PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers fell behind 24-3 early in the second quarter Sunday night, and it would have been easy for them to collectively hit the player-quit button. That they had a chance to beat the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter of a bizarre and disjointed game is a testament to the Steelers’ resolve.
Coach Mike Tomlin addressed that in a quiet home locker room following the Steelers’ 40-23 loss, but in a way that might surprise you.
“I’m not going to pat them on the back for sticking together, for continuing to work or for being mentally tough,” Tomlin said after the Steelers fell to 0-3. “I expect [that].”
Tomlin took a similar stance when it came to an offense that played like an NFL-caliber one after a slow start Sunday night. The Steelers rolled up 459 total yards, gained a respectable 3.8 yards per carry and scored four more points than they had in their first two games combined.
But whatever progress the Steelers made on offense -- they outgained the Bears by some 200 yards -- was mostly negated in Tomlin’s eyes by the fact they could not do the most fundamental thing: protect the ball.
Roethlisberger threw two interceptions and lost a pair of fumbles. Two of his turnovers were returned for touchdowns, and the five Steelers giveaways led to 23 of Chicago’s 40 points.
“Obviously there were some positives,” Tomlin said of the offense, “but way too much negative to be victorious, and that’s what we come in here to do is win.”
The Steelers put themselves in position to win the game in the fourth quarter because the offense finally started to flex its muscles.
Roethlisberger took shots down the field, a strategy that Antonio Brown validated by catching nine passes for a career-high 196 yards and two scores. The Steelers also got enough out of their running backs to establish a semblance of balance on offense.
The one thing the offense couldn’t do was stay out of its own way, and Roethlisberger was the biggest culprit as the Bears turned his ability to extend plays against the Steelers' quarterback.
“I honestly thought the two fumbles they made were great plays,” said Roethlisberger, who completed 26 of 41 passes for 406 yards. “Sometimes they hit the ball just right and it pops out, which is unfortunate. I can’t turn the ball over, plain and simple. We are frustrated and disappointed, but we are not going to lose our confidence.”