It's something Coach Mike Tomlin says he has done every year of his tenure with the Steelers. Four games into each season, he presents a quarterly report to the players during a team meeting. This year's version took place on Monday – the day after the Steelers' 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field – and it undoubtedly wasn't a very glowing report.
"As we sit here one quarter into the season, we don't like the state we're in, being a 1-2-1 football team," said Tomlin today at his weekly news conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "We met yesterday, and we paused for a minute. Usually we meet on Monday and we talk about the game. We did that, but we did a quarterly report. We talked about our current status. None of us like it, our positioning. But more importantly than that, we talked about some trends and some things that have produced that. (We talked about) what we need to do moving forward, maybe differently, and opened our minds to that. We'll proceed on some of those things as we work this week, looking at some of the things we do leading up to game time. We have to get out of the gate quicker in these games. We're acknowledging that. We can't spot people points in the National Football League. I like the fight in our guys that has allowed us to get back into some of those games, but we have to do a better job of starting games than we have, on both sides of the ball."
An obvious metric to gauge whether the Steelers' start to games has been above the line is points scored vs. points allowed, and through the first quarter of this season, the Steelers trail by a combined 42-6. Against the Browns in the opener, it was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter; Kansas City led, 21-0; Tampa Bay led, 7-6; and the Ravens led, 14-0. Compounding the problem is that in those four games, the Steelers offense has not even recorded a single first down on any of its opening possessions.
"Offensively, it's been penalty driven, probably more than anything," said Tomlin. "We had a holding penalty (in the Ravens game) that started us first-and-20 on the second possession just this past week. We turned the ball over some, particularly early in games, and we have to get better there. We can't warm up to the competition from a defensive perspective. That probably defines our performance in our last game."
Tomlin elaborated further on his quarterly report to the team.
"So we talked openly about some quarterly things, about some global things, positional things, but more than anything we talked about being 1-2-1 and not liking it, looking at the perspective of where we are within the division and acknowledging that there are 12 games to play and that 1.5 games back (in the division standings) is not insurmountable by any stretch," said Tomlin. "A lot can happen. But more importantly than those things, the potential and the possibility, is simply about this group getting singularly focused on prep and play this week.
"In an effort to reverse the trends, more than anything we gotta win a football game, we gotta win a football game at home, and we're excited about getting an opportunity to do that this week vs. Atlanta."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"We had a number of injury things going into the game, with Morgan Burnett being out and Mike Hilton being out. We anticipate those guys coming back to practice and letting their practice participation be our guide in terms of their in-game availability. Some of the guys who were working back into the game last week – David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert – had no negative consequence of their participation. We had some in-game injuries. Nat Berhe tore a pectoral muscle and he has been placed on injured reserve. He was replaced by Brian Allen. Brian Allen, having been here, will have an opportunity to step up and contribute for us. Darrius Heyward-Bey has an ankle, and he will be evaluated and followed closely in terms of availability this week. And Vince Williams with a hamstring injury, same thing as Heyward-Bey. Both guys will be given an opportunity to participate in practice, and we'll let their practice participation be our guide in terms of readiness."