By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Like Coach Mike Tomlin said after the game, there was enough blame to go around to all the Pittsburgh Steelers for their loss to the New England Patriots from the coaching staff to the players.
Practically to a man in their locker room, the Steelers gave credit to the Patriots for the thorough butt-kicking, but also didn’t make excuses for their play in any aspect — offense, defense or special teams.
“They beat us soundly in all phases of the game, quite honestly,” Tomlin said. “Our guys fought to try to make it close there in the end, but it was a good game played by those guys. They made more consistent plays, more significant plays.”
Tomlin also was asked if his defense just came out flat, but he attributed its play to the New England’s efficiency. Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor agreed, but he never expected an opposing offense could do what the Patriots did to the Steelers top-ranked group Sunday night.
“It’s plain and simple,” Taylor said. “We just got our butt whipped. There’s no pointing a finger at any one specific thing, either. We just got our butt whipped as a team. That’s what it all boils down to. Nobody is making excuses for anything. We got whipped, and that’s all there is to it.
“(Injuries) are a part of the game. It’s unfortunate that we’ve had a lot of them, but every team has some type of injury, major or small, but you can’t worry about that. You just have to go out and play ball. There’s definitely going to be adversity, but we just have to move forward.
“I never thought another team would be able to do this to us, but when you’re going against a quarterback like Tom Brady you have to be clicking on all cylinders,” Taylor added. “And when you don’t, he knows where to throw the ball. (Now), it’s all in how we respond.”
Offensively, the Steelers had many shortcomings in the first half, their third this season without a touchdown, and the late-game heroics shouldn’t force that to be overlooked. One concern should be that without Hines Ward in the game, the Steelers receivers did not make a play to compensate.
Apparent touchdown passes to Mike Wallace and Antwaan Randle El were dropped, and the Patriots’ lead widened. Ward, who was kept on the sideline after suffering an apparent concussion during the waning seconds in the first quarter, wasn’t thrilled that he couldn’t return.
“I tried to get back up, and they saw me tripping over the grass,” Ward said. “So, I guess the league was going to make a big deal about it. We discussed it during halftime, but it’s my body. If I want to go out there, I feel like I should have the right. The league is always going to worry about concussions, but let’s look at the bigger picture.
“There’s more than just concussions or whatever. So, I’ll just have to take my tests (Monday), pass them and be out there for Oakland. I had my helmet, but they just wouldn’t let me go back in. So, I was just sitting there on the sideline. I felt like I could have played, but our docs — some good doctors — they felt otherwise.
“But I know myself and know how I feel,” Ward added. “I’ve been concussed before, but they saw me stumbling. So, I guess that was reason enough to take me out. I guess if I don’t stumble, they wouldn’t have kept me out of the game. I was trying to get off the field quick, but I guess I should’ve laid there another minute or so until I got back right.”
Ward believed that would have made a difference, but it’s unlikely that his return would have made enough of an impact. The game basically was decided in the first half when the Steelers couldn’t score touchdowns.
“I’m a competitor, and I want to be out there, especially against the New England Patriots,” Ward said. “That was maybe the second or third series (end of first quarter). You go down, and then to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines, there’s nothing fun about that. I worked hard all week to get in that position, but I got dinged up.
“I did all the tests that they wanted, but they thought it was best for me to not go back in. Basically, I think it should come down to the person. But it was tough to watch. They beat us pretty bad in all three phases. They beat us up pretty bad, so our hats are off to them. They executed their game plan better than we did, so we’ve got to learn from it.”
One would think that the Steelers will rebound offensively and defensively, but the way things have gone this season there’s no indication that place-kicker Jeff Reed will get his act together. He continues to miss kicks, a 26-yarder Sunday night to be 15-for-22 on the season, and continues to complain about it afterward.
“I’m not one to make excuses,” Reed said. “I’ll take the credit for the miss. It was a great snap, a great hold, great protection. It’s kind of hard when you plant your foot and the hole (and) a piece of ground moves where the ball’s under the holder. I almost missed the ball completely.
“I’m not going to make excuses. If you’ve played any kind of sports in your life, you realize that what we play on is not very good turf. (And) percentages are way overrated. (But) I felt great, kicked off well, did everything I was supposed to do, and you miss a 20-something-yard field goal, everyone wants to focus on that in a game like this.”
Even though Reed has been among the most successful kickers in the league the past few years, he said the Steelers Nation hasn’t treated him too fondly.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Reed said. “If you’re not perfect in this city, man, then you’re going to hear about it. It’s been like that for nine years, and why would they stop now? Like I’ve said, there are 95 percent of those fans that have got my back totally.
“And then, (there are) five percent that you always hear. They’re right by the kicking net. They were bashing me, but that’s life, man. You’ve got to move on. The worst thing for me to do would be to fight back at them. So, I’m going to move on from here.”
The same could be said for all the Steelers.