessary plays to secure victory man and really, we didn't. And oftentimes, particularly when it's a defensive battle, the way that game developed it's about who catches their interception opportunities and who doesn't. And that's just kind of the lens in which I see it.
"The Dolphins caught theirs and we didn't catch ours. And that's probably the difference in the game and sometimes when it's a one score game and it's back and forth like that, and defenses are controlling it, defensive splash is ultimately the deciding factor. We didn't give our offense the short field by producing the turnover and they did, and so go back to work.
"Disappointing. But we have another big game coming up here and we'll get focused. We'll assess this, learn from it, put together a plan and ready ourselves for the next one."
The Steelers got into a hole early, down 13-0 at the end of the first quarter. The defense adjusted, holding the Dolphins to only a field goal the remainder of the game.
"Starts don't define games," said Tomlin. "We gave them the ball first and they went down and scored, but there was a lot of ball left. I didn't feel like it was out of control at any juncture, to be quite honest with you."
Despite being able to stop them after the quick start, it was the lack of splash plays that hurt.
"We have some interception opportunities," said Tomlin. "And we got to catch them."
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 7 game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium
Getting an identity: While the loss stings, Tomlin does think the offense is starting to form their identity, which is a key for a young group.
"I feel like we are, but we didn't make the necessary splash plays today to secure victory," said Tomlin. "But I certainly feel like we are."
Pickett made some key plays for the offense, but he also had the three turnovers, which were costly.
"I thought he was highly competitive," said Tomlin. "I thought he made some plays. Unfortunately, he and we didn't make enough."
A difference maker: Linebacker Myles Jack led the defense with 10 tackles, but he too agrees that the splash plays could have been a factor.
"That's definitely something that we as a defense we definitely could help the turnover ratio," said Jack. "If we could come up with a couple of those picks, the score would look different. The whole mood right now would be different.
"But you can't just blame it on one thing. There was a bunch of different plays that led up to things, but that'd be a cool ingredient to add to where we could definitely get some wins."
Holding down your spot: The Dolphins' 16-10 victory over the Steelers on Sunday night included Miami scoring a combined 13 points on its first three possessions and three thereafter, none in the second half.
Inside linebacker Myles Jack maintained that's another indication of the direction in which the defense is heading.
"One we kinda simmered down, figured out what they were doing, made some adjustments and kinda got a better hold of that," Jack said. "I really like how our defense weathered the storm towards the end. Obviously, you wanna start out better and try to put the (Steelers') offense in better scenarios. But I like how we picked it up, nobody got mad, nobody got down, just continued playing. And even throughout the third and fourth quarter, crunch time, I felt like defensively we really strapped up.
"We're jelling together at the right time, everything's coming together. Guys are figuring out where they need to be. Coaches, I think they're getting a better feel of what we got. And I feel like it's all coming together at the same time. We're a special defense. We're capable of a lot of things.
"Even scenarios like when we get thrown out at midfield, I think there's like two or three minutes left in the game, everything looks bad. We all run out there, we're all looking at each other like, 'It's not over, we're about to get this stop and put our offense back on the field.' The confidence, that's the main thing, everybody can trust everybody and know that everybody's gonna hold down their spot. You just focus on your job, that's when special things happen."
Jack was asked if his teammates were likewise encouraged, even at 2-5.
"I hope so, man, because I feel like the sky's the limit," he said. "We got a pretty cool opponent next week that we gotta go to against (undefeated) Philly. It'd be nice to spoil them and get this thing on the road, get our bye week going and get our minds right.
"I think the sky's the limit. I see a lot of positive things from our offense. I see a lot of positive things from our defense. I think we can be a really good team."
"I feel like, for one, it's early in the year. You could say we're six or seven plays from our record looking completely different but at the end of the day we still got 10 games left. We could put a stop, kinda contain (Tampa Bay quarterback) Tom Brady, then come back to this dynamic offense where you got (wide receiver Tyreek) Hill, (wide receiver Jaylen) Waddle, (running back Raheem) Mostert and we're giving 'em 16 points, I feel like there's definitely something to build off. So I'm excited. I'm not quittin.'"