Turnovers the key: The Steelers got into a hole early against the New England Patriots and couldn't fight their way out, falling 21-18 at Acrisure Stadium.
The Patriots scored early, taking the ball 75 yards on eight plays on their opening drive. They came back and added another touchdown two plays after they intercepted quarterback Mitch Trubisky. On the flip side, the Steelers weren't able to capitalize on a Mykal Walker interception, going three-and-out on the ensuing drive.
"A lot to work on, but in terms of how the game unfolded, the significant difference is they got seven points off their turnover on the short field; we got zero off of ours," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "So that's the difference in the game. Usually, it is the turnover component and your ability to support each other on the other side of it or inability, and that was the difference in the game in terms of outcome. So, that's disappointing.
"Compliment those guys. They made the necessary plays; we didn't. I thought we fought in the second half, but to come up short on the turnover in terms of the points is the difference in the game."
Trubisky completed 22 of 35 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
"I thought he got better as the game went on," said Tomlin of Trubisky. "Obviously wasn't the type of start we needed. They were really good on possession down. They're collective, the things they threw at him and us. But I thought he improved as the game went on."
This is the second straight loss to teams with only two wins, but Tomlin feels they will bounce back.
"We get ready for our next opportunity next week. It's what we always do," said Tomlin. "Obviously, this stings, but we'll be back. This is what we do. This is who we are."
All about execution: Cam Heyward preached a word after the Steelers loss to the Patriots.
"I think it's just execution-wise," said Heyward. "You look when we were out there on defense early on, can't give up 21 points like that, I don't care who it is.
"You tip your hat to them. They got the job done today. But there were mistakes out there all around. Luckily, we were able to keep a lid on it later. But spotting 21 points and having to dig yourself out of that hole is not something you're usually accustomed to in the NFL."
The Patriots put up those 21 points in the first half, before the defense shut the door on them. But it wasn't enough.
Heyward said the key is now either you learn, or changes should be made.
"Either guys learn, or you got to change who's in there," said Heyward. "Myself included. If I can't execute, then you got to take me out. That's just the way the group rolls.
"That's the way we've always done. But I think we have the capable men of doing that. I think in a short week it comes down to those execution type of plays. Thursday games always come down to who can make the least amount of mistakes. That's usually the team that wins on Thursday night."
A key for Heyward is attacking the issues in practice and being accountable.
"I think you keep guys together by being accountable. Not running from the mistakes," said Heyward. "We'll have meetings tomorrow, but I'm not someone who is going to shy away from what's going on. I know a lot of our guys are going to think the same way.
"When we're out there or in meetings, there is a standard, a level of play that needs to be accustomed to everybody, and when we fall short, everybody is accountable for it. Nothing more than that."
Heyward echoed the same message as Tomlin, that there is confidence that it can be turned around.
"I'm confident, but the work has to be done," said Heyward. "I can sit up here and be mad and have an opinion, but the work and the film work especially has to be looked at. We all got to grow because of it."
Missed opportunities: It came down to fourth-and-2 from the Steelers' 49-yard line with 2:01 left in regulation.
Mitch Trubisky opted to go for it.
"We had multiple options," Trubisky explained. "The safety was favoring 'G.P.' (wide receiver George Pickens). I liked the 1-on-1 with (wide receiver) Diontae (Johnson).
"I felt like I could throw a better ball."
Trubisky's deep pass down the sideline to Johnson, who was being single-covered by cornerback Jonathan Jones, fell incomplete.
The Steelers' comeback from a 21-3 deficit stopped there, other than a last-gasp possession that began at their 13 with 15 seconds left, in what ended up as a tough-to-take ,21-18 loss to the Patriots.
Trubisky finished 22-for-35 passing for 190 yards in his first start at quarterback in place of Kenny Pickett (ankle).
Trubisky's Thursday night at Acrisure Stadium included a 25-yard touchdown pass to Johnson and an interception on a ball intended for tight end Pat Freiermuth that set New England up for a two-play, 11-yard touchdown drive and a 14-3 lead.
Trubisky also rushed eight times for 30 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown and a fourth-and-1 conversion from the Steelers' 29 midway through the fourth quarter, and hit Freiermuth for the two-point conversion that cut New England's lead to three with 11:44 left in the fourth.
"I gotta play better," Trubisky insisted. "I feel like I let the guys down. We gotta score off the turnover, a couple of those fourth downs, the one in the red zone and the one ball to Diontae.
"I gotta be better for the guys, for the team. It's disappointing, missed opportunities, and I didn't play good enough for us to win."
The Steelers turned the ball over on downs after an interception by inside linebacker Mykal Walker had established a first-and-goal at the New England 16 late in the third quarter.
That opportunity went awry when an improvised Trubisky flip under pressure to running back Jaylen Warren gained 1 yard on fourth-and-2 from the New England 8 and the Patriots maintained their 21-10 advantage.
Trubisky was 6-for-11 passing in the first half and 16-for-24 in the second.
Through the Steelers' first five possessions he had as many yards rushing (19) as passing (19) but he warmed to the task.
"They did a good job of disrupting the timing of some of our routes," he said. "We got in some third-and-long situations, which is tough against those guys. That's a solid defense. They do a good job of mixing up coverages, stopping the run, putting you in third-and-long, uncomfortable situations.
"They did a good job mixing coverage and just contesting throws, made it tough on us. We weren't good enough in the first and second quarter, and that mostly starts with me. I feel like timing was a part of that. I just got to be better."
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