After scoring just one offensive touchdown in each of the first two games, Mike Tomlin isn't running from the idea that his team's offense needs to be better.
But the Steelers' head coach is continuing to look at the big picture when it comes to development on that side of the ball, understanding that there were going to be growing pains with a young offense and a brand new quarterback in Mitch Trubisky.
Following Sunday's 17-14 loss in their home opener against the New England Patriots, the Steelers are averaging just 255 yards per game, a number everyone knows must get better.
But Tomlin isn't looking for any short-term fixes.
"I'm not happy with much of anything when we just lost a game," Tomlin said Monday at the UMPC-Rooney Sports Complex.
"But I'm also experienced enough to see the big picture, that we are in development. I'm going to exercise appropriate patience and continue to teach and ask the guys to continue to learn in an effort to push this train down the tracks and get better. If anyone is sitting here on Monday in Week 2, feeling happy, they're probably wrong or misinformed."
Unfortunately for the Steelers (1-1), Week 3 will be around before they know it. The Steelers kick Week 3 of the NFL schedule off Thursday night in Cleveland against the Browns (1-1), so they'll have just one day of practice before heading up the road for their next outing.
That means Monday was a day of quick self-reflection from the loss Sunday, when the offense managed 243 total yards.
Trubisky has completed 59.2 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 76.1.
One thing Tomlin doesn't seem interested in at this point is making any sweeping changes. Trubisky, signed in the offseason as a free agent, was named the starting quarterback coming out of training camp over rookie first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett and veteran Mason Rudolph.
And though he's thrown for just 362 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in the first two games, Tomlin has seen a lot of things he's liked from the 28-year-old.
"I've liked a lot from him," Tomlin said. "I think he's done a good job of doing the things that come with the position, the intangible things, the leadership things, the communication things, detailing and communicating the offense, working hard to execute our agenda, the things we want to work on.
"We haven't scored enough points the last couple of weeks. That's a collective, not just the quarterback position. Not just the players. It's all of us (who are) responsible for ringing up the scoreboard. So, we don't seek comfort. We don't try to quell the noise. To be quite honest, we don't care about the noise. We're just working on the things that are within our control to have good days to continue the progression of this group from a developmental standpoint, knowing that the outcome is going to be what we desire if we keep doing those things."
But it also hasn't been completely rosy.
Tomlin said Monday there have been instances where Trubisky has shied away from throwing the ball downfield. In the loss to the Patriots, the Steelers' longest play was a 23-yard completion to rookie George Pickens, the only ball the team's second-round draft pick caught in the game.
"I think he could and we could," Tomlin said when asked if the Steelers could take more shots downfield.
"There are probably one-on-one opportunities on the outside in every play concept that we put in. It would probably require no changes. We've got long-ball shots drawn up in a lot of things. Sometimes, it's just whether or not we get the appropriate look or we like the matchup within the look."
Trubisky said after the game that he's been getting a lot of input from other players on plays they feel would work or just that they want the ball more.
Tomlin said that's only natural, and he's not going to squash that kind of input – so long as it doesn't start to become counterproductive.
"Largely, that's a good battle to fight, usually," Tomlin said. "We've got young playmakers, guys with a lot of talent, guys who want to be the reason why we're successful. I'd much rather say 'Woah' than 'Sic'em.' I think that's just a general attitude that we as competitors in a competitive organization have. We're not going to make a problem out of guys wanting to be the reason why we're successful."
The bottom line is that they must be successful.
Even though the Steelers lost on Sunday, they had chances to win the game. The Steelers got the ball back twice in the fourth quarter down just three points. In both instances, they were unable to produce a first down.
Do that, and it's a different feeling on Monday.
"Even though we weren't in control of the game, I thought we had an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter, but we didn't get necessary stops on defense and we didn't get necessary drives or a necessary drive put together on offense," Tomlin said.
"We weren't a group on the rise at the end of the game putting an exclamation point on our work. We've got to be that. … You learn from these lessons whether you win or lose, particularly early in the season. We'd better be a group that learns and learns early."
Multiple breakdowns: Tomlin pointed out several plays in his postgame comments following the loss to the Patriots on Sunday, and those same plays were still on his mind when he held his weekly press conference a day later.
The three plays Tomlin pointed to were, the muffed punt by Gunner Olszewski, the 44-yard touchdown reception by Nelson Agholor with just 22 seconds to play in the first half and Cam Sutton's dropped interception right before the muffed punt in the third quarter.
"I felt very similarly this morning as I felt yesterday," said Tomlin. "Whenever you are on the wrong side of a one score game, or a three-point game, there are several individual plays that kind of loom large that could have been significant in altering the outcome. I thought the touchdown pass in two-minute before the half was a significant play by them. I thought obviously, the muffed punt when we had 10 guys on the field and gave them the short field was a significant play by them. I think the dropped interception opportunity that we had was a significant play.
"But those are just significant plays that you could point to in a one score or a three-point game."
The muffed punt happened in the third quarter when the ball hit Olszewski in the face, and he wasn't able to cleanly catch it. The Patriots recovered. That, coupled with an unnecessary roughness penalty on Connor Heyward, gave the Patriots the ball at the Steelers 10-yard line.
The Patriots made them pay when Damien Harris scored on a two-yard run to extend the lead to 17-6.
Adding to the frustration on the play was the fact that the Steelers had only 10 men on the field for the punt. Tomlin said there is no procedure to make sure there are 11 players on the field, simply playing as professionals.
"There is no procedure," said Tomlin. "We don't have a launch pad like you're doing high school or college. We got a bunch of professional guys. We expect the 11 professionals to be on the field and there are consequences when they aren't.
"Obviously, it's September and it happened, and we have to absorb the responsibility associated with that. But we don't have any unique procedures in terms of headcount and things of that nature. We expect those guys to be on the field. And we didn't have 11 on the field at that time."
Tomlin was asked if it is the return guy is supposed to have any role in accounting for all 11 being out there.
"The return guy counts the bodies and fair catches the ball if we're short 11," said Tomlin. "So, we had multiple breakdowns on that play."
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 2 game against the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium
Stopping the run: The Steelers run defense will have their hands full on Thursday night against the Browns with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb has 39 carries for 228 yards and three touchdowns through two games, while Hunt has 24 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown.
It's going to be a challenge for the defense, one Tomlin knows is a primary focus this week.
"I think if you're playing these guys, and you're looking at their offense, boy you better minimize Chubb and Hunt," said Tomlin. "A lot of ball rolls to those guys. They're not 1 and 2, they're 1 and 1A. I think Chubb's got 76 snaps on the season; I think Hunt's got 74.
"Man, both guys are capable. Both guys are good in all schematic circumstances, be it the run game, the passing game, check downs, screens, inside and outside. They are a formidable tandem and probably the most complete tandem in football and so we got out work cut out for us there."
Take a look at the best photos from the Week 2 game against the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium
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