"Man, no need to sugarcoat that. We got beat soundly. We didn't take care of the football. We didn't stop the run, and that's an emphatic point. A 200-yard back, it's not good. That's football. When you don't tackle, when you turn the ball over, you're going to lose."
Those were Mike Tomlin's words late in the afternoon on Sunday, Oct. 16, in the immediate aftermath of a 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins that really didn't even seem that close. A 15-point margin doesn't do justice to a game that could be described via the following statistics:
Third-down conversion percentage: Steelers 27 percent, Dolphins 50 percent; total net yards: Steelers 297, Dolphins 474; trips into the red zone: Steelers 0, Dolphins 3; time of possession: Steelers 23:30, Dolphins 36:30; and turnover ratio: Steelers minus-2.
"Make no mistake, they got after us," said Tomlin at his news conference today in looking back at Steelers-Dolphins I. "They got after us in just about every way. We prepare with that understanding. We realize that each game stands alone, but you can't deny what is on video. What is on video is that the last time we saw these guys, they flat out got after us. Their running was significant in terms of how the game unfolded. We weren't able to tackle their runners. Their offensive line won the line of scrimmage and won it consistently, whether it was interior runs or perimeter runs. We are not going to pretend like Jay Ajayi's 200-yard day was a lightning strike. No, it was very real."
The Steelers current reality is that as AFC North Division champions, they will host a Wild Card Round Game at 1 p.m. on Sunday, and the visiting team will be the same Miami Dolphins who slapped them around South Florida on that October afternoon when their four-game losing streak began. That the Steelers would bounce back to win seven straight following the conclusion of that four-game losing streak is a factor in them getting a do-over against these Dolphins, but it's not going to help them starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
"There is tangible evidence that we need to respect this preparation process," said Tomlin about what is facing the Steelers in the next few days. "We need to have an understanding that what occurred the last time we played these guys was by no means a lightning strike."
What the Dolphins also did in the regular season meeting was win the battle of the hitting on both sides of the ball. When Miami was on offense, that tone was set by wide receiver Jarvis Landry. When Miami was on defense, their edge could be found in the teams' respective success in pressuring the quarterback and taking the ball away.
Just to put those words to numbers, the Dolphins finished with two sacks, six pressures, and two takeaways, while the Steelers were shut out in sacks and takeaways and managed only two pressures.
"A lot of it was a poor effort on our part to match the intensity of their playing personality, of a Jarvis Landry," said Tomlin. "We have to respect that in preparation and show a little bit of better preparedness this time around for that element of the game.
"We are singularly focused. We are not in the single-elimination tournament, so to speak. We have the Miami Dolphins this week. That's the only way to approach it. I understand that it is playoff football. I understand that there might be big-picture questions or global questions relative to that. But we are going to work extremely hard to live in this moment and prepare for these guys."
If they don't, they already should have a pretty good idea of how the day will turn out for them.
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"Some injuries that we had prior to last week's game – all of these guys are in a better position than they were a week ago, and we're excited about maybe having these guys available to us. We won't change our formula in terms of that availability. They would have to display an overall readiness at some juncture over the course of the work week. We'll let that participation and the quality of that participation be our guide.
"Those guys are: Sammie Coates with his hamstring, Xavier Grimble with his ribs, Stephon Tuitt with his knee, Anthony Chickillo with his ankle, Rob Golden with his ankle, and Ladarius Green is still in the protocol, although I will acknowledge that he's progressing rather well. The quality of (Green's) participation and the effects of that is probably going to be one of the last one or two items that he's going to have to check off from that perspective. But we won't short-cut the protocol. We never do. We'll rely on our medical experts in that area, as we always do.
"A couple of guys sustained injuries of some description in-game, and they're being evaluated and that could affect their availability in some form or fashion. Those guys are:
"Ricardo Mathews, who went out of the game with an ankle injury, and he's been battling that ankle for a number of weeks; Vince Williams had a shoulder injury of some description, and he's being evaluated; and Justin Gilbert had a shoulder injury of some description that affected his availability (in the Cleveland game), and he's being evaluated some."