Making changes: After being on the hottest of hot streaks, winning six in a row, the Steelers have lost three straight at one of the most critical junctures of the season as the stretch run has arrived.
This Sunday things don't get any easier with the New England Patriots coming to Heinz Field, and in order to turn things around, Coach Mike Tomlin knows some changes need to be made.
Don't look for sweeping lineup changes or anything like that, but changes throughout that might not be noticeable to some, but will be to Tomlin. And they will come from all around, as blame for the three losses does not fall on any one area.
"It's all of us. You don't fail and then convincingly pinpoint one particular area," said Tomlin. "This is a very complex game. Because it is a complex game, because of the number of people involved, and when you are talking about consistent failures like we have had in recent weeks, it's usually a multitude of things. We better look at the schematics. We better look at who we are asking to do what. And we better look at the detail in which they are doing it. It's all of the above and that's our intentions.
"We are open to change. We are going to have discussions regarding change. But I don't want to lead you to believe that these changes are going to be dramatic and maybe even noticeable to the naked eye. But in our world, very much necessary and very much significant. Often times you make very subtle changes and they have very significant outcomes. We're going to look at all of the things I mentioned."
High stakes: The Steelers are looking deep this week to rebound from the last three losses, and face the challenge of going against a New England team that is coming off a last second loss against the Dolphins, also looking to rebound. There is a lot on the line in the playoff hunt this week, and both teams know what is at stake.
"We're licking our wounds as we should when you're unsuccessful in this business," said Tomlin. "Not a lot of time for that. We understand that. Sunday is coming. We're excited about an opportunity to compete and get this negative taste out of our mouth, as I am sure New England is.
"It's going to be high stakes. It's going to be a big-time atmosphere. Excited about it. And look forward to more importantly this week's preparation for the opponent. A lot of work to be done."
Minimizing his impact: The Steelers have had their struggles against Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, with his play late in the fourth quarter last year helping New England to pull out a 27-24 win at Heinz Field. The Steelers had a 24-19 lead with 2:06 to play. On a five-play drive that put the Patriots ahead, Tom Brady connected with Gronkowski three times – for 26, 26 and 17 yards to move the ball to the eight-yard line, where Dion Lewis took it in for the score.
Gronkowski has missed some time this season with a back injury, but is coming off a strong performance in last week's game against the Dolphins where he had eight receptions for 107 yards. He is always a threat, and one the Steelers need to be well aware of.
"Gronk has missed some time this year but he's finding his rhythm," said Tomlin. "He has been playing the last several weeks. You know the matchup issue he is for everybody globally and he is, and has been, for us in the past. We'll be thoughtful about putting together a plan to minimize him and his impact on the game.
"When you play a guy like him it's going to take multiple people and multiple techniques."
As far as stopping him, it's not as easy as A-B-C.
"We haven't been a part of it," said Tomlin. "We're looking to be."