FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - They got "a little frazzled," and against the New England Patriots that's fatal.
A miscommunication here, a late substitution there, a blown coverage or a late coverage and the sticks move and the ball ends up in the end zone and Tom Brady winds up completing 19 consecutive passes on the way to a 25-for-32, four-touchdown night.
"I thought we got a little frazzled at times from a communication standpoint when they changed the pace," head coach Mike Tomlin observed after the Patriots' season-opening, 28-21 victory over the Steelers on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. "We gotta be better than that. Some of the young people gotta grow up in a hurry.
"But largely, I just think it comes down to finishing and making plays in situational football. They were a little better on third down than we were. They were a little bit better in the red zone than we were and thus the outcome."
The Patriots were better, whether it was third down (7-for-11 for the Pats to 7-for-15 for the Steelers), red zone (4-for-4 to 2-for-3), goal to go (3-for-3 to 1-for-2) or turnovers (New England didn't have any, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception).
The Steelers had a 100-yard rusher (running back DeAngelo Williams, 127), a 100-yard receiver (wide receiver Antonio Brown, 133) and a 300-yard passer (Roethlisberger, 351) and still lost.
"A lot of miscommunication, we didn't have the right personnel on the field, just didn't execute," safety Robert Golden said.
Added linebacker Arthur Moats: "When you're out there and you're late with the call or you're not getting the call it's definitely going to make things a lot more difficult. A lot of pre-snap, some post-snap but mainly pre-snap. Sometimes when they go hurry-up, now everybody has to press to get the call faster. Then you're not going to get as much pre-snap communication because they're snapping the ball right away.
"It's fixable, so you're not going to go crazy over it. But any time you lose you're upset about it."