For Coach Mike Tomlin, what he has been seeing on the field from his team is reflected in its record, because in the business of sports, .500 has become synonymous with average, with middle-of-the-road, with mediocre.
"Now is a good time to look at where we are globally," said Tomlin during his news conference today. "A quarter into the season, we're a 2-2 football team, and our performance probably mirrors that. We won a close game we could have easily lost; we lost a close game we easily could have won; we won a game definitively; we lost a game definitively. The bottom line is we haven't been overly consistent in performance, and that's probably appropriate in being 2-2."
Against previously winless Tampa Bay last Sunday, the Steelers' inconsistencies weren't even as consistent as they had been in the one-good-half, one-bad-half win over the Browns. In losing, 27-24, to the Buccaneers, the Steelers started off the game badly and ended it badly, but in between there were spurts of competence from all three phases. Mixed in among the penalties, of course.
"When you look at it from this perspective: you're minus in the turnover ratio, and you're one of the most highly penalized teams in football, we probably should be thankful that we're 2-2," said Tomlin. "We're not going to waste a lot of time over-analyzing that. We are what we are. We've done some positive things. We've done some negative things. We have to move forward."
In moving forward, the Steelers go from a game at home vs. a winless team to a game on the road vs. a winless team. The 0-4 Jaguars will be starting rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, and while that typically has been a recipe for success for the Steelers and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the team historically has had its share of problems in Jacksonville.
"Like I told the team yesterday, there's not a lot of time in our business for feeling disappointment," said Tomlin about any lingering emotions over losing to the Buccaneers in the final seconds. "The more important thing for us is moving out and past that and formulating a plan for finding consistency in our game and getting better across the board."
Tomlin said he expects some consistency to be established as Sean Spence and Arthur Moats continue in their roles as starting linebackers, as Brice McCain continues in his role as the nickel back. That's one challenge, as is how the team responds to the adversity created by the disappointing loss to the Buccaneers.
"We just have to work to continue to improve," said Tomlin. "Finding combinations of guys situationally who are geared toward success, plugging and playing guys through injury, the normal evolution of a football team or a unit needs to continue to take place.
"I acknowledge we're a quarter into the season and we have a lot of football left, but I also acknowledge that we have played some football. I want to see the makings of some consistent performance, not only from our offense but from our team in general, so we're not talking about a 2-2 quarter in the next quarter (of the season). Because we know what a couple of those produce, and we're not interested in that."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"Not a lot of new news here. We have a lot of guys in the building nursing minor bumps and bruises, and I don't have any detailed report on those guys. If they're in any way limited in tomorrow's work, I'll identify those guys. The status of the guys who were injured going into last weekend remain the same. Ike Taylor is continuing to work himself back from forearm surgery, and Ryan Shazier is still nursing his sprained knee. We'll get him moving at some point today and get an evaluation of his overall readiness, but I wouldn't be too optimistic about his participation as we sit here today. Maybe something happens – he's a young guy – from a health standpoint that changes that. We'll deal with that as it arises."