NBC’s Cris Collinsworth was blunt in his critique of wide receiver Donte Moncrief’s performance against the Patriots.
“They just keep swatting the ball out of his hands,” Collinsworth assessed during Sunday night’s broadcast. “You gotta be stronger at the catch point than he’s been tonight.”
Head coach Mike Tomlin was just as candid on Tuesday in breaking down a fourth-and-1 that got away.
“We got in five wides in one instance, they stayed in ‘nickel’ so we knew that they would be in zone,” Tomlin explained. “We ran a nice zone-concept and we dropped the ball.”
The reference was to a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to Moncrief that fell incomplete and turned the ball over on downs just inside the two-minute warning.
Moncrief was targeted a team-high 10 times in the Steelers’ season-opening, 33-3 loss at New England.
He finished with three catches for 7 yards.
On five occasions, the ball got to his hands but he couldn’t finish the catch.
There was also a third-quarter fade on third-and-1 from the New England 1-yard line on which Moncrief and Roethlisberger didn’t appear to be on the same page (the Steelers kicked a field goal following that incompletion).
“It’s sickening when you watch it and you know the plays that you’re supposed to make and you didn’t make them,” Moncrief said after practice today. “And you see them and you’re like, ‘Gosh, I know I gotta make that.’ The other day, after we watched that film, there was a feeling in my stomach, it hurt. I went home, went straight to sleep, it hurt me. I had to put that away.
“That was my first one like that, that was a bad one. It hurt, but at the end of the day it’s the NFL, all you can do is get better the next day. You gotta bounce back. You can’t let it hold you down.”
Moncrief is still dealing with a dislocated middle finger sustained early in training camp, but nonetheless expects more from himself than he delivered in New England.
“You can’t just put it on that,” he said. “I gotta make plays, period. You gotta go with it, even if it’s hurt or not you still gotta play.
“(Roethlisberger) depended on me and I gotta make plays for him, hurt finger or not.”
Roethlisberger expressed unwavering confidence in Moncrief late Sunday night at Gillette Stadium and again today.
“I’m not going to shy away from him,” Roethlisberger said this morning. “I’m excited for him this week. I think we’ll see some big things.”
Added Moncrief: “He believes in me. He knows what I can do. I know what I can do. At the end of the day that was my worst game ever in my career, and it hurt.
“But you can’t just sit there and just pout about it. You gotta get better, and that’s what I’m doing.”